The Merchant of Berlin
Part 5 out of 7
A regiment of Russian soldiers marched past the corner of the Bishop
Street, toward the market-place. They ranged themselves in two long
lines, leaving a lane between them, just wide enough for a man to pass
through. Then came two provost-marshals, and walked slowly down the
lane, delivering to each soldier one of the long slender rods they
carried under their arms.
The Russian soldiers were now armed, and awaited the victims they were
to chastise. These were dragged out of the guard-house. First came
tottering the gray-headed Mr. Krause, slowly and sadly; then came Mr.
Kretschmer, formerly the brave, undaunted hero of the quill--now a
poor, trembling, crushed piece of humanity. They stood in the middle
of the square, and, bewildered with terror, their help-imploring looks
swept over the gaping, silent multitude, who gazed at them with eager
countenances and malicious joy, and would have been outrageously
mad if they had been denied the enjoyment of seeing two of their
brother-citizens scourged by the enemy's soldiers.
"I cannot believe it!" whimpered Mr. Krause; "it is impossible that
this is meant in earnest. They cannot intend to execute so cruel a
sentence. What would the world, what would mankind say, if two writers
were scourged for the articles they had written? Will the town of
Berlin suffer it? Will no one take pity on our distress?"
"No one," said Mr. Kretschmer, mournfully. "Look at the crowd which is
staring at us with pitiless curiosity. They would sooner have pity on
a murderer than on a writer who is going to be flogged. The whole town
has enjoyed and laughed over our articles, and now there is not one
who would dare to beg for us."
At this moment another solemn procession came down the Bishop Street
toward the square. This was the Town Council of Berlin. Foremost came
the chief burgomaster Von Kircheisen, who had recovered his speech and
his mind, and was memorizing the well-set speech in which he was
to offer to the general the thanks of the town and the ten thousand
ducats, which a page bore alongside of him on a silken pillow.
Behind the Council tottered trembling and broken-hearted the elders of
the Jews, including those of the mint, in order to receive their final
condemnation or release from General Tottleben.
The people took no notice of the Council or of the Jews. They were
busy staring with cruel delight at the journalists, who were being
stripped by the provost-marshals of their outer clothing, and prepared
for the bloody exhibition. With a species of barbarous pleasure they
listened to the loud wailing of the trembling, weeping Krause, who was
wringing his hands and imploring the Russian officer who had charge of
the execution, for pity, for mercy.
The Russian officer was touched by the tears of sorrow of the editor;
he did have pity on the gray hairs and bowed form of the old man, or
perhaps he only acted on instructions received from General Tottleben.
He motioned to the provosts to lead the other editor to the lane
first, and to spare Mr. Krause until Mr. Kretschmer had been
chastised. The provost seized hold of Mr. Kretschmer and dragged him
to the terrible lane; they pushed him in between the rows of soldiers,
who, with rude laughter, were flourishing the rods in their hands.
Already the first, the second, the third blow has fallen on the back
of the editor of the _Vossian Gazette_, when suddenly there sounds
a powerful "Halt!" and General Count von Tottleben appears, with
Gotzkowsky at his side, and followed by his brilliant staff.
With a wild scream Kretschmer tears himself loose from the hands of
the provost-marshals, and rushes toward the general, crying out aloud;
Mr. Krause awakens from his heavy, despairing brooding, and both
editors sink down before the Russian general.
With a mischievous smile, Tottleben looked at Mr. Kretschmer's
bleeding back, and asked, "Who are you?"
"I am the _Vossian Gazette_" whined out Mr. Kretschmer, "whom you have
accused of such cruel things. Ah! we have suffered great injustice,
and we have been represented as worse than we really are. Oh, believe
me, your excellency, I have been belied. I never hated Russia!"
"You are both of you accused of libel," said Tottleben, sternly.
"If we are guilty of libel, it is without our knowledge," said Mr.
Krause. "Besides, we are very willing to recall every thing. I confess
we were in error. We did not know you and your army, and we spoke
ignorantly, as the blind man does about colors. Now we are better able
to judge. You are the noblest among noble men, and finer soldiers than
the Russians, and a chaster woman than the Empress Elizabeth, are not
to be found anywhere. Oh, yes, your excellency, _Spener's Journal_ is
ready to eat its words. Only don't let me be flogged, sir, and I will
sing your praises everlastingly, and proclaim to all the world that
the Prussian has no better friend than the Russian, and that God has
ordained them to be brothers."
"Only don't let us be flogged," implored Mr. Kretschmer, rubbing his
sore back, "I promise your excellency that the _Vossian Gazette_
shall be as tame as a new-born infant. It shall never indulge in bold,
outspoken language; never have any decided color. I swear for myself
and my heirs, that we will draw its fangs. Have, therefore, mercy on
The general turned away with a smile of contempt. "Enough, gentlemen,"
said he, roughly, and laying his hand on Gotzkowsky's shoulder, he
continued: "I pardon you, not in consequence of your idle talk, but
for the sake of this noble gentleman, who has begged for you. You
are free, sirs!" As the two editors were about to break out into
expressions of gratefulness, Tottleben said to them, "It is Gotzkowsky
alone that you have to thank for your liberty."
They threw themselves into Gotzkowsky's arms; with solemn oaths they
vowed him eternal, inviolable gratitude; they called him their savior,
their liberator from shame and disgrace.
Gotzkowsky smiled at their glowing protestations of friendship, and
withdrew himself gently from their ardent embraces. "I did not do it
for the sake of your thanks, and personally you owe me therefore no
"Gotzkowsky, have you entirely forgotten us?" said a plaintive voice
near him. It was Itzig, one of the rich Jews of the mint, to whom
Gotzkowsky had promised assistance.
"Ask the general," said the latter, smiling.
"He has spoken for you, and his intercession has freed you from the
special tax," said Count Tottleben.
"He has saved us, the great Gotzkowsky has had pity on our
wretchedness," cried the Jews, crowding around Gotzkowsky to press his
hand, to embrace him, and with tears of grateful emotion to promise
him their unalterable attachment.
"You have saved my life," said Itzig, "for I had determined to die
rather than pay any more money. For what is life to me without money?
If the Jew has not money, he is nobody. In saving my money you saved
my life. If ever you should be without money, Gotzkowsky, come to me;
I will lend you some at very low interest."
"I will lend it to you gratis," said Ephraim, pressing his hand
affectionately in his own.
Gotzkowsky answered sadly: "If it ever came to pass that I were
obliged to borrow, you would not remember this day, and I would not be
the man to remind you of it."
"Remind us of it," protested Ephraim, "and you shall see that we
keep our word. Come to us and say, 'Remember the tax that I freed you
from,' and you shall see all that you desire shall be fulfilled."
"God grant that I may never have need to remind you of it!" said
Gotzkowsky, pressing back the excited Jews, and approaching General
"You forget, sir, that you summoned the honorable Council of Berlin
hither, and that these gentlemen are awaiting your orders."
The general seemed to awaken out of a deep reverie. "Yes," said he,
as if to himself, "the German dream is finished, and now I must be a
Russian again." He then turned quickly to Gotzkowsky and offered him
his hand. "Gotzkowsky," said he, gently and persuasively, "consider it
once more--come with me and be my teacher."
"What I can teach you is but little. It is an easy lesson for him who
has a heart, an impossible one for him who has none. Learn to love
mankind. That is all my wisdom, and my farewell."
The general sighed. "You will not go with me? Well, then, farewell!"
And as if to disperse the painful and bitter feelings which assailed
his German heart, he turned away and called, in Russian, to his
adjutant: "Let us break up, gentlemen. To horse, to horse!"
But in the midst of the confusion of the soldiers, and the tramping
of horses, the chief burgomaster made a way for himself. He had to
sustain the honor of the Council, and pronounce the beautifully worded
oration which had cost him two sleepless nights to compose; he had to
place in the hands of the general the offering of Berlin gratitude.
At last he succeeded in reaching the general, and he began his speech.
Full and powerful did his voice sound through the New Market, and the
delighted people rejoiced over the oratorical talent of their chief
magistrate, and gazed with pride and admiration at his golden chain
of office--that chain which had gone through so much, had endured so
much, without growing pale or dim.
But General Tottleben did not accept the present which the city of
Berlin offered him. He said: "If the town believed that its fate was
rendered more tolerable by my discipline than it otherwise would have
been, let it thank the express orders of my empress. The honor of
having been commander of Berlin for three days is sufficient reward
Three hours later Berlin was freed from Russians and Austrians.
Gotzkowsky, who had finally succeeded in freeing himself from the
tumultuous expressions of gratitude of the Council, the editors, and
the Jews, returned to his home, of which he himself says: "My house
resembled more a cow-house than a dwelling, having been filled for a
while, night and day, with Russians."
* * * * *
BRIDE AND DAUGHTER.
At the mere announcement of the approach of the king toward Berlin,
the Russian army had left the city and withdrawn to Frankfort. But no
inconsiderable number of officers had stayed behind; some of them
to organize the withdrawal of the troops, while others, detained by
personal affairs, had merely obtained short leave of absence. To the
latter belonged Colonel Feodor von Brenda. General Bachmann had given
him two days' leave, under the impression that he would avail himself
of the time to enjoy, undisturbed, the society of his bride, the
Countess Lodoiska von Sandomir.
The general knew nothing of the difference between the colonel and
his betrothed. He did not know that, according to her agreement with
Bertram, Lodoiska had not informed Feodor of her arrival in Berlin.
But, nevertheless, Feeder had heard of it. The countess's own
chambermaid, knowing the liberality of the young count, had gone to
him, and for a golden bribe had betrayed to him her presence, and
communicated all that she knew of her plans and intentions.
This news detained the colonel in Berlin. The unexpected arrival of
his affianced pressed upon him the necessity of a decision, for he was
aware of the impossibility of tearing asunder the firm and heart-felt
bond which attached him to Elise, to unite himself to a wife to whom
he was only engaged by a given promise, a pledged word.
Feodor would probably have given up his whole fortune to pay a debt of
honor; would have unhesitatingly thrown his life into the scale if it
had been necessary to redeem his word. But he was not ashamed to break
the vow of fidelity which he had made to a woman, and to desert her to
whom he had promised eternal love. Besides, his pride was wounded by
the advent of the countess, which appeared to him as a restraint on
his liberty and an espionage on his actions.
She had concealed her arrival from him, and he consequently concluded
that she was acquainted with his faithlessness, and nursed some plan
of removing the obstacles which lay between her and her lover. His
pride was irritated by the thought that he should be compelled to
maintain an engagement which he could no longer fulfil from love, but
only from a sense of duty. Such a restraint on his free will seemed
to him an unparalleled hardship. He felt a burning hatred toward the
woman who thus forcibly insisted on fastening herself upon him, and
an equally ardent love toward the young girl of whom they wished to
Doubly charming and desirable did this young, innocent, lovely girl
appear to him when he compared her with the mature, self-possessed,
worldly woman of whom he could only hope that he might be her last
love, while he knew that he was Elise's first.
"If I must positively be chained, and my hands bound," said he to
himself, "let it be at least with this fresh young girl, who can
conceal the thorny crown of wedlock under freshly-blown rosebuds. My
heart has nothing more to do with this old love; it has grown young
again under the influence of new feelings, and I will not let this
youthfulness be destroyed by the icy-cold smiles of duty. Elise has
promised to be mine, and she must redeem her promise."
Still full of the passionate and defiant thoughts which the vicinity
of his affianced bride had provoked, he had gone out to seek Elise.
But to find her had become not only difficult, but almost impossible.
Bertram, who had not thought fit to reveal to Gotzkowsky the forcible
abduction of his daughter, had yet quietly arranged his precautions
that a repetition of the attempt from any quarter, or at any time,
should be impossible.
Under the pretence that the withdrawal of the troops rendered the
city unsafe, and filled it with marauders and plundering stragglers,
Bertram, secure of Gotzkowsky's approval beforehand, had armed a
number of the factory workmen, and placed them as sentinels on the
wall, in the court, and on the ground-floor. These had orders not to
let any one enter who was not able to tell the object and purpose of
his coming. By this precaution Bertram prevented any attempt of Feodor
to climb the wall; and, furthermore he obtained the advantage that
Elise, to whom the presence of the sentinels was unpleasant and
objectionable, not only did not visit the dangerous, solitary parts of
the garden, but withdrew into her own room. In this manner Bertram had
rendered any meeting between Feodor and Elise impossible, but he could
not prevent his servant, Petrowitsch, from meeting his sweetheart,
Elise's chambermaid, on the street.
By means of these a letter of Feodor reached Elise's hand. In this
Feodor reminded her solemnly and earnestly of her promise; he now
called upon her to fulfil her vow, and to follow him from the house of
her father. He adjured her to unite herself to him at the altar as his
wife, and to give him the right to carry her abroad with him as his
Elise received this letter of her beloved, and her heart during
its perusal was moved by unfamiliar emotions. She could not herself
determine whether it was joy or dread which caused it to beat so
convulsively, and almost deprived her of consciousness. She could
have screamed aloud with joy, that at last she would be united to her
lover, wholly, sacredly as his own; and yet she was filled with deep
grief that the path to the altar would not be hallowed by her father's
blessing. Even love, which spoke so loudly and powerfully in her
heart, could not silence the warning voice of conscience--that voice
which again and again threatened her with sin and sorrow, disgrace and
shame. Yet Elise, in the warmth and passion of her heart, sought to
excuse herself, and in the pride of her wounded filial love said to
herself: "My father does not regard me; he will not weep for my loss,
for I am superfluous here, and he will hardly perceive that I am gone.
He has his millions and his friends, and the whole multitude of those
to whom he does good. He is so rich--he has much on which his heart
hangs! But I am quite poor; I have nothing but the heart of my
beloved. His love is my only possession. Would it not be wicked in me
to cast this away, and lead here a lonesome, desolate life, without
pity or sympathy? If my father loved me, would he have left me during
these days so full of danger? After the terrible scene in which I,
in the desperation of my heart, offended him, he would at least have
given me some opportunity of asking his pardon, of begging him for
forbearance and pity. But he seems purposely to have secluded himself,
and avoided any meeting with me. He has shut me out from his heart,
and withdrawn his love from me forever. And so I am forced to carry
my heart full of boundless affection over to my lover. He will never
repulse, neglect, or forget me; he will adore me, and I will be his
most cherished possession."
As these thoughts passed through her mind, she pressed his note to
her lips, each word seeming to greet her, and with Feodor's imploring
looks to entreat her to fulfil the vow she had made him. There was
no longer any hesitation or wavering in her, for she had come to a
determined resolution, and with glowing cheeks and panting breast she
hastened to the writing-table, in order to clothe it in words, and
answer Feodor's note.
"You remind me of my pledged word," she wrote. "I am ready to redeem
it. Come, then, and lead me from my father's house to the altar, and I
will be your wife; and wherever you go I will be with you. Hence-forth
I will have no other home than your heart. But while I cheerfully
elect this home, at the same time I am shutting myself out from my
father's heart forever. May God forgive the sins that love causes me
But when this note had been sent, when she knew that her lover had
received it, and that her decision was irrevocable, she was seized
with trembling faintness, with the oppression of conscious guilt; and
it seemed to her as if a new spring of love had suddenly burst forth
in her heart, and as if she had never loved her father so sincerely,
so devotedly, so tenderly, as now that she was on the point of leaving
But it was too late to draw back; for in the mean, time she had
received a second letter from Feodor, imparting the details of a plan
for their joint flight, and she had approved of this plan.
Every thing was prepared, and all that she had to do was to remain
in her room, and await the concerted signal with which Feodor was to
As soon as she heard this signal she was to leave the house with her
maid, who had determined to accompany her, come out into the street,
where Feodor would be in waiting with his carriage, and drive in the
first place to the church. There a priest, heavily bribed, would meet
them, and, with the blessing of the Church, justify Feodor in carrying
his young wife out into the world, and Elise in "leaving father and
home, and clinging only unto her husband."
Some hours were yet wanting to the appointed time. Elise, condemned to
the idleness of waiting, experienced all the anxiety and pains which
the expectation of the decisive moment usually carries with it.
With painful desire she thought of her father, and, although she
repeated to herself that he would not miss her, that her absence
would not be noticed, yet her excited imagination kept painting to
her melancholy fancy, pictures of his astonishment, his anxiety, his
painful search after her.
She seemed, for the first time, to remember that she was about to
leave him, without having been reconciled to him; that she was to part
from him forever, without having begged his forgiveness, without even
having felt his fatherly kiss on her brow. At least she would write to
him, at least send him one loving word of farewell. This determination
she now carried out, and poured out all her love, her suffering, her
suppressed tenderness, the reproaches of her conscience, in burning
and eloquent words, on the paper which she offered to her father as
the olive-branch of peace.
When she had written this letter, she folded it, and hid it carefully
in her bosom, in order to carry it unnoticed to her father's room. He
would not be there--for two days he had not been at home; she could,
therefore, venture to go there without fear of meeting him. She felt
as if she would not be able to bear his gaze--the full, bright look of
Carefully and softly, with the secret fear of meeting Bertram, whose
sad, reproachful looks she dreaded even more, perhaps, than the eye
of her father, she crept along the corridor, and finally reached the
antechamber, breathing more freely, and glad to have met no one. Every
thing here was quiet and silent; her father, therefore, had not yet
returned, and she was quite safe from any surprise by him.
She now entered his private room, and crossing this, was in the act of
opening the desk of his writing-table in order to deposit the letter
therein, when she heard the door of the antechamber open. It was too
late for flight, and she had only time to conceal the letter in her
bosom, when the door of the room itself was opened.
It was her father who now entered the apartment. Speechless and
motionless they both stood, confounded at this unexpected meeting,
each waiting for a word of greeting of reconciliation from the other.
But however earnestly their hearts yearned toward each other, their
lips remained silent, and their looks avoided one another.
"She shuns me. This is my reception after so many toilsome days of
absence," thought Gotzkowsky, and his heart was full of sadness and
"He will not look at me, his eye avoids me, he has not yet forgiven
me," thought Elise, as she regarded her father's pale, care-worn
countenance. "No, he does not wish to see me. For the last time,
therefore, I will show him obedience, and leave the room." Sadly and
softly, with her looks cast on the ground, she took her way to the
door on the opposite side.
Gotzkowsky followed her with his eyes. If she had only ventured to
raise her looks once more to him, she would have perceived all his
love, all the forgiving affection of a father, in his face. But she
did not, and Gotzkowsky said to himself, in the bitterness of his
heart, "Why should I speak to her?--she would only misunderstand me. I
will lie down and sleep, to forget my cares and my sorrows. I will not
speak to her, for I am exhausted, and tired to death. I must have rest
and composure, to be able to come to an understanding with her."
And yet he regarded her with longing looks as she directed her sad
steps toward the door. Now she stands on the threshold; now her
trembling hand clasps the bright handle of the lock, but still she
hesitates to open it; she still hopes for a word, if even an angry
one, from her father.
And now she hears it. Like an angel's voice does it sound in her
ear. He calls her name, he reaches his hand out to her, and says with
infinite, touching gentleness, "Give me your hand, Elise. Come here to
me, my child--it is so long since I have seen you!"
She turned to him, and yet she dared not look upon him. Seizing his
offered hand, she pressed it to her lips. "And do you remember that
you have been so long absent? You have not then forgotten me?"
"Forgot you!" cried her father tenderly; and then immediately, as if
ashamed of this outburst of fatherly love, he added calmly and almost
sternly--"I have much to talk with you, Elise. You have accused me."
Elise interrupted him with anxious haste: "I was beside myself," said
she, confused and bashfully. "Forgive me, my father; passion made me
"No, it only developed what lay hidden in your heart," said
Gotzkowsky; and the recollection of that unhappy hour roughened his
voice, and filled his heart with sadness. "For the first time, you
were candid with me. I may have been guilty of it all, but still it
hurts!" For a moment he was silent, and sank his head on his breast,
completely overpowered by painful reminiscences.
Elise answered nothing, but the sight of his pale and visibly
exhausted countenance moved her to tears.
When Gotzkowsky raised his head again, his face had resumed its usual
determination and energy. "We will talk over these things another
time," said he seriously. "Only this one thing, remember. I will not
restrain you in any way, and I have never done so. You are mistress
of every thing that belongs to me except my honor. This I myself must
keep unsullied. As a German gentleman I cannot bring the dishonor upon
me of seeing my daughter unite herself to the enemy of my country--to
a Russian. Choose some German man: whoever he may he, I will welcome
him whom you love as my son, and renounce the wishes and plans I have
so long entertained. But never will I give my consent to the union of
my only child with a Russian."
While he spoke the expression of the countenance of both changed
surprisingly. Both evinced determination, defiance, and anger, and the
charm which love had laid for a moment on their antagonistic souls was
destroyed. Gotzkowsky was no longer the tender father, easily appeased
by a word, but the patriot injured in his holiest right, his most
delicate sense of honor. Elise was no longer the humble, penitent
daughter, but a bride threatened with the loss of her lover.
"You would, then, never give your consent?" asked she, passionately.
"But if this war were ended, if Russia were no longer the enemy of
"Russia remains ever the enemy of Germany, even if she does not appear
against her in the open field. It is the antagonism of despotic power
against culture and civilization. Never can the free German be the
friend of the barbarous Sclavonian. Let us hear nothing more of
this--you know my mind; I cannot change it, even if you should,
for that reason, doubt my love. True love does not consist only in
granting, but still more in denying."
Elise stood with bowed head, and murmured some low, unintelligible
words. Gotzkowsky felt that it would be better for both to break off
this conversation before it had reached a point of bitterness and
irritation. At the same time he felt that, after so much excitement,
his body needed rest. He, therefore, approached his daughter and
extended his hand toward her for a friendly farewell. Elise seized
it, and pressed it with passionate feeling to her lips. He then turned
round and traversed the room on the way to his bedchamber.
Elise looked after him with painful longing, which increased with
each step he took. As he was in the act of leaving the room she rushed
after him, and uttered in a tone of gentle pleading, the single word,
Gotzkowsky felt the innermost chord of his heart touched. He turned
round and opened his arms to her. With a loud cry of joy she threw
herself on his breast, and rested there for a moment in happy,
self-forgetting delight. They looked at one another, and smilingly
bade each other good-by. Again Gotzkowsky turned his steps toward his
bedroom. And now he was gone; she saw him no more. Father and daughter
But Elise felt an unutterable grief in her heart, a boundless terror
seized her. It seemed as if she could not leave her father; as if it
would be a disgrace for her, so secretly, like a criminal, to sneak
out of her father's house, were it even to follow her lover to the
altar. She felt as if she must call her father back, cling to his
knees, and implore him to save her, to save her from her own desires.
Already had she opened her lips, and stretched forth her arms, when
she suddenly let them fall, with a shudder.
She had heard the loud rolling of a carriage, and she knew what it
meant. This carriage which stopped at her door--could it be the one in
which Feodor had come to take her? "It is too late--I cannot go back,"
muttered she low, and with drooping head she slowly left her father's
room in order to repair to her own chamber.
* * * * *
Elise, immediately on reaching her room, hurried to the window and
looked into the street, already darkened by the shades of evening. She
was not mistaken--a carriage stood at the door; but to her surprise,
she did not perceive the signal agreed on, she did not hear the
post-horn blow the Russian air, "Lovely Minka, I must leave thee." Nor
was it the appointed hour; neither did her chambermaid, who waited in
the lower story, come to seek her. She still stood at the window,
and involuntarily she felt herself worried by this equipage. A sharp
knocking at the door was heard. Before she had time to come to any
determination, it was hastily opened, and Bertram entered with a lady,
deeply veiled, on his arm.
"Bertram!" cried Elise, drawing back shyly. "What do you wish here?"
"What do I wish here?" answered Bertram, earnestly. "I come to ask a
favor of my sister. I have promised this lady that she shall see and
speak with you. Will my sister fulfil her brother's promise?"
"What does the lady wish with me?" asked Elise, casting a timid look
toward the mysterious veiled figure.
"She will herself tell you. She requested me, with tears, to bring her
to Elise Gotzkowsky, for, she assured me, the happiness of her life
depended on it."
Elise felt an icy shudder run through her. She laid her hand on her
heart, as if to protect it against the terrible danger which she felt
threatened her, and with trembling lip she repeated, "What does the
lady wish with me?"
Bertram did not answer her, but letting go the arm of the unknown,
he bowed low. "Countess," said he, "this is Mademoiselle Elise
Gotzkowsky. I have fulfilled my promise: allow me now to leave you,
and may God impart convincing power to your words!"
He greeted the ladies respectfully, and left the room quickly. The
two ladies were now alone together. A pause ensued. Both trembled, and
neither ventured to break the silence.
"You desired to speak to me," said Elise, finally, in a low, languid
voice. "May I now beg of you--"
The lady threw back her veil, and allowed Elise to see a handsome
countenance, moistened with tears. "It is I who have to beg," said
she, with a touching foreign accent, while seizing Elise's hand, she
pressed it warmly to her breast. "Forgive me; since I have seen you,
I have forgotten what I had to say. At sight of you, all my words, and
even my anger have left me. You are very beautiful. Be as noble as
you are beautiful. My fate lies in your hands. You can restore me to
"God alone can do that," said Elise, solemnly.
"At this moment you are the divinity who has the disposal of my fate.
You alone can restore me to happiness, for you have deprived me of
it--yes, you, so young, so handsome, and apparently so innocent. You
are the murderess of my happiness." Her eyes sparkled, and a bright
blush suffused her hitherto pale cheeks. "Yes," cried she, with a
triumphant laugh, "now I am myself again. My hesitation has vanished,
and anger is again supreme. I am once more the lioness, and ready to
defend the happiness of my life."
Elise drew herself up, and she, too, felt a change in her heart. With
the instinct of love, she felt that this handsome woman who stood
opposite to her was her rival, her enemy with whom she had to struggle
for her most precious property. Passion filled her whole being, and
she vowed to herself not to yield a single step to this proud beauty.
With an expression of unspeakable disdain, she fixed her eyes upon
the countess. Their flashing looks crossed each other like the bright
blades of two combatants in a duel.
"I do not understand you," said Elise, with angry coldness. "You must
speak more plainly, if you wish to be understood."
"You do not wish to understand me," cried the countess. "You wish to
avoid me, but I will not let you. I have suffered so much that I will
not suffer any longer. We stand here opposite each other as two women
engaged in a combat for life and death."
Elise suppressed the cry of pain which rose in her breast, and
compelled herself to assume a proud and impassible composure. "I still
do not understand you, nor do I desire to contend with an unknown
person. But if you will not leave my room, you will allow me to do
She turned to go, but the countess seized her hand, and held her back.
"No! you cannot go!" cried she, passionately. "You cannot go, for
I know that you are going to him, to him whom I love, and I come to
demand this man of you."
These half-threatening, half-commanding words, at last drove Elise
from the assumed tranquillity she had maintained with so much
difficulty. "I know not of whom you speak," cried she, in a loud
But the countess was tired of dealing in these half-concealed
meanings, these mysterious allusions. "You know of whom I speak,"
cried she, vehemently. "You know that I have come to demand the
restoration of my holiest possession, the heart of my beloved. Oh!
give him back to me, give me back my betrothed, for he belongs to me,
and cannot be another's. Let my tears persuade you. You are young,
rich, handsome; you have every thing that makes life happy. I have
nothing but him. Leave him to me."
Elise felt furious. Like a tigress, she could have strangled this
woman, who came to destroy her happiness. A wild, angry laugh rang
from her lips: "You say that you love him," exclaimed she. "Well,
then, go to him and ask him for his heart. Why do you demand it of
_me_? Win it from him, if you can."
"In order to be able to win it, you must first release him from the
fetters with which you have bound him."
An angry flush overspread Elise's pale face. "You become insulting,"
The countess paid no attention to these words, but continued still
more vehemently: "Make him free. Loose the bands which fetter him, and
then, I am sure, he will return to me and be mine again."
Elise stared terrified at the face of the countess, excited and
streaming with tears. She had heard but one little word, but this word
had pierced her heart like a dagger.
"_Return_ to you?" asked she, breathlessly. "Be yours _again_? He was
then _once_ yours?"
"I yielded to him what is most sacred in life, and yet you ask if he
was mine!" said the countess, smiling sadly.
Elise uttered a loud, piercing shriek, and covered her face with her
hands. Her emotion was so expressive and painful that it touched the
heart even of her rival. Almost lovingly she passed her arm around
Elise's waist and drew her down gently to her on the sofa. "Come,"
said she, "let us sit by each other like two sisters. Come, and listen
to me. I will disclose a picture which will make your soul shudder!"
Elise yielded to her mechanically. She let herself involuntarily glide
down on the sofa, and suffered the countess to take her hand. "Feodor
once belonged to her," she murmured. "His heart was once given to
"Will you listen to me?" asked the countess; and, seeing Elise still
lost in silent reverie, she continued: "I will relate to you the
history of Feodor von Brenda, and his unhappy, forsaken bride." Elise
shuddered, and cast a wandering, despairing look around.
"Will you listen to me?" repeated the countess.
"Speak--I am listening," whispered Elise, languidly. And then, the
Countess Lodoiska von Sandomir, often interrupted by Elise's plaintive
sighs, her outbursts of heartfelt sympathy, related to the young girl
the sad and painful story of her love and her betrayal.
She was a young girl, scarcely sixteen, the daughter of a prince,
impoverished by his own fault and prodigality, when she became the
victim of her father's avarice. Without compassion for her tears, her
timid youth, he had sold her for a million. With the cruel selfishness
of a spendthrift miser, he had sold his young, fresh, beautiful
daughter for dead, shining metal, to a man of sixty years, fit to be
her grandfather, and who persecuted the innocent girl with the ardent
passion of a stripling. She had been dragged to the altar, and the
priest had been deaf to the "No!" she had uttered, when falling
unconscious at his feet. Thus she had become the wife of the rich
Count Sandomir--a miserable woman who stood, amidst the splendor of
life, without hope, without joy, as in a desert.
But one day this desert had changed, and spring bloomed in her soul,
for love had come to warm her chilled heart with the sunbeam of
happiness. She did not reproach herself, nor did she feel any scruples
of conscience, that it was not her husband whom she loved. What
respect could she have for marriage, when for her it had been only a
matter of sale and purchase? She had been traded off like a slave, and
with happy exultation she said to herself, "Love has come to make me
free, and, as a free and happy woman, I will tear this contract
by which I have been sold." And she had torn it. She had had no
compassion on the gray hairs and devoted heart of her noble husband.
She had been sacrificed, and now pitilessly did she sacrifice her
husband to her lover. She saw but one duty before her--to reward the
love of the man she adored with boundless devotion. No concealment, no
disguise would she allow. Any attempt at equivocation she regarded as
an act of treason to the great and holy feeling which possessed her
Usually all the world is acquainted with the treachery and infidelity
of a woman, while it is yet a secret to her husband. But the countess
took care that her husband should be the first to learn of his injured
honor, her broken faith. She had hoped that he would turn from her in
anger, and break the marriage-bond which united her to him. But her
husband did not liberate her. He challenged the betrayer of his
honor, whose treachery was the blacker, because the count himself had
introduced him into his house, as the son of the friend of his youth.
They fought. It was a deadly combat, and the old man of sixty, already
bowed down by rage and grief, could not stand against the strength of
his young and practised adversary. He was overcome. The dying husband
had been brought to Countess Lodoiska, his head supported by his
murderer, her lover. Even in this terrible moment she felt no anger
against him, and as the eyes of her husband grew dull in death, she
could only remember that she was now free to become his wife. She had
thrown herself at the feet of the empress to implore her consent to
this marriage, on which depended the hope and happiness, the honor and
atonement of her life. The empress had not refused her consent, had
herself appointed the wedding day which should unite her favorite with
the young countess.
But a short time before the arrival of this day, so ardently longed
for, looked forward to with so many prayers, such secret anxiety and
gnawing self-reproaches, the war broke out, and Lodoiska did not
dare to keep back her lover, as with glowing zeal he hastened to his
colors. He had sworn to her never to forget her; to return faithful to
her, and she had believed him.
* * * * *
Elise had followed the countess in her narration with intense
attention and warm sympathy. Her face had become pale as marble,
her countenance sad, and her eyes filled with tears. A fearful
anticipation dawned in her heart, but she turned away from it. She
would not listen to this secret voice which whispered to her that this
sad tale of the countess had reference to her own fate.
"Your lover did not deceive your trust?" asked she. "With such a
bloody seal upon your love he dare not break his faith."
"He did break it," answered the countess, painfully. "I was nothing
more to him than a guilty woman, and he went forth to seek an angel.
He forgot his vows, his obligations, and cast me away, for I was a
burden to him."
Both were silent in the bitterness of their sorrow. The countess
fastened her large, bright eyes upon the young girl, who stared before
her, pale, motionless, absorbed in her own grief.
This anxious silence was finally broken by the countess. "I have not
yet told you the name of my lover. Shall I name him to you?"
Elise awoke as if from a heavy dream. "No," cried she, eagerly, "no,
do not name him. What have I to do with him? I do not know him. What
do I care to hear the name of a man who has committed so great a
"You must hear it," said the countess, solemnly. "You must learn the
name of the man who chained me to him by a bloody, guilt-stained past,
and then deserted me. It is Colonel Count Feodor von Brenda!"
Elise uttered a cry, and sank, half fainting, back on the cushions of
the sofa. But this dejection did not last long. Her heart, which for a
moment seemed to stop, resumed again its tumultuous beating; her blood
coursed wildly through her veins, and her soul, unused to the despair
of sorrow, resolved to make one last effort to free itself from the
fetters with which her evil fate wished to encompass her. She drew
herself up with glowing cheeks and flashing eyes. "This is false," she
cried; "a miserable invention, concocted to separate me from Feodor.
Oh! I see through it all. I understand now my father's solemn
asseverations, and why Bertram brought you to me. But you are all
mistaken in me. Go, countess, and tell your friends, 'Elise offers up
every thing and gives every thing to him whom she loves, in whom she
believes, even if the whole world testifies against him.'" And with a
triumphant smile, throwing back her head, she stood up and was about
to leave the room.
The countess shrugged her shoulders as if in pity. "You do not believe
me, then?" said she; "but you will believe this witness?" and she drew
a letter from her bosom and handed it to Elise.
"It is his handwriting," cried the young girl, terrified, as she took
"Ah! you know his handwriting, then? He has written to you, too?"
sighed the countess. "Well, then, read it. It is a letter he wrote me
from Berlin at the commencement of his captivity. Read it!"
"Yes, I will read it," murmured Elise. "These written words pierce my
eyes like daggers, but I will not mind the pain. I will read it."
She read the letter, which annihilated her whole happiness, slowly and
with terrible composure. Drop by drop did she let the poison of these
words of love, directed to another, fall into her soul. When she had
finished reading it, she repeated to herself the last cruel words,
the warm protestations, with which Feodor assured his bride of his
unalterable love and fidelity, with which he swore to her that he
looked upon his love to her not only as a happiness, but as a sacred
obligation; that he owed her not only his heart but his honor. Then
long and carefully she considered the signature of his name, and
folding up the paper, she handed it back, with a slight inclination to
"Oh, my God! I have loved him beyond bounds," muttered she, low; and
then, unable to restrain her tears, she put her hands to her face and
"Poor, unhappy girl!" exclaimed the countess, laying her arm tenderly
around her neck.
Elise drew back violently and regarded her almost in anger. "Do not
commiserate me. I will not be pitied by you! I--"
She suddenly stopped, and an electric shock passed through her whole
frame. She heard the concerted signal; and the tones of the post-horn,
which slowly and heavily sounded the notes of the sad Russian melody,
grated on her ear like a terrible message of misfortune.
The two women stood for a moment silent and motionless. They both
listened to the dirge of their love and their happiness, and this
simple, hearty song sounded to them horrible and awful in the
boundless desolation of their hearts. At last the song ceased, and a
voice, too well known and loved, cried, "Elise! Elise!"
The maiden started up, shuddering and terrified. "His voice frightens
But still she seemed not to be able to withstand the call; for she
approached the window, and looked down hesitatingly.
The countess observed her jealously, and a fearful thought suddenly
entered her mind. How, if this young girl loved him as much as she
did? If she were ready to forgive him every thing, to blot out the
whole past with the hand of love and commence a new existence with
him? If she felt no compassion for Feodor's forsaken bride, and were
willing to trample triumphantly on her broken heart at the call of her
lover, and follow him to the altar? Her whole soul writhed in pain,
"Follow his call," cried she, with a derisive smile. "Leave your
father, whom you have betrayed, for the sake of a traitor! You have
vowed to love him. Go and keep your vow."
Outside Feodor's voice called Elise's name louder and more pressingly.
A moment she listened, then rushed to the window, threw it open, and
called out, "I come, I come!"
Lodoiska flew to her; drew back the young girl violently from the
window, and throwing both arms firmly around her, said, almost
breathlessly, "Traitress! You shall not cross this threshold! I will
call your father. I will call the whole household together! I will--"
"You will call no one," interrupted Elise, and her proud, cold
composure awed even the countess. "You will call no one, for I stay,
and you--you go in my stead."
"What say you?" asked Lodoiska.
Elise raised her arm and pointed solemnly to the window. "I say,"
cried she, "that your bridegroom is waiting down there for you. Go,
With an exclamation of joy the countess pressed her in her arms. "You
renounce him, then?"
"I have no part in him," said Elise coldly. "He belongs to you; he
is bound to you by your disgrace and his crime. Go to him," cried she
more violently, as she saw that the countess looked at her doubtingly.
"Hasten, for he is waiting for you."
"But he will recognize me; he will drive me from him."
Elise pointed to her clothes, which were placed ready for her
departure. "There lie my hat and cloak," said she haughtily. "Take
them; drop the veil. He knows this dress, and he will think it is me."
At this moment the door was torn open, and Bertram burst in. "Make
haste," he cried, "or all is lost. Count Feodor is becoming impatient,
and may himself venture to come for Elise. Gotzkowsky, too, has been
awakened by the unaccustomed sound of the post-horn."
"Help the countess to prepare for the journey," cried Elise, standing
still, motionless, and as if paralyzed.
Bertram looked at her, astonished and inquiringly; but in a few
rapid words the countess explained to him Elise's intention and
determination, to allow her to take the journey in her stead, and with
Bertram cast on Elise a look which mirrored forth the admiration he
felt for this young girl, who had so heroically gained the victory
over herself. His reliance on her maiden pride, her sense of right and
honor, had not been deceived.
The countess had now finished her toilet, and donned Elise's hat and
Bertram called on her to hasten, and she approached Elise to bid her
farewell, and express her gratitude for the sacrifice she had made
for her. But Elise waved her back proudly and coldly, and seemed to
shudder at her touch.
"Go to your husband, countess," cried she, and her voice was hoarse
Lodoiska's eyes filled with tears. Once more she attempted to take
Elise's hand, but the latter firmly crossed her arms and looked at her
almost threateningly. "Go!" said she, in a loud, commanding voice.
Bertram took the arm of the countess and drew her to the door.
"Hasten!" said he; "there is no time to lose."
The door closed behind them. Elise was alone. She stood and listened
to their departing steps; she heard the house door open; she heard the
post-horn once more sound out merrily, and then cease. "I am alone!"
she screamed, with a heart-rending cry. "They are gone; I am alone!"
And stretching her arms despairingly to heaven, and almost beside
herself, she cried out, "O God! will no one have compassion on me?
will no one pity me?"
"Elise," said her father, opening the room door.
She sprang toward him with a loud exclamation, she rushed into his
arms, embraced him, and, nestling in his bosom, she exclaimed faintly,
"Have pity on me, my father; do not drive me from you! You are my only
refuge in this world."
Gotzkowsky pressed her firmly to his breast and looked gratefully
to heaven. "Oh! I well knew my daughter's heart would return to her
He kissed ardently her beautiful, glossy hair, and her head that was
resting on his breast. "Do not weep, my child, do not weep," whispered
"Let me weep," she answered, languidly; "you do no know how much
sorrow and grief pass off with these tears."
The sound of the post-horn was now heard from the street below and
then the rapid rolling of a carriage.
Elise clung still more closely to her father. "Save me," she cried.
"Press me firmly to your heart. I am quite forsaken in this world."
The door was thrown open and Bertram rushed in, out of breath,
exclaiming: "She is gone! he did not recognize her, and took her for
you. The countess--"
He stopped suddenly and looked at Gotzkowsky, of whose presence he had
just become aware.
Gotzkowsky inquired in astonishment, "Who is gone? What does all this
Elise raised herself from his arms and gazed at him with flashing
eyes. "It means," she answered, "that the happiness of my life is
broken, that all is deception and falsehood where I looked for love,
and faith, and happiness!" With a touching cry of suffering, she fell
fainting in her father's arms.
"Do not rouse her, father," said Bertram, bending over her; "grant her
this short respite, for she has a great sorrow to overcome. When she
comes to herself again, she will love none but you, her father."
Gotzkowsky pressed his lips on her brow, and blessed her in his
thoughts. "She will find in me a father," said he, with deep emotion,
"who, if necessary, can weep with her. My eyes are unused to tears,
but a father may be allowed to weep with his daughter when she is
* * * * *
THE BANQUET OF GRATITUDE.
Berlin had recovered from the terrors it had undergone. It was eight
days since the enemy had left, and every thing was quiet and calm. But
on this day the quiet was to be interrupted by a public merry-making.
Berlin, which had suffered so much, was to rejoice again.
The festival which was to be celebrated, was intended for none else
than John Gotzkowsky, the Merchant of Berlin, the man whom all looked
upon as their guardian angel and savior. He had cheerfully borne
hardship and toil, danger and injustice, for the good of his
fellow-men; he had always been found helping and ready to serve,
unselfish and considerate. The whole town was under obligation to him;
he had served all classes of society, and they all wished to evince
their gratitude to him.
Gotzkowsky had been requested to remain at home on the morning of
the festal day, but to hold himself in readiness to receive several
deputations. They were to be succeeded by a grand dinner, given by the
citizens of Berlin in his honor. They were to eat and drink, be merry,
and enjoy themselves to his glorification; they were to drink his
health in foaming glasses of champagne, and Gotzkowsky was to look
upon it all as a grand festival with which the good citizens of Berlin
were glorifying him, while they themselves were enjoying the luscious
viands and fragrant wines.
In vain did Gotzkowsky refuse to accept the proffered festival.
At first he tried to excuse himself on the plea of his daughter's
illness, alleging that he could not leave her bedside. But information
had been obtained from her physician, who reported her out of danger,
and that Gotzkowsky might leave her for several hours without risk.
Gotzkowsky being able to find no other excuse, was obliged to accept.
Elise was indeed sick. The grief and despair of her betrayed and
deceived heart had prostrated her; and her wild, fever-dreams, her
desponding complaints, the reproachful conversations she carried on
with her lover--unseen but nevertheless present in her delirium--had
betrayed her secret to her father. Full of emotion, he thanked God for
her happy escape, and felt no resentment against this poor, misguided
child, who had taken refuge from the loneliness of her heart, in his
love, as in a haven of shelter. He only reproached his own want of
discernment, as he said to himself: "Elise had cause to be angry
with me and to doubt my affection. I bore solitude and the constant
separation from my daughter because I thought I was working for her,
but I forgot that at the same time she was solitary and alone, that
she missed a father's tenderness as I did my child's love. I wished to
make her rich, and I have only made her poor and wretched."
He kissed her burning, feverish forehead, he bedewed it with tears,
and forgave her, from the bottom of his heart, her misplaced love, her
errors and transgressions. She was with him; she had returned to his
heart. In her despair she had fled to the bosom of her father, and
sought support and assistance from him.
The dark clouds had all rolled over, and the heavens were again bright
and clear. Berlin was freed from the enemy. Elise was convalescent,
and the town of Berlin, was preparing for her noblest citizen a
banquet of gratitude.
The appointed hour had arrived for Gotzkowsky to receive the
deputations, and he betook himself to the hall next the garden. A
thundering hurrah received him. It proceeded from his workmen, who had
come in procession through the garden, and were waving their hats and
caps. They were followed by a multitude of women in black. This day
they had laid aside the tears and griefs for their husbands and sons
fallen in battle, in order to thank Gotzkowsky with a smile for the
magnanimous kindness with which he had taken their part and secured
Following these women came the poor orphans, with mourning-crape on
their arms. They rushed forward joyously toward Gotzkowsky, stretching
out their little hands to him, and, at a word from the head operative,
Balthazar, they stretched open their small mouths, and gave out such a
shrill and crashing hurrah that the windows rattled, and many a stout
workman stopped his ears and felt a ringing in his head.
"One more hurrah!" cried the enthusiastic Balthazar; and "hurrah!"
screamed and squeaked the children.
"And now for a third--"
But Gotzkowsky seized hold of Balthazar's arm which he was about to
move again, and with a look of comical terror, exclaimed: "But, man,
don't you know that I have further use for my ears to-day? You deafen
me with your screaming. That's enough."
Balthazar struggled himself free from the strong grasp of his master,
and placed himself in a theatrical position opposite to him. He was
able this day to indulge in his passion for eloquence, for the workmen
had chosen him for their orator, and he had a right to speak. As
he spoke, it could be seen by his sparkling eyes, and by his fiery
enthusiasm, that his words had not been learned by rote, but proceeded
from his heart.
"Sir, allow me to speak and express my joy, for it is a joy to have a
noble master. Look at these children, dear master. Three days ago they
had fathers who could work and care for them. But the cannon-balls
deprived them of their fathers, and God sent them a father, and you
are he. You adopted these children when they were forsaken by all
else. You said: 'God forbid that the children of these brave men, who
had fallen in defence of the liberty of Berlin, should be orphans! I
will be their father.' Yes, sir, that is what you said, and all the
weeping mothers and all your workmen heard it and wrote it down in
their hearts. Ask these widows for whom they pray to God. Ask the poor
who were without bread and whom you fed. Ask the whole town who it is
whom they bless and praise. They will all name the name of Gotzkowsky;
with one voice they will all cry out: "Long live our friend and
father! Long live Gotzkowsky!"
Unanimously did all join in this cry, shouting out, "Long live
Deeply moved, Gotzkowsky stretched out his hands to the workmen,
and accepted, with cordial gratification, the flowers offered by
the children. "Thank you, thank you," cried he, in a voice of deep
emotion. "You have richly recompensed me, for I perceive that you love
me, and nothing can be more beautiful than love."
"Diamonds!" cried out Ephraim, as he made his way through the crowd
with Itzig and a deputation of the Jews, toward the hero of the
day--"diamonds are more valuable than love, Gotzkowsky. Look at this
brilliant, which sparkles and shines more brightly than ever did a
look of love from any human eye."
He presented to Gotzkowsky a costly _solitaire_ diamond, and
continued: "Be so kind and grant us the favor of accepting this
present. It is a diamond of the first water."
"It is a petrified tear of joy," interrupted Itzig, "shed by us on our
delivery by you from taxation. You are our greatest benefactor, our
best friend. You have proved yourself the savior of the Jews, for you
freed us from the tax, and saved us what is more precious than honor,
and rank, and happiness--our money; for, without money, the Jew is
nobody. Accept, therefore, the ring, and wear it for our sakes."
"Accept it, we pray you," cried Ephraim, and the Jews took up the cry.
Gotzkowsky took the ring, and placed it on his finger, thanking the
givers for the costly present, and assuring them he would wear it with
pleasure in honor of them.
Itzig's brow was clouded with a slight frown, and stepping back to
Ephraim and his friends, he muttered, "He accepts it. I was in hopes
he would refuse it, for it cost much money, and we could have made
very good use of it."
The solemn advance of the honorable gentlemen of the Berlin Town
Council interrupted Itzig's private soliloquy, and drew his attention
toward the chief burgomaster, Herr von Kircheisen, who, in all
the splendor and dignity of his golden chain and of his office,
accompanied by the senators and town officers, strode pompously
through the crowd, and presented his hand to Gotzkowsky, who was
respectfully advancing to meet him.
"The Council of Berlin has come to thank you. For it is an
unparalleled example for a man to undertake and go through what you
have done for us, without any interest, without any ulterior object."
"You make me out better than I am," replied Gotzkowsky, smiling at
Herr von Kircheisen's pompous words. "I had an ulterior object. I
wished to gain the love of my fellow-citizens. If I have succeeded, I
am more than rewarded, and I pray you say no more on the subject."
The chief burgomaster shook his head majestically. "You have exercised
toward us the virtue of philanthropy. Allow us to exercise toward
you in return the virtue of gratitude." He took from the hands of the
assistant burgomaster a dark-red _etui_, from which he a wreath of
oak-leaves, worked in silver, which he presented to Gotzkowsky. "John
Gotzkowsky," said he, solemnly, "the Council and citizens of Berlin
request you, through me, to accept this memorial of their love and
gratitude. It is the civic crown of your magnanimity. Receive it from
our hands, and accept also our vow that we will never forget what you
have done for the town of Berlin."
Tears of delight, of heart-felt joy stood in Gotzkowsky's eyes as he
took the oaken crown from his hands, and glowing words of gratitude
poured from his lips.
Not far off, in a niche of a window of the hall, stood Messrs. Krause
and Kretschmer, with sullen looks, witnessing the homage paid to
Gotzkowsky, their souls filled with envy and rage. They, too, had come
to thank him, but with unwilling hearts, because they could not be
well absent from the festivities which the whole town offered him. But
they were vexed to see this man, whom they hated from the bottom of
their hearts, because of their obligations to him, so universally
honored and beloved. It annoyed them to see the pleasant and affable
smile with which the otherwise proud burgomaster conversed with
him; to see with what cordial friendship the senators and councilmen
"I came hither," said Mr. Krause, softly, "to thank Gotzkowsky for
saving us, but I must confess it worries me to see him so glorified."
Mr. Kretschmer shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. "Let them praise
him," said he; "the _Vossian Gazette_ will not notice it, and I will
not write the smallest article on this occasion. As for the service
he rendered us--well, certainly, it would have been unpleasant to
have been flogged, but then we would have been martyrs to our liberal
opinions; the whole world would have admired and pitied us, and the
king would not have refused us a pension."
"Certainly," whispered Mr. Krause, "he would have granted us a
pension, and the whipping would have made us famous. It has never been
forgotten of the English poet, Payne, that King Charles the First had
his ears cut off, because he wrote against him. He is not celebrated
for his writings, but for his chopped ears. We, too, might have
become famous if this Gotzkowsky had not, in the most uncalled-for
manner, interfered, and--but look!" cried he, interrupting himself,
"the interview with the Council is finished, and it is now our turn to
The two editors hastened toward him in order, in well-arranged speech,
and with assurances of eternal gratitude, to offer their thanks.
* * * * *
A ROYAL LETTER.
Mr. Krause had not yet finished the declamation of the poem which his
inspiration had produced in honor of Gotzkowsky, when a loud noise was
heard at the door of the hall, and Gotzkowsky's body-servant rushed
in. A messenger of the Council was without, he announced; a letter
had just arrived from the king, and, as he was to deliver it to the
burgomaster in person, the messenger had brought him here. He handed
Herr von Kircheisen a letter, and the latter broke the seal with
A pause of anxious expectation ensued. Each one inquired of himself
with trembling heart what could be the meaning of this royal letter.
The countenance of the chief magistrate grew more and more cheerful,
and suddenly he called aloud: "This is indeed a message of gladness
for our poor town. The king, our gracious lord, releases us from our
obligation to pay the promised war-tax of a million and a half. He
wishes to retaliate for the Wurzburg and Bamberg bonds captured from
the Aulic Council. For which reason his majesty's order is that we do
A single cry of joy sounded from the lips of all present. Gotzkowsky
alone was silent, with downcast eyes, and his earnest, pensive
expression contrasted strongly with the bright, joyous countenances
which were illuminated by the order of the king to keep their money.
Among the happiest and most radiant, however, were the rich mint
farmers Ephraim and Itzig, and the chief burgomaster.
"The royal decree relieves our town of a horrible burden," said Herr
von Kircheisen, with a happy smile.
"The whole mercantile community must be grateful to the king," cried
Ephraim. "Berlin saves a million and a half, and the Russian is sold."
Suddenly Gotzkowsky drew himself up erect, and his eagle eye ran over
the whole assembly with a bold, beaming glance. "The Russian is not
sold," cried he, "for Berlin will pay him the balance of a million and
a half. Berlin has pledged her word, and she will redeem it."
The countenances of those around grew dark again, and here and there
were heard words of anger and wild resentment.
"How!" cried Itzig, "do you require of the merchants to pay what they
can keep for themselves? The king has said, 'You shall not pay!'"
"And I say, we will pay," cried Gotzkowsky. "What is written is
written, and what is promised must be performed, for this our honor
requires. The king possesses not the power of annulling a promise or
revoking an oath! He who does not fulfil his word of honor is not a
man of honor, were he even a king."
"But," said Herr von Kircheisen, pathetically, "there are nevertheless
circumstances which render impossible the fulfilment of an
Gotzkowsky answered ardently: "If such do occur, the man of honor dies
when he cannot fulfil his word. But you--you do not wish to die. Oh
no! You wish to break your word in order to live pleasantly. You wish
to profit by your breach of promise. You wish to declare yourselves
insolvent and cheat your creditors of their money, and thereby amass
A general storm of indignation interrupted Gotzkowsky, and the very
men who had come for the purpose of making a formal demonstration of
their gratitude now approached him with angry gestures and threatening
"A million and a half is no child's play," screamed Ephraim. "Money is
more precious than honor."
"I say money is honor," cried Itzig. "As long as we keep our millions,
we keep our honor."
"You are very generous," sneered Kretschmer. "Like a gentleman, you
pay your debts out of other people's pockets, and the citizens will
have to pay millions to enable you to keep your word."
Gotzkowsky cast one look of contemptuous pity on him, and replied:
"You forget, sir, that I did not act in my own name, but in that of
the magistracy and merchants of Berlin. Not I alone would be faithless
to my word, but the whole town of Berlin."
"But I repeat," said the chief burgomaster, "that the king has
released us from the obligation of keeping our word."
"No king can do that," interrupted Gotzkowsky. "A man of honor must
keep his word, and no one, not even a king, can absolve him from it."
"Let us not quarrel about matters of opinion," said Kircheisen,
shrugging his shoulders. "My opinion is, that we do not pay this sum."
"No, we will not pay it!" cried all in tumultuous excitement, as they
surrounded the burgomaster, discussing in cheerful conversation the
advantages of non-payment.
Gotzkowsky stood listening to them alone, unobserved, and forgotten.
His heart was heavy with sadness, and painfully did he reflect: "This
is the unholy influence of money, hardening the heart and silencing
the voice of honor. For a few millions of dollars do they sell their
good name. One final attempt let me make. I will see what their
cowardice will do."
Again did he enter their midst, and with convincing words and ardent
eloquence portray the danger which would ensue from the non-payment of
The Russian was not very far from Berlin: if he had retired in forced
marches he could return thither with equal rapidity in order, in the
wantonness of his wrath, to take vengeance on the faithless town.
"In an unlucky moment," said he, "the Russians might gain a victory
over our king. He would then return and rend us like a tiger. I
would then no longer have the power of protecting you, for General
Tottleben's anger would be turned principally against me, who
guaranteed the payment of the contribution. God himself does not
protect him who breaks his word. He is an outlaw."
A deep silence followed Gotzkowsky's speech. All the faces were again
overcast, and in the contracted brow and anxious countenances could be
read the fact that his words had painfully convinced them that it was
necessary to pay.
Even Herr von Kircheisen in his fear of the return of the Russians,
forgot the enormous amount of the sums to be paid, and said, with a
melancholy sigh: "Gotzkowsky is, I am afraid, right. It is very hard
to pay the money, but it is very dangerous not to do it."
"It might cost us our heads," confirmed the first councilman.
Ephraim stood with his head cast down, and muttered to himself, "Money
is very dear, but life is still dearer."
Itzig cried out in despair: "Let us keep our money. Without money the
Jew is nobody."
But the chief burgomaster, who had consulted the councilmen, now
approached Gotzkowsky, and, with a smile, offered him his hand. "We
thank you," said he, "for you have spoken wisely, and your advice
shall be followed. We will pay, for we cannot help ourselves. But we
must beg you to do us another important service. Go to the king and
beg him not to be angry with us if we do not obey his order."
"Yes, do so, do so, Gotzkowsky!" cried all the others. "Go to the
king, he is friendly toward you--beg for us."
Gotzkowsky's countenance beamed with generous satisfaction. "Very
well," said he; "I will go to the king and beg him to allow the town
of Berlin to preserve its honor immaculate, and pay the promised sum."
"Use all your eloquence, that the king may remain favorably inclined
toward us, and not become angry with us for acting this once against
his orders," admonished the chief burgomaster.
"The king is a high-minded and noble man," said Gotzkowsky,
enthusiastically. "He looks upon a man's word as sacred, and will
understand us and honor us for not wishing to break ours."
An hour later the chief citizens and merchants of Berlin repaired to
the spacious town-hall, where an elegant banquet had been prepared,
and merriment prevailed, and glasses sounded; and Berlin, rescued,
celebrated the first day of joy and happiness.
But John Gotzkowsky, to whom this feast was given, whom Berlin called
her deliverer and benefactor, was not present at this banquet. Deeply
buried in furs he had just entered his carriage, and braving danger
and toil, in the cold and darkness he drove away toward Meissen, where
the king had established his headquarters.
* * * * *
FREDERICK THE GREAT AT MEISSEN.
The great battle of Torgau had been fought, and the Prussian army,
after so many combats and such a bloody victory, was contemplating
with lively satisfaction the going into winter quarters, which, it
hoped, this time would be in Saxony. The Prussian headquarters were,
for the time being, in Meissen, and in the palace there, for a short
resting-spell, dwelt the king, who for many years had only experienced
the troubles and dangers of his position; the king who had often
struggled with hunger and care, daily privation and mortal danger,
and who one day, wearied out by sleeping night after night on the cold
ground, commissioned his adjutant to provide a bundle of straw for
the comfort of his royal person. The king had for a long time spared
Saxony. He was sorry for this beautiful, afflicted land. But Saxony
was finally to be treated as an enemy's country, as she would not
appreciate Frederick's noble forbearance and clemency, and had allied
herself to his enemies with fanatical zeal. And now her devastated
fields, her paralyzed factories, her impoverished towns and deserted
villages, testified to her distress and the calamities of war. But at
this time quiet and tranquillity reigned in the hostile camps. On both
sides they were too tired to be able to carry on a fresh conflict,
and the strength of both parties being exhausted, they were obliged to
allow each other time for rest. Besides, the winter had set in early
with unusual severity, and, to all appearances, put an end to the
campaign of 1760.
The only contest now was for winter quarters; and it had been,
therefore, after the victory of Torgau, the king's first endeavor to
cut off the retreat of the Austrians to Dresden, or at least to drive
them out of this town. But, as the king wrote to Countess Camas, "They
laughed at us from the top of the hills--I withdrew immediately, and,
like a little boy, have stuck myself down in pure disgust in one of
the accursed Saxon villages. I assure you I lead a perfect dog's life,
such as no one else, except Don Quixote, has ever led."
In the mean while Frederick had left this "accursed Saxon village"
(Neustadt) and had gone to Meissen, and his "dog's life" had given
place to ease and comfort. He had, therefore, for some quiet weeks
laid aside the sword, and the gentleman had become again the royal
poet and _savant_, who divided his time between music and poetry,
between serious studies and writing to his friends, to whom he sent
letters, in which his great and elevated manner of thinking, his soul
above prejudice, were displayed in all their beauty and power.
The king was alone in his study. He had just finished a letter to the
Marquis d'Argens, calling upon him to give some news of his gallery at
Sans-Souci, and to inform him of its progress. The king laid down his
pen, and leaned back in his chair for a moment. His usually sharp,
bright eye had now a soft, gentle expression, and a light smile played
around his thin, nobly-formed lips. He has forgotten for the time the
care and bustle of war, and fancied himself in his beloved paradise,
his Sans-Souci, where it was allowed the hero to be a poet, and where
he could for some genial hours put aside his dignity, and, instead
of the enthroned ruler, be the cheerful sage, the smiling son of the
The king, pleased by these memories of happy days, rose and seized his
flute, which, by his express orders, always lay on his writing-table.
He put it to his lips, and began an _adagio_, in the execution of
which he was acknowledged to be one of the first _virtuosos_ of his
day, and the sounds, as they poured forth, rose plaintively, and
floated around him in bewitching melody. No one could listen to
this beautifully-executed, deeply-felt music of the royal performer,
without being impressed in his inmost soul, and feeling his heart
swell with powerful emotions. Outside, in the antechamber, were
standing the stern generals, the heroic warriors, Zeithen, and the
brave Schwerin, and General von Saldern, and their scarred, austere
features assumed a soft, touching expression, as they leaned against
the wall and listened in breathless silence to the performance of the
king. But suddenly the playing ceased.
To these brave warriors, unaccustomed to music, the execution had
seemed superb; but the king was not satisfied with it. He, who had
in his memory the royal _artiste_ of Sans-Souci, exacted of the king,
driven about by the hardships and necessities of war, that he should
have lost nothing of the fulness of tone or the power and energy of
execution. It worried him that the notes no longer flowed so clearly;
it vexed him to hear a sharp, whistling sound, that seemed to
accompany the melody as with a painful sigh. He threw the flute
aside, and stepped to a looking-glass, which he took up with evident
It was very seldom that the king held it worth his while to consult
the mirror about his personal appearance, and when he did so, it
was usually to inquire for some failing or evidence of frailty which
restricted him in the freedom of his being. And while he thus looked
at himself, his features assumed a sad expression, and his eyebrows
What was it, which thus put out of humor the brave hero, the
He became aware that his second front tooth had broken off. The gap
thus caused was the natural explanation of the want of clearness in
his playing. He threw the mirror angrily aside, and with a frown on
his brow paced rapidly up and down the room two or three times.
But gradually another expression succeeded, and a sarcastic smile
played around his mouth. Again he stepped to the writing-table, on
which lay several unfinished letters. Looking for the one he had
commenced to the Countess Camas, he said to himself: "The good
countess inquires after my personal appearance. Well, now that I am in
the humor, I will draw my portrait for her."
Again he took up the hand-glass and regarded himself long and
attentively; but this time not with vexation or ill-humor, but with
the cheerful smile and dignified calm of a philosopher. He then
applied himself to his writing: "You ask how I look, dear mother. The
disorder of war has made me so old, that you would hardly recognize
me. My hair is quite gray on the right side of my head; my teeth break
off and fall out; my face is as full of wrinkles as the furbelow of a
woman's frock; my back as bent as that of a monk of La Trappe. Only
my heart is unchanged; and, as long as I have breath, will preserve
feelings of esteem and the most tender friendship toward you, good
As the king read over this description of his appearance once more, he
broke into a loud, merry laugh. He then pushed the letter aside, and
took up another piece of paper, and a drawing-pencil.
Silence prevailed now in the cabinet of the king. Outside was heard
the monotonous tread of the sentinel, sometimes the sound of a
trumpet, the neighing of a horse, or the order of some officer. The
king paid no attention to all this. His ear was so accustomed to these
noises, that it seemed like perfect silence to him. He was so buried
in his work, that even the unwonted tumult which now arose was
unperceived by him; nor did he notice that a carriage drove into the
palace-yard, its post-horn sounding loud and merrily. The generals
and courtiers, who were in the antechamber, noticed it all the
more, because any thing was welcome to them which broke in upon the
prevailing quiet; for so accustomed were they to the varied business
of war, that any thing which departed from it was insupportably
tedious. They drew to the window and looked with pleasure on the
dusty, dirty travelling carriage, which, with its four panting
post-horses, had drawn up at the entrance to the palace, and out of
which descended a tall, manly figure, who went in at the palace door.
The gentlemen in the antechamber amused themselves guessing who the
stranger who had just arrived could be; and they had all arrived at
the unanimous conclusion that it must be the Marquis d'Argens, as the
door opened, and the stranger entered. He asked for the adjutant on
duty, and, as the latter was pointed out to him, he stepped toward him
with an air of quiet dignity.
"I pray you announce me immediately to his majesty. Have the kindness
to say to him, that I have not come hither on my private affairs,
but as a delegate from the city of Berlin, with full powers from the
Council and citizens, to request the honor of an audience with the
king, and that I am obliged to return as speedily as possible to the
"Your name, sir?"
"I am the merchant, John Gotzkowsky."
The serious and proud features of the aristocratic adjutant
immediately relaxed, and assumed a more polite and obliging
"Ah! Gotzkowsky, the rich and magnanimous merchant of Berlin--the
special _protege_ of the king. I will announce you immediately to his
majesty." And the adjutant hurried through the halls and entered the
boudoir of the king.
In the mean while, the generals drew near Gotzkowsky, who related
to them all about the siege of Berlin, and the cruel and relentless
conduct of the enemy; pressing him with questions, whether on his
journey thither he had encountered or come into the vicinity of any
portion of the enemy.
"You will find the king very much out of humor," said General von
Saldern; "he has not left his study to-day, and doubtless he is
occupied with very serious plans."
"Perhaps even with the plan of a battle," said another of the
gentlemen, "for it is said that Lacy has advanced his army, and even
that Landon has left Dresden. A battle is therefore imminent, and the
king is evidently drawing up his plan."
At this moment the door of the study was opened, and the adjutant
motioned to Gotzkowsky to enter. As the latter was traversing the
hall, the generals cast an eager glance through the open door, anxious
to see the countenance of the king, and find out from its expression
whether this intolerable armistice was to be interrupted by the
violent clash of arms.
In the mean time, Gotzkowsky entered the chamber of the king, and
the door closed after him. He was now alone in the presence of the
monarch, who was still sitting at his writing-table, making rapid
strokes with his drawing-pencil on the paper before him.
"He is writing," said Gotzkowsky to himself, "and is perhaps in the
act of drawing out the plan of the battle which the generals out there
are awaiting with such joyous impatience. Yes, he is writing, and
perhaps each stroke of the pen may cost the lives of hundreds of human
beings." And he did not venture by a single word or a loud breath to
draw attention to his presence. On his entrance, the king had cast
on him one of his sharp, penetrating glances, before whose commanding
power many a general and many a brave man had quailed, and had then
bent his head again over the paper.
Absolute silence prevailed for a while. Suddenly the king interrupted
it, and motioned to Gotzkowsky with his hand to draw near. "Just look
and see whether that pleases you," said he, in a friendly tone. "You
are known as a connoisseur in art, and you have proved to me that you
understand painting. Look at that, and tell me whether you like it."
What was it that the king had drawn on the paper? Was it really, as
his brave generals wished, the plan of a battle soon to be fought,
was it a philosophical treatise, or one of those witty and piquant
epistles to which the king treated his friends? None of all these.
"A nosegay!" cried Gotzkowsky, as with unconcealed astonishment he
looked now on the paper, now on the king. "Your majesty is drawing a
bouquet of flowers, and out there the gentlemen have just told me in
confidence that you were busied with a plan of battle, and that the
Austrians were approaching."
"Nonsense!" said the king, shrugging his shoulders, "that rough set
out there are always anxious for war, and to be cutting and slashing
at each other. Don't you listen to them, but rather tell me how you
like this drawing. Don't you think these roses mixed with lilies look
well? But I see you wish to know what it is intended for. Well, it is
for a set of porcelain which I wish to have painted for the Marquis
d'Argens." And, as he met Gotzkowsky's looks, he continued with a
friendly smile: "Yes, you see, you are rich; you can make others
presents. But the king of Prussia is a poor man; he has only his coat,
his sword, and his porcelain. And this last even," continued he, with
a slight frown, "I am obliged to get from Meissen."
"That your majesty need not do in future. Please God, your majesty
shall make your porcelain in your own dominions!"
"Will you guarantee that? Will you undertake it?" asked the king,
"And look ye, you are just the man to carry out what you wish. I am
well satisfied with you. You have justified the confidence I placed
in you when I was crown prince. You have redeemed the vow you made me
"I swore to your majesty that I would be faithful to the fatherland
with life and property," cried Gotzkowsky, with noble ardor.
"And you have kept your word. It is not difficult in easy and
prosperous times to find people to serve the state. Those are good
citizens who serve her when she is in difficulty and danger. You
are a good citizen." And handing Gotzkowsky an open letter which lay
on the writing-table, he said: "Read, it is a letter from the Marquis
d'Argens. Read it aloud, I would like to hear it again."
And Gotzkowsky read with a trembling voice, and cheeks reddened with
noble modesty, the following passage from a letter of the marquis,
which the king pointed out to him with his finger: "Gotzkowsky is,
indeed, an excellent man and a worthy citizen. I wish you had many
such as he. The greatest gift which fortune can make a state is a
citizen full of zeal for the welfare of his country and his prince.
And in this respect I must say, to the credit of Berlin, that in these
trying times I have met many of her citizens, Gotzkowsky the foremost
among them, whose virtues, the old historians of Rome, had they lived
at the present day, would have immortalized!"
"Are you satisfied?" asked the king, as Gotzkowsky, having finished,
handed him the paper. "Oh, I see you are a modest man, and blush like
a young girl. But tell me, now, what brings you here? What does the
city of Berlin wish?"
"Her rights, your majesty," said Gotzkowsky, seriously.
"And who is troubling her rights?"
The king frowned, and cast an angry glance on the bold jester.
Gotzkowsky continued, calmly: "Your majesty is depriving us of our
good rights, in so far as you wish to prevent us from being honest
people, and keeping our word sacred."
"Oh, now I understand you," said the king, laughing. "You are speaking
of the Russian war-tax. Berlin shall not pay it."
"Berlin will pay it, in order that your majesty may retain her in
your gracious favor; in order that the great Frederick may not have
to blush for his faithless and dishonest town, which would not then
deserve to be the residence of a king. How! would your majesty trust
the men who refused to redeem their openly-pledged word? who look upon
sworn contracts as a mouse-trap, to be escaped from as soon as the
opportunity offers, and when the dangerous cat is no longer sitting
at the door? Berlin will pay--that our sons may not have to blush
for their fathers; that posterity may not say that Berlin had stamped
herself with the brand of dishonor. We have pledged our word, and we
must keep it."
"You must not, for I do not wish you to do so," cried Frederick, with
anger-flashing eyes. "I will institute reprisals. The imperial court
has refused the payment of the Bamberg and Wurzburg bonds."
"And your majesty considers that proceeding highly dishonest and
unjust," interrupted Gotzkowsky; "and while you wish to punish the
empire for its breach of faith, you punish doubly the town of Berlin
by depriving her of the last thing that remained to her in her day
of need and misfortune--her honorable name. You cannot be in earnest,
sire? Punish, if you choose, the imperial judge, but do not make
Berlin the dishonored Jack Ketch to carry out your sentence."
"But are you so anxious to get rid of your money? What is the amount
that you still owe?"
"A million and a half, sire."
The king stepped back and looked at Gotzkowsky with astonishment. "And
the people of Berlin insist upon paying it?"
"Yes, because their word is pledged."
The king shook his head thoughtfully. "Hark ye," said he, "you seem to
me to be a dangerous agitator, who wishes to turn my peaceful citizens
of Berlin into true children of Haman. Some weeks ago, after the
unfortunate fight of Kunnersdorf, when I sent an express courier to
Berlin and ordered the Town Council to advise the rich and
well-to-do to retire from the city with their portable property, my
recommendation was not followed: you yourself excited the Council
to disobedience. In your self-willed obstinacy you had the impudent
assurance to make your way through a country infested by the enemy;
and if my colonel, Von Prittwitz, had not found you in those woods,
and brought you to me in the village, your obstinate head would have
adorned the lance of some Cossack or other. And what did you come for
but to assure me that the well-to-do citizens of Berlin would prefer
staying at home, and did not wish to run away? Yes, truly you are a
queer diplomatist, and rush headlong into danger and trouble only to
assure your king that his citizens will not obey him!"
The king had spoken with apparent displeasure, but around his lips
there played a slight smile, and his large blue eyes were directed
toward Gotzkowsky with an expression of indescribable kindness.
"In this case they do not wish to obey your majesty, because they wish
to remain worthy of the name of your majesty's citizens and subjects."
The king paced up and down several times, with folded arms, and then
stopped before Gotzkowsky, looking steadily in his eyes. "Now tell me,
how did you manage to make the Berliners so obstinate and so lavish of
Gotzkowsky smiled. "Please your majesty, the Berliners prize their
honor above their life."
The king shook his head impatiently. "You may tell that to some one
else. Tell _me_, how did you bring my Berliners up to that? But the
truth--mind, you tell me the truth."
"Well, then, your majesty shall know the truth," said Gotzkowsky,
after a pause.
"Yes, yes, the truth," cried the king, nodding his head violently. "I
wish to know how you inspired the citizens of Berlin with such bold
"The truth is, sire, that this was only the courage of cowardice, and
that the prudent magistracy and merchants were perfectly delighted
with your majesty's orders not to pay these bonds, and that I gave
myself an immense amount of trouble in vain to remind them of their
pledged word and their compromised honor."
"Oh! I know it," said the king. "My good Berliners love money as well
as any other of the good-for-nothing children of men. Proceed!"
"Well, when I found them deaf to the voice of honor, I let them hear
the words of cowardly prudence. I painted to them the horrors awaiting
them if the enemy perchance should return as conquerors, and what a
fearful revenge they would take on the perjured city. I reminded them
that the enemy would immediately attack all our property in Courland,
Dantzic, and Livonia, and that at the Russian headquarters they had
threatened me that they would publish, us in all the open commercial
marts as issuers of false bonds."
"You were then in the Russian camp?"
"A fortnight ago, sire. The Council of Berlin requested me to
undertake this journey to complete the transactions left unfinished by
the rapid retreat of General von Tottleben."
"And did you finish them?"
"I was obliged to give General Tottleben a written agreement that
I would return in four weeks to the Russian camp to carry out the
transactions in the name of these merchants."
"I have been told that the Russian general would not accept the bonds
for the war-tax unless you indorsed them. Is that true, too?"
"It is true."
"And what did you do?"
"I indorsed them."
The king's eye lighted up with friendship and kindness. "D'Argens is
right," said he. "Cornelius Nepos and Livy would have mentioned you in
their writings." And he paced up and down the room in deep thought.
A long pause ensued. Finally, Gotzkowsky was bold enough to break it.
"And the tax, your majesty, may we pay it?"
The king stopped in front of him. "The tax shall be paid," said he
curtly; but, as Gotzkowsky was about to break out in loud expressions
of gratitude, the king waved him off with his hand. "That is," said
he, "I myself will pay it, if it cannot be otherwise. Go back into the
Russian camp, as you have promised. Endeavor to get some abatement of
the amount, or some other profitable terms; but if you do not succeed,
well, I will have to pay this million and a half for Berlin. But in
return you must grant me a favor."
"What, sire? Whatever it may be," cried Gotzkowsky, ardently, "I am
ready to perform any service for your majesty, even to the sacrifice
of my life."
The king smiled. "Oh, no! not quite so bad as that, although the
service I ask of you is more difficult to most men than dying--I
mean _keeping silence_." And as he laid his hand affectionately on
Gotzkowsky's shoulder, he continued: "Betray to no one what I have
said to you, and only at the very last moment, if it is absolutely
necessary, take the Council into your confidence."
"How, sire?" said Gotzkowsky, painfully. "You wish to deprive your
Berlin citizens of the gratification of expressing to you their
gratitude, their infinite affection. Berlin may not even know how
kind, how gracious your majesty has been to her!"
"I don't like the jingling of words, nor the throwing of wreaths. The
very people who throw laurel-wreaths would be only too glad if the
laurels were hard enough to break our heads. You pay the contribution,
that is to say, you advance it, and I'll return it to you. That's
all, and now don't say another word about it." At the same time, as
if fearful that Gotzkowsky might yet venture to act contrary to his
wishes, he continued more rapidly: "Now tell me a little about Berlin,
and above all things about our gallery at Sans-Souci. How does it
"It is finished, sire, and the people flock to see it."
"I only, like a fugitive or a Don Quixote, am driven about," said the
king to himself, "and cannot even enter my own house, and they call
that royal happiness!" Turning to Gotzkowsky, he remarked aloud: "Have
you seen the gallery since the enemy took up his quarters in it?"
"Yes, sire! Prince Esterhazy was this noble enemy. He protected
Sans-Souci like something sacred. When he left he only took one single
small picture with him, as a souvenir."
The king gave a friendly nod. "I know it," said he, "and that is the
only pleasure I have had for a long time. Once more I will see my
Titians and Correggios, my Rubenses and Vandycks, which you bought for
me. Now tell me about Charlottenburg. But mind, give me the truth. I
have noticed that no one will speak out about it, nobody will tell the
truth. They are afraid of my anger. But you are a brave man, you are
not even afraid of the Cossacks. You will have the courage to let your
king know the facts. How is it with Charlottenburg? The Saxons have
quartered there--what did they do?"
And now Gotzkowsky, often interrupted by the violent and angry
exclamations of the king, told of the barbarous and cruel vandalism
committed by the Saxons at Charlottenburg, their unbridled
destructiveness and unsparing barbarity.
"And the Polignac collection?" asked the king, breathlessly.
"Almost entirely destroyed."
The king started up from his easy-chair, his eyes flashing with rage.
He was no longer the philosopher of Sans-Souci, no longer the poet; he
was now the warrior panting for battle and bloody vengeance. "Tell me,
tell me! I wish to know all," said the king, laboring out each word,
and taking long strides up and down.
But as Gotzkowsky gave him a more detailed account, and related
the sacrilegious barbarity which did not spare even the sacred
art-treasures, the king's brow became more darkened, and for a moment
a burning flush of anger shot across his pale cheek. At one time
he raised his arm threateningly, as if he would bring down the
thunderbolts of heaven upon such wickedness and ruthlessness.
As Gotzkowsky finished, the king said, curtly and vehemently, "Good,
very good!" and traversing the room with hasty steps, he threw open
the door which led into the antechamber, and called out, "Saldern!"
Immediately General von Saldern appeared at the open door. The king
commanded him to enter and shut the door; then, addressing him in a
short, decisive tone: "Go to-morrow, quietly, with a detachment of
infantry and cavalry, to Hubertsburg, take possession of the castle,
and have all the valuable furniture carefully inventoried and packed
up. I will have none of it. The money obtained from its ransom will be
turned over to the Lazaretto, and I will not forget you."
There was a pause. General von Saldern remained at the door
motionless, in stiff military attitude.
The king looked at him with astonishment. "Well! did you hear?"
"Yes, your majesty, I heard. But, may it please your majesty, this is
against my honor and my oath."
The king compelled himself to be composed, for he loved General
Saldern as a brave and noble officer. "You would be right," said he,
"if I did not use this desperate means to a good object. But let me
tell you, the head of the great lord does not feel it if you tear out
the hair of his subjects. You must hit, then, where it hurts him; and
that I intend to do. The Elector of Saxony shall find out how it feels
when one's most cherished possession is destroyed. We will teach him
to be humane, and behave himself. Go, therefore, to Hubertsburg, and
do as I told you."
General von Saldern turned pale, and his countenance was expressive of
deep suffering, as he answered gravely and firmly: "Your majesty may
send me right off to attack the enemy and his batteries, and I will
obey with my whole heart; but against my honor, my oath, and my duty,
I cannot, dare not act."
The king stamped with his foot, and his eye flashed with threatening
"You must obey, as is your duty; you are bound to obey no other voice
than that of your king who commands you," said he with a voice of
General Saldern answered, calmly: "But, sire, I must obey the voice
of my honor! Your majesty can easily transfer this commission to
The king turned from him with an involuntary frown, and, walking up
and down hastily, he stopped near Saldern, and laid his hand gently on
his shoulder. "Look ye, Saldern, obey--go to Hubertsburg."
"I cannot, sire!"
"You do not desire to enrich yourself?" said the king, as he turned
away. "Do you wish your discharge? I have no use for soldiers who do
not consider obedience their first duty."
"I herewith ask for my discharge, sire!"
"You have it--go!"
Without saying a word, General von Saldern made a military obeisance,
and left the room.
"You go too!" said the king to Gotzkowsky, who had been a silent,
involuntary spectator of this scene--"go and tell my adjutant to send
Quintus Icilius to me."
In a few minutes Major Quintus Icilius entered. "Go to Hubertsburg
with a detachment of infantry and cavalry, and clear out the castle."
Major Quintus Icilius took good heed not to contradict the king. He
had already, in the antechamber, heard of General von Saldern's fate,
and he was not indisposed to execute the king's commission.
"Only a hundred thousand dollars you hand over to the Lazaretto, the
rest you can keep for yourself."
"As you command, sire! Shall I proceed at once?"
The king cast a look of disgust on him. "Are you in such a hurry to
be rich?" said he. "Go--I will appoint the time and the hour more
When the king was alone again, he paced up and down the room in deep
thought. At one time he stopped at the window, and his bright blue
eyes were turned mournfully toward heaven. "Poor fools that we are!"
said he, with a sigh. "We have only a moment to live, and we make
this moment as bitter as possible to each other. We take pleasure in
destroying the master-pieces of industry and art, at the same time
we are erecting an accursed monument to our own devastation and our
[Footnote 1: "Lettres inedites, ou Correspondance de Frederic II.,"
&c., p. 120.]
[Footnote 2: The king's own words.]
[Footnote 3: "Correspondance entre Fred. et M. d'Argens," vi., p.
[Footnote 4: "Life of a Patriotic Merchant," pp. 85-254. "The king
paid the contribution in fact so quietly, one hardly knew when, where,
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