The Merchant of Berlin
Part 6 out of 7
or how."--_Preuss's History of Frederick_.]
[Footnote 5: This interview is historical and literal. General von
Saldern left the army, but after the peace entered it again, with high
honor and distinction.--KUSTRE, "Traits of Saldern," p. 39.]
[Footnote 6: Not till May, 1761, was the king's order carried into
execution by Major Q. Icilius, in a most barbarous manner. The king
was apparently satisfied; but when Q. Icilius in 1764 applied for
repayment of moneys spent in executing the royal command, the king
indorsed on the application--"My officers steal like crows. They get
[Footnote 7: His own words.]
* * * * *
THE WINTER-QUARTERS IN LEIPSIC.
The king of Prussia had left Meissen, and taken up his winter-quarters
in Leipsic. The choice of this town arose from a particular need of
the king. He wished to pass the winter in a university town, and,
instead of the rough companions of war, to surround himself with
learned men and artists, poets and musicians. He had his band brought
from Berlin, and invited the professors of the Leipsic University to
his table. Thus Leipsic, the rich and luxurious commercial town, found
itself, for a few months, converted into a royal residence. But not
willingly did she undergo this transformation; and it was against her
wish that she received the Prussian king, in lieu of the troops of the
allies, within her walls. Frederick knew this, and therefore exercised
no mercy on this city, so rich in money and professions, whose
unwelcome guest he was.
Had Leipsic welcomed the Prussian army in a ready and friendly manner,
she would certainly have met with indulgence; but her defiant and
sullen behavior, her warm partisanship of Austria, whose ally Saxony
was, naturally only tended to increase the animosity of the king,
and aggravate his ill-humor. If Leipsic insisted upon regarding the
Prussians as enemies, his duty was to consider her as an enemy, and
treat her as such.
Enormous contributions were laid upon the town, and in spite of the
previous written promise of the king that her assessment should not,
at the utmost, exceed five hundred thousand dollars, new demands were
now constantly being made, and new contributions levied. In vain
did the Council beg and plead for mercy and justice; in vain did the
merchants protest that their means were exhausted, and that they were
not able to meet any further payments. The enormous demands determined
on were firmly and with iron obstinacy insisted upon; and as the
refractory town did not cease to oppose them, recourse was had to
threats to intimidate her. Tarred rings were hung against the
houses, and it was sworn to lay the town in ashes if Leipsic did not
immediately pay the million of dollars demanded. But the unfortunate
inhabitants had already reached that pitch of desperation at which
people are prepared for any thing, and fear nothing further because
there is nothing more to lose. They declared that they could pay no
more, and offered to seal their word with their death.
The tarred rings were indeed taken down from the houses, but the
richest and most respectable inhabitants were seized and incarcerated.
Even the authorities were not spared, and the officers of the Council
were thrown into the prisons of the towns. In the most degrading
manner, like a flock of sheep, they were shut up in spaces hardly able
to contain them; damp straw was their bed, bread and water their only
nourishment, and this was brought to them with words of cruel insult
by their Prussian jailers. But to these latter the burden soon became
too heavy; they were weary of their cruel service, and sought to
At first they had one hundred and twenty prisoners, but, after a
fortnight of useless torment, the greater number had been set free,
and only seventeen retained. To be sure, these consisted of
the richest and most respectable citizens of Leipsic. And these
unfortunate hostages, these spoilt sons of wealth and luxury, were now
forced to bear the whole weight of misfortune, the entire anger of the
victorious enemy. They, whose whole life had been one of indulgence
and effeminacy, had now to undergo the greatest privations, the
hardest sufferings. The cold earth was their bed, a piece of bread
thrown to them their nourishment; and it was a feast to them when one
of the gentlewomen of Leipsic succeeded in obtaining permission to
visit a brother or husband, and was able to smuggle in under her silk
dress a piece of meat or a little bowl of soup for the martyrs. These
cruelties would doubtless have been lessened or abolished if the king
had had positive knowledge of them, or if he had believed that the
city's inability to pay was real, and not a mere pretext. But the
king, vexed by the continually repeated complaints, out of humor at
the obstinate conduct of Leipsic, and mindful of the vandal conduct of
the Saxons at Charlottenburg, had issued strict orders not to trouble
him with this business, and not to report to him about them until they
could at the same time show that the sum demanded had been paid. And
therewith sentence had been passed upon the unfortunate citizens of
Leipsic. No one dared to mention to the king the torments and tortures
to which the hostages of the pitiable town were subjected. No one
had the courage to beg for mercy for those whose only crime was, that
their riches were exhausted, their coffers empty, and that they did
not possess the means to pay the inordinate sums demanded of them.
But while the population of Leipsic was undergoing this grief,
this hard time of trial, an uninterrupted quiet and precious peace
prevailed in the house inhabited by the King of Prussia. Music was
performed, readings were held, and in the midst of these gentle
diversions and this pleasant rest Frederick drew up the plans of
fresh, battles and new and great undertakings. Fasch and Quanz had
been brought from Berlin to play music for him, the Marquis d'Argens
to philosophize for him, his dogs to amuse him. The king, who knew
enough of men to despise the wavering, erring, sinful creatures, was
also a sufficient connoisseur of dogs to love the faithful, obedient,
submissive animals with his whole heart, and devoted a great part of
his time to them. He who was deaf to the wailing and lamentations of
a whole city, had his ears open to the least whine of Biche, or his
favorite Psyche, and never would have forgiven him who had dared
to treat one of his dogs as so many of the noble and distinguished
citizens of Leipsic were being treated in his name.
* * * * *
THE FRIEND IN NEED.
No one would have dared to speak a word for the refractory
citizens and authorities of Leipsic to the king, nor act in direct
contravention to his express orders. Even the Marquis d'Argens, his
intimate friend and confidant, had refused to be the advocate of the
unfortunate town. It seemed to be lost, without hope of redemption,
and already it had been threatened with the extreme of severity. It
had been announced to the chief men, the fathers and heads of families
who were pining in the prisons, that they would be transported on foot
to Magdeburg as recruits, with knapsacks on their backs. But at
this moment the rescuer in need, of the afflicted city, made his
A tall, proud, manly form crossed the antechamber of the king. Power
and energy were visible in his countenance, and his eyes sparkled
with noble excitement. He was going to perform that duty from which
courtiers and flatterers shrank with trembling; and what the bravest
generals did not dare, he was going to undertake. John Gotzkowsky was
going to tell the king the truth. John Gotzkowsky was not afraid to
rouse the anger of a king, when it came to helping the unfortunate or
protecting the oppressed. He had a more noble mission to perform than
to sue for the smiles of a king, or the favor of the great. It was
the higher mission of humanity which impelled him, and, as usual, his
resolution was firm and unwavering. With bold decision he reached
the door which led into the king's chamber. He had the privilege of
entering unannounced, for the king expected him.
He had summoned Gotzkowsky from Berlin, to obtain information as to
the progress of the Berlin industrial works, and the faithful patriot
had, in obedience to the call of his king, come to Leipsic. He had
seen the misery and suffering on this poor, down-trodden town, and,
as he traversed the antechamber, he said to himself, with an
imperceptible smile, "I brought the Russian general to clemency, and
the king will not be harder than he was."
But before he threw off his cloak, he drew out of it a small package,
which he examined carefully. Being satisfied with its appearance, he
took it with him to the cabinet of the king. Frederick did not look at
him at first. He was reclining on the floor, and around him, on silken
cushions, lay his dogs, their bright eyes fixed on a dish which
was placed in the midst of them. The king, with an ivory stick, was
carefully dividing the portion for each dog, ordering the growling,
discontented ones to be quiet, and comforting the patiently waiting
ones with a light jest concerning the next piece. Suddenly he raised
his eyes, and his quick glance rested on Gotzkowsky's smiling, placid
face. "Ah, you laugh," said he, "and in your human conceit you find it
quite beneath one's dignity to occupy one's self with dogs, when there
are so many human beings. Let me tell you, you don't understand any
thing about it! You don't know dogs at all, and perhaps you don't know
men.--Quiet, Biche! leave that piece for Apollo. I gave it to him, and
therefore it belongs to him. One would suppose you had been learning
from men, and in the true spirit of Christian and brotherly love,
grudged each other a piece of bread. Quiet, Biche, and don't be vexed
that I compared you to human beings. I did not mean you were quite as
bad as that."
And gently stroking and caressing the offended Biche, he rose and
seated himself in his velvet-covered _fauteuil_. His bright eye turned
toward Gotzkowsky, and rested on the package the latter had in his
hand. "What have you there?"
"A plate and a cup," said Gotzkowsky, seriously--"the first two pieces
from my porcelain factory in Berlin."
The king now rose from his seat and strode hastily toward Gotzkowsky.
"Give them here. I want to see what sort of potters'-ware you are
going to impose upon me for porcelain." With impatient hands he tore
off the paper coverings, and so eagerly was he engaged with them, that
he did not perceive that Biche and Apollo were already fighting for a
scrap of paper which he had thrown directly on Biche's nose, and which
she consequently mistook for a delicate morsel, a prize worth a fight
with Apollo. "Forsooth, it is porcelain!" cried the king, as he drew
out the gold-rimmed plate and the beautifully painted cup from their
wrappings, and looked at them attentively; and as his eye rested
on the painting of the cup, his features assumed a soft and
sad expression. "My house in Rheinsberg," muttered he softly to
himself--"a greeting from my happy days."
"In the castle Rheinsberg, I first enjoyed the favor of being
presented to your majesty," said Gotzkowsky. "Castle Rheinsberg is,
therefore, to me a happy recollection, and it was for that reason
selected to adorn the proof pieces of my porcelain factory."
The king fastened a penetrating look upon him. "You are playing me
a trick--I don't like tricks, you must know. Therefore tell me the
truth. Where did you get this porcelain? It is not from Meissen. The
mark is wanting, and it is whiter and stronger. Where did you get it?"
"From Berlin, sire. I promised you, when you were in Meissen, that in
future you should procure your porcelain from your own dominions, and
I dare not forfeit my word."
"And so you imitated the Almighty, and created a porcelain factory
with the breath of your mouth?"
"Not with the breath of my mouth, but the breath of my money."
"Tell me about it, and all the particulars," said the king, still
holding the cup in his hand, and looking at it attentively.
And Gotzkowsky related how, on his return from Meissen, he had
accidentally made the acquaintance of a young man, who was passing
through Berlin on his way to Gotha, the duke having offered to
advance him the capital necessary to found a factory for the making of
porcelain according to a process of his own invention. The specimens
exhibited convinced Gotzkowsky that this young man was fully
acquainted with the secret of porcelain-making, and he had therefore
immediately determined to forestall the Duke of Gotha.
Money had in this instance, as usual, exercised its charm, and nothing
more was necessary than to outbid the terms agreed on with the duke.
A few thousand dollars more offered, and double purchase-money, had
secured the secret of porcelain-making to Gotzkowsky, and bound the
inventor down in Berlin for life.
The arrangements necessary for the first attempts were made in one of
the out-buildings of his house, and the articles offered to the king
were the first-fruits of his factory. The king listened to him with
intense interest, and when Gotzkowsky had finished, he nodded to him
with a smile.
"The Marquis d'Argens is right. I wish myself I had many such citizens
as you are. It would be a fine thing to be a king if all one's
subjects were true men, and made it worth one's while to be to them a
kind father and lord. You have fulfilled a favorite wish of mine; and
let me tell you, I do not think you will call the porcelain factory
yours long. I think it will soon be a royal factory."
"I founded it for your majesty."
"Good, good! you have given me a pleasure, I will give you one in
return. Ask some favor for yourself. You are silent. Do you know of
nothing to ask for?"
"Oh, yes, indeed," said Gotzkowsky, ardently, "I have a great favor to
ask--have pity on the poor inhabitants of this town!"
The king frowned and pressed his lips angrily together. "Do you know
that I have generally forbidden any one to trouble me with these
"I know it, sire."
The king looked at him with astonishment. "And yet you do it?"
"Yes, sire, I do it because I relied on the kind, noble heart of my
king, and because humanity bade me not to fear your majesty's anger,
when it became a question of mercy to the oppressed."
"And for this reason you wanted to bribe me with your bits of
porcelain. Oh, you are a reckoner, but this time you have reckoned
without your host. No pity for these obstinate Leipsigers. They must
pay the eleven hundred thousand dollars, or--"
"Or what?" asked Gotzkowsky, as he hesitated.
The king looked angrily at him. "You are very bold," said he, "to
interrupt me. The Leipsigers must pay, for I need the money for my
soldiers, and they are rich; they are able to pay!"
"They are not able to pay, sire! They are as little able to pay as
Berlin is if Russia insists upon her demands, and her magnanimous king
does not come to her assistance. But your majesty certainly does not
wish that the world and history shall say that Russia acted with
more forbearance and clemency toward Berlin than Prussia did toward
Leipsic? To be sure, the Russians carried off the Jewish elders into
captivity because they could not pay, but then they treated these poor
victims of their avarice like human beings. They did not make them
sleep on rotten straw; they did not let them starve, and die of misery
and filth; they did not have them scourged and tortured until they wet
with their tears the bit of bread thrown to them."
"Who does that?" cried the king, with thundering voice and flashing
Gotzkowsky bowed low. "Your majesty, the King of Prussia does that!"
Frederick uttered a cry of anger, and advanced with his arm raised on
Gotzkowsky, who looked at him quietly and firmly. "You lie! retract!"
thundered the king.
"I have, as long as I have lived, spoken the truth, sire--the truth,
without fear or dread of man. Your majesty is the first man who has
accused me of a lie. I have seen with my own eyes your majesty's
officials treating the poor captive Leipsic merchants like dogs. What
do I say--like dogs? Oh, how would the poor down-trodden men envy
those dogs the delicacies contained in that dish! It may be right to
compel and humble the refractory, but it is not right to tread out the
human soul, and even in the conquered you should honor God's image."
The king looked at him with ludicrous surprise. "Do you wish to give
me a lesson? Well, I will forgive you this time, and, as you express
it, honor God's image in the owner of the Berlin porcelain factory.
But hush about these hard-headed Leipsigers. They must pay. My
soldiers cannot live on air, and my coffers are empty."
"The Leipsigers are very willing to contribute, but the demand must
not exceed their powers."
"How do you know that?"
"The magistracy and merchant guild of Leipsic sent a deputation to me,
and entreated my mediation."
"You have then already the reputation of one who knows how to use his
tongue well, and goes about tattling with it."
"Sire," said Gotzkowsky, smiling, "we only follow the example of our
hero-king. We all are anxious to fight, and those who have no swords
must fight with the tongue. I have latterly been compelled to fight a
great deal with it, and the Leipsic merchants may have heard something
about that. They knew that I had some exercise with my tongue, and
gained a little victory with it over the Russians in Berlin."
"How much do you think the city of Leipsic can pay?" asked the king
after a pause.
"If your majesty will remit them a few hundred thousand dollars, and
allow the merchants time, they are willing to bind themselves in joint
"_Parbleu_! are they willing to do that?" asked the king, derisively.
"The bonds of the Leipsic merchants would be no security to me."
And turning quickly on Gotzkowsky, he asked him, "Are you willing to
guarantee the payment?"
"If your majesty orders it, the bonds shall be drawn out with my
"I look to you, then, for their payment."
"At your orders, sire."
"Well, then, for your sake I will remit the Leipsigers three hundred
thousand dollars; but for the rest of the million you are answerable."
"I will be answerable for it."
"I will let these gentlemen of Leipsic know that it is to your
intercession and your guaranty that they are indebted for the
mitigation of their contributions; and then you can, if it gives you
pleasure, bargain with the rich town for some reward for your services
"That would give me no pleasure, sire!" cried Gotzkowsky, with noble
indignation. "Your majesty must not think so meanly of me as to
suppose that I would make a profit out of the misfortunes of others,
and that I have interceded for the poor Leipsigers in order to make a
trade out of them!"
"I think that you are a hard-headed, obstinate fellow, who must be
allowed to have his own way," said the king, with an affable smile.
"But I must bear you witness that, in your own way, you have rendered
me many a good service. For that reason, you will always find me well
affected toward you, and in the Sans-Souci gallery you have created a
beautiful memorial to yourself."
"If your majesty would come there now, you would find the Correggio
about which you wrote to the Marquis d'Argens."
The king's eyes sparkled. "The Correggio is mine!" said he, walking up
and down slowly, with his hands behind his back. "Ah," added he, after
a long pause, in a low tone, as if speaking to himself, "when will
this nomadic life cease, and the world be at peace, to allow this
poor, badgered king a few hours of leisure and recreation, to enjoy
the contemplation of his house and his pictures? The wandering Jew, if
he ever existed, did not lead such a rambling life as I do. We get at
last to be like the roving play-actors, who have neither hearth
nor home, and thus we pass through the world, playing our bloody
tragedies, with the wailings of our subjects for chorus. When will
"When your majesty has subdued all your enemies."
The king looked around with surprise--he had quite forgotten
Gotzkowsky. "Ah! are you still there? and you prophesy me victory?
Well, that will be as good to me as the Leipsic money. Go back home,
and tell the Leipsigers to hurry with the money. And hark ye! when you
get to Potsdam, greet the Correggio, and tell him I yearn for him as a
lover does for his mistress Adieu!"
[Footnote 1: Porcelain-making was then a great secret in Germany, only
known in Meissen; the process being conducted with closed doors, and
the foreman bound by oath. Gotzkowsky paid ten thousand dollars
down, a life income of a thousand dollars, and house and firewood
free.--"Life of a Patriotic Merchant," p. 87.]
[Footnote 2: "Correspondance de Frederic II. avec le Comte
* * * * *
GRATITUDE AND RECOMPENSE.
Thus did Gotzkowsky save unfortunate Leipsic from the heavy burden
which weighed her down. The prisoners were released, and the merchants
gave a bond, for whose punctual and prompt payment Gotzkowsky
guaranteed with his signature.
He did not do this from a selfish or vain ambition to have the praise
of his name sounded, nor to increase the number of his addresses of
gratitude, or written asseverations of affection. He did it from love
of mankind; because he desired to fulfil the vow he had made to God
and himself on the highway as a shivering, starving lad: that if he
should ever become rich, he would be to every unfortunate and needy
one the hand which had appeared out of the dust-cloud to his relief.
He did it because, as he tells us naively and simply in his Life, "I
knew from my own experience how difficult it was for a community
to collect such a sum, and because the idea of profiting by such
misfortune was abhorrent to me."
And now there was a brilliant banquet, and no end to the words of
gratitude and tears of emotion. This banquet was given by the Leipsic
merchants in honor of him who had so magnanimously taken their part,
saved them three hundred thousand dollars, and guaranteed their bonds.
And they devoured the delicate viands and emptied the beakers to his
honor, and praised him in high-sounding speeches.
When Gotzkowsky, wearied and bored by this festival, returned home, he
found on his table three letters. The one which bore on its seal the
arms of Prussia he opened first. It was a cabinet order from the
king to his private secretary, Leinning, to pay to the merchant, John
Gotzkowsky, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. "Ah," said he,
smiling, "payment on account; I bought a hundred thousand ducats'
worth of paintings for the king, and he does not wish to remain always
in my debt." With a slight shrug of the shoulders he opened
the second letter. Suddenly he burst into a loud laugh, and his
countenance assumed an expression of derisive mirth. "The Elector of
Saxony, in consideration of services rendered to the town of Leipsic,
appoints me his commercial privy councillor!" cried he, waving the
paper in the air; "that is a good joke! The little elector, who has
been my debtor for many long years, is gracious enough to throw me a
bit of rank--a title! Much obliged! My name sounds well enough. It is
not necessary to have a title to be a man of honor. Throw titles to
numskulls, not to me--away with it!"
He then threw the paper aside with scorn, and took up the third
letter. As he read it his noble countenance brightened up with proud
pleasure, and his eyes sparkled. It was a document from the town of
Leipsic, an address of thanks from the magistracy, the concluding
words of which ran thus:
"In our extreme need we had recourse to Herr Gotzkowsky, the respected
merchant and banker of Berlin, imploring the same to intercede for
this town and its merchants with the king of Prussia; affording
them his credit and valuable assistance, to accord to said town
some reasonable respite for payment, with security. To this earnest
pleading Herr Gotzkowsky yielded, and, as a true philanthropist,
without any ulterior views of profit to himself, did in the most
praiseworthy manner assist us, and averted this misfortune from the
town. These services we are compelled to acknowledge. We therefore
offer our services in return on all possible occasions, not doubting
that the mercantile community of this place entertain the same
sentiments, and feel themselves equally bound to all imaginable
[SIGNED] "The Council of Leipsic.
"Leipsic, _February_ 26, 1761."
"This paper I will carry to my daughter, as a souvenir," said
Gotzkowsky, folding it up carefully, and then added thoughtfully: "Who
knows but what the time may come when it will be necessary to remind
the merchants of Leipsic of this document? The opinions and destinies
of men are very variable."
But Gotzkowsky himself was to have occasion to remind unthankful
Leipsic of her professions of gratitude--not to call on her to
perform reciprocal favors, but to protect himself against calumny
and unfriendly suspicions. For a day came, when Leipsic forgot the
affliction and grief she had suffered, and only remembered that John
Gotzkowsky was her creditor, and that she owed him large sums of
money. So, when at last, weary of long waiting, he pressed for
payment, they accused him of self-interest, and said that he had
unnecessarily mixed himself up in their affairs, and that it would
have been better if he had left them to their captivity; for although
they might have had much to suffer, they would have had but little to
Gotzkowsky answered these accusations in a manner characteristic of
his noble, proud self--he was silent about them. But hard times and
oppression came again upon the rich town of Leipsic.
The Prussian king exacted fresh contributions--and now they recalled
to mind the services of Gotzkowsky; again they sent him humble
letters, begging him to have pity on them; and now the cunning,
calculating magistracy of Leipsic saw fit to take notice of these
calumnies, which they had shortly before so industriously circulated
through the public newspapers, and solemnly to declare in all the
journals: "We hereby certify, in compliance with truth, through these
writings, that the worshipful Herr Gotzkowsky, as well in past years,
as at the late Leipsic fair, out of unchanged and innate love and
friendly kindness to us, this town, and its inhabitants, has given
just cause for gratitude."
Gotzkowsky forgot the insults, and was again of assistance to them. A
second time he persuaded the king to mitigate their contribution, and
guaranteed the new bonds issued by them. A second time the magistrates
and merchants thanked him in the most touching words for his noble
and disinterested assistance, and a second time were they destined to
forget their vows of gratitude.
* * * * *
FOUR YEARS' LABOR.
Four years of work, of industry, of productive activity, had passed
away since the stormy year of 1760. They had produced but little
alteration in the life of Gotzkowsky and his daughter.
Gotzkowsky toiled and worked as he always had done; his factories
were enlarged, his wealth increased and his fame as a merchant sounded
through the whole world.
But all this would he have given, if he could have seen the light on
the lips, the rosy glow on the cheek of his daughter, as in bygone
days. But the beautiful and impassioned young girl had altered into
the pale, serious, silent young woman, who had learned to throw
the veil of quiet resignation over the secret of her heart, and to
suppress any manifestation of pain.
Elise had grown old _internally_--old, despite her two-and-twenty
years; she looked upon the life before her as a joyless, desert waste,
which she had to traverse with bleeding feet and broken heart; and in
the desolation of her soul, she sometimes shuddered at the death-like
apathy and quiet of her feelings, broken by no sound, no note, not
even the wail of woe.
She was without a wish, without a hope. Grief had spent itself on her.
She wept no more--she wrestled no longer with her love, for she
had conquered it. But she could not rise again to any new joys of
life--she could only be resigned. She had accepted life, and she bore
it as does the bird shut up in a gilded cage, robbed of freedom and
fresh air, and given in return a brilliant prison. She, too, was an
imprisoned bird; and her wounded heart lay in the cage of her breast,
sorrowful and infinitely wretched. She prayed to God for peace,
for resignation, no longer for happiness, for she did not believe
happiness any more possible. She had sunk into that apathy which
desires nothing more than a quiet, dreamy fading away. Her grief was
deficient in the animating consolation of the thought that "it came
from God." Real and sacred suffering, which does come from God, and
is imposed upon us by fate, always carries with it the divine power
of healing; and at the same time that it casts us down and humbles us,
raises us again, steels our courage, and makes us strong and proud
to suffer and to bear. Quite different is that misfortune which comes
from man--which is laid upon us by the envy, hatred, and malice of
mankind. This carries with it no consolation, no comfort--a misfortune
full of bitterness and murmuring--a misfortune which abases us without
elevating us again, which casts us down in the mire, from the soil of
which not all the hot streams of our tears can purify and cleanse us.
Had she lost her lover, had he been snatched away from her by death,
Elise, while she gave him back to God, would have regarded this heavy
and sacred affliction as her great and holy happiness; she would have
accepted it as a precious promise which elevated her, and inspired her
with a blissful hope.
But she had lost him by his own treachery, by worldly sin, and she
had given him up, not to God, but to his own unrighteousness and
disloyalty. She had therefore lost him irretrievably, and for
always--not for a short space of time, but for all eternity; and she
dared not even weep for him, for her misfortune was at the same time
her disgrace, and even her tears filled her with humiliation and
shame. For that reason she never spoke, either with her father or
with Bertram, about the sad and painful past, about the errors and
disappointments of her youth; and neither of them in their pure and
indulgent love ever trespassed on the silence which Elise had spread
over her sorrow. Toward her father she was a careful, attentive, and
submissive daughter; toward Bertram a confiding and loving sister; but
to both she felt as if she were only giving what was saved from the
shipwreck of her affections. They both knew that Elise could no longer
offer them an entire, unbroken heart. But they were both content to
rest on the embers of this ruined edifice, to gather the leaves of
this rose, broken by the tempest, and to remember how beautiful it was
in its bloom.
Gotzkowsky only asked of his daughter that she should live, that she
should become again healthy and strong for new happiness.
Bertram, in the strength and fidelity of his affections, had no other
wish than that he should some day see her cheerful and content again,
and once more brightened by the beams which only love and
happiness can spread over a human countenance; and in his great and
self-sacrificing love he said to himself: "If I only knew that her
happiness lay in the remotest corner of the world, thither would I go
to fetch it for her, even if she thereby were lost to me forever!"
And thus did four years pass away--externally, bright and clear,
surrounded by all the brilliancy of wealth and happiness--inwardly,
silent and desolate, full of privation and deep-rooted sorrow.
* * * * *
DAYS OF MISFORTUNE.
Gotzkowsky was alone in his room. It was an elegant, brilliantly
ornamented apartment, which the greatest prince might have envied.
The most select pictures by celebrated old masters hung around on the
walls; the most costly Chinese vases stood on gilt tables; and between
the windows, instead of mirrors, were placed the most exquisite Greek
marble statues. The furniture of the room was simple. Gotzkowsky had
but one passion, on which he spent yearly many thousands, and that
was for art-treasures, paintings, and antiques. His house resembled
a temple of art; it contained the rarest and choicest treasures; and
when Gotzkowsky passed through the rooms on the arm of his daughter,
and contemplated the pictures, or dwelt with her on one of the sublime
statues of the gods, his eye beamed with blissful satisfaction, and
his whole being breathed cheerfulness and calm. But at this moment
his countenance was care-worn and anxious, and however pleasantly and
cheerfully the pictures looked down upon him from the walls, his
eye remained sad and clouded, and deep grief was expressed in his
He sat at his writing-table, and turned over the papers which lay
piled up high before him. At times he looked deeply shocked and
anxious, and his whole frame trembled, as with hasty hand he
transcribed some notes from another sheet. Suddenly he let the pen
drop, and sank his head on his breast.
"It is in vain," he muttered in a low voice--"yes, it is in vain. If
I were to exert all my power, if I were to collect all my means
together, they would not be sufficient to pay these enormous sums."
Again he turned over the papers, and pointing with his finger to
one of them, he continued: "Yes, there it stands. I am a rich man
on paper. Leipsic owes me more than a million. If she pays, and De
Neufville comes, I am saved. But if not--if Leipsic once more, as she
has already done three times, protests her inability to pay--if De
Neufville does not come, what shall I do? How can I save myself from
ruin and shame?"
Deeper and deeper did he bury himself silently in the papers. A
terrible anxiety oppressed him, and sent his blood rushing to his
heart and head. He arose and paced up and down the room, muttering
occasionally a few words, betraying the anguish and terror which
possessed him. Then standing still, he pressed his hands to his
temples, as if to crowd back the pain which throbbed and ached there.
"Oh, it is terrible!" he uttered in a subdued voice; "with my eyes
open I stand on the brink of a precipice. I see it, and cannot draw
back. If no helping hand is stretched out to save me, I must fall in,
and my good name must perish with me. And to be obliged to confess
that not my own want of judgment, no rashness nor presumption on my
part, but only love of mankind, love of my brethren, has brought me
to this! To each one who held out his hand to me, I gave the hand of a
friend, every one in need I helped. And for that reason, for the good
I have done, I stand on the verge of an abyss."
He cast his looks toward heaven, and tears shone in his eyes. "Was it,
then, wrong? O my God! was it, then, culpable to trust men, and must I
atone with my honor for what I did from love?"
But this compunction, this depression, did not last long. Gotzkowsky
soon arose above his grief, and bearing his head aloft as if to shake
off the cares which lowered around it, he said in a determined tone:
"I must not lose my courage. This day requires all my presence
of mind, and the decisive moment shall not find me cowed and
He was about to set himself to work again, when a repeated knocking
at the door interrupted him. At his reluctant bidding it opened,
and Bertram appeared on the threshold. "Pardon me," he said, almost
timidly; "I knew that you wished to be alone, but I could not bear
it any longer. I must see you. Only think, Father Gotzkowsky, it is a
fortnight since I arrived, and I have scarcely seen you in this time;
therefore do not be angry with me if I disobey your orders, and come
to you, although I know that you are busy."
Gotzkowsky nodded to him with a sad smile. "I thank you for it," said
he. "I had ordered Peter not to admit any one. You are an exception,
as you know, my son."
A pause ensued, during which Bertram examined Gotzkowsky with
a searching look. The latter had seated himself again at his
writing-table, and with troubled looks was examining his papers.
Bertram had been absent for nearly a year. The silent grief which day
and night gnawed at his heart had undermined his health and exhausted
his physical strength. The physicians had deemed a prolonged residence
in Nice necessary. If Bertram yielded to their judgment and repaired
to Nice, it was because he thought, "Perhaps Elise will think of me
when I am no longer near her. Perchance absence may warm her heart,
and she may forget the brother, some day to welcome the husband."
Returning after a year's absence, strengthened and restored to health,
he found Elise as he had left her. She received him with the same
quiet, calm look with which she had bid him farewell. She placed
her hand as coolly and as friendly in his, and although she inquired
cordially and sympathizingly after his welfare, Bertram still felt
that her heart and her inmost soul had not part in her questioning.
Elise had not altered--but how little was Gotzkowsky like himself!
Where was the ardent man, powerful of will, whom Bertram had embraced
at his departure? where was his clear, ringing voice, his proud
bearing, his energy, his burning eloquence--what had become of all
these? What diabolical, dismal influence had succeeded in breaking
this iron will, in subduing this vital power?
Bertram felt that a deep grief was corroding Gotzkowsky's life--a
grief whose destructive influence was greater because he avoided
the expression of it, and sought no relief nor consolation by
communicating it to others. "He shall, at least, speak to me," said
Bertram. "I will compel him to make me the confidant of his grief, and
to lighten his heart by imparting a portion of his burden to mine."
With this determination he had entered Gotzkowsky's room; he now
stood opposite to him, and with gentle sympathy looked into his pale,
But Gotzkowsky avoided his eye. He seemed entirely occupied with his
papers, and turned them over again and again. Bertram could bear it
no longer; he hastened to him, and taking his hand pressed it
affectionately to his lips. "My father," said he, "forgive me; but
when I look at you, I am possessed by a vague fear which I cannot
explain to myself. You know that I love you as my father, and for that
reason can read your thoughts. Gotzkowsky, since my return I have read
much care and sorrow in your face."
"Have you?" said Gotzkowsky, painfully; "yes, yes, sorrow does not
write in hieroglyphics. It is a writing which he who runs can read."
"You confess, then, that you have sorrow, and yet you hide it from
me. You do not let me share your cares. Have I deserved that of you,
Gotzkowsky arose and paced the room, thoughtful and excited. For
the first time he felt that the sympathy of a loving heart did good.
Involuntarily the crust which surrounded his heart gave way, and he
became gentle and eager for sympathy. He held out his hand to Bertram
and nodded to him. "You are right, my son," said he, gently, "I
should not have kept my sorrows from you. It is a comfort, perhaps, to
unbosom one's self. Listen, then--but no! first tell me what is said
of me in the city, and, above all, what is said of me at the Bourse?
Ah? you cast your eyes down--Bertram, I must and will know all. Speak
out freely. I have courage to hear the utmost." But yet his voice
trembled as he spoke, and his lips twitched convulsively.
Bertram answered sadly: "What do you care about the street gossip of
envious people? You know that you have enemies, because you are rich
and high-minded. You have long been envied because your house is the
most extensive and solid in all Europe, and because your drafts stand
at par in all the markets. They are jealous of the fame of your firm,
and for that very reason they whisper all sorts of things that they do
not dare to say aloud. But why should you let such miserable scandal
Bertram tried to smile, but it was a sorrowful, anxious one, which
did not escape Gotzkowsky. "Ah!" said he, "these light whisperings of
calumny are like the single snow-flakes which finally collect together
and roll on and on, and at last become an avalanche which buries up
our honor and our good name. Tell me, then, Bertram, what do they
Bertram answered in a low, timid voice: "They pretend to know that
your house has suffered immense losses; that you were not able to
meet your drafts; that all your wealth is unfounded; and that--but why
should I repeat all the old women's and newspaper stories?"
"Even the newspapers talk about it, then?" muttered Gotzkowsky to
"Yes, the _Vossian Gazette_," continued Bertram, "has an article
in which it speaks mysteriously and sympathizingly of the impending
failure of one of our most eminent houses. This is said to aim at you,
"And the other paper, _Spener's Journal_?"
"Is sorry to join in the statement, and confirms it to-day."
Gotzkowsky broke out into a mocking laugh, his countenance brightened
with indignation, and his features expressed their former energy and
decision. "O world! O men!" he exclaimed, "how pitiful, how mean you
are! You know, Bertram, how much good I have done these men. I have
protected them as a friend in the time of their need and affliction. I
saved them from punishment and shame. In return they trumpet forth my
misfortunes, and that which might have been altered by the considerate
silence of my friends, they cry aloud to all the world, and thereby
precipitate my fall."
"It is, then, really true?" asked Bertram, turning pale. "You are in
"To-day is the last term for the payment of the five hundred thousand
dollars, which I have to pay our king, for the town of Leipsic. Our
largest banking-houses have bought up these claims of the king against
"But that is not your own debt. You only stood good for Leipsic."
"That I did; and as Leipsic cannot pay, I must."
"But Leipsic can assume a portion of the debt least."
"Perhaps so," said Gotzkowsky. "I have sent a courier to Leipsic,
and look for his return every hour. But it is not that alone which
troubles me," continued he, after a pause. "It would be easy to
collect the five hundred thousand dollars. The new and unexpected
ordinance from the mint, which renders uncurrent the light money,
deprives me of another half million. When I foresaw Leipsic's
insolvency, I had negotiated alone with Hamburg for half a million of
light money. But the spies of the Jews of the mint discovered this,
and when my money was in the course of transmission from Hamburg they
managed to obtain a decree from the king forbidding immediately the
circulation of this coin. In this way my five hundred thousand dollars
became good for nothing."
"Horrible!" cried Bertram; "have you, then, not endeavored to save a
portion of this money?"
"Yes, indeed," cried Gotzkowsky, with a bitter laugh, "I have tried.
I wished to send fifty thousand dollars of my money to the army of the
allies, to see if it would be current there; but Ephraim had foreseen
this, too, and obtained a decree forbidding even the transit of this
money through the Prussian dominions. This new and arbitrary law was
only published after my money had left Hamburg, and I had grounds
to hope that I would not be prevented from bringing it through the
Prussian dominions, for it was concealed in the double bottom of a
wagon. But avarice has sharp eyes, and the spies who were set upon all
my actions succeeded in discovering this too. The wagon was stopped at
the gates of Berlin, and the money was discovered where they knew it
was beforehand, under this false bottom. But who do you think it
was, Bertram, who denounced me in this affair? You would never guess
it--the chief burgomaster, President von Kircheisen! He stood himself
at the gate, watched for the wagon, and searched until he found the
"Kircheisen! The same, father, whom you saved from death when the
Russians were here?"
"The same, my son; you shake your head incredulously. Read for
yourself." He took from his writing-table a large paper provided with
the official seal, and handed it to Bertram. "Read for yourself, my
son. It is an order from the minister Von Finkenstein."
It was written thus: "The half of the sum is awarded by the king to
President von Kircheisen, as detective and informer."
"A worthy title, 'detective and informer,'" continued Gotzkowsky. "By
Heaven, I do not envy him it! But now you shall know all. It does me
good to confide to you my sorrows--it lightens my poor heart. And now
I have another fear. You have heard of my speculation in the Russian
"Of the magazines which you, with De Neufville and the bankers Moses
and Samuel, bought?" asked Bertram.
"Yes, that is it. But Russia would not enter into the bargain unless I
made myself responsible for the whole sum."
"And you did so?" asked Bertram, trembling.
"I did. The purchase-money has been due for four months. My
fellow-contractors have not paid. If Russia insists upon the payment
of this debt, I am ruined."
"And why do not Samuel and Moses pay their part?"
Gotzkowsky did not answer immediately, but when he did, his features
expressed scorn and contempt: "Moses and Samuel are no longer obliged
to pay, because yesterday they declared themselves insolvent."
Bertram suppressed with effort a cry of anger, and covered his face
with his hands. "He is lost," he muttered to himself, "lost beyond
redemption, for he founds his hopes on De Neufville, and he knows
nothing of his unfortunate fate."
* * * * *
Bertram raised his head again, Gotzkowsky was standing near him,
looking brightly and lovingly into his sorrowful, twitching face. It
was now Gotzkowsky who had to console Bertram, and, smiling quietly
and gently, he told him of the hopes which still remained to him.
"De Neufville may return," he said. "He has only gone to the opening
of the bank at Amsterdam, and if he succeeds in collecting the
necessary sum there, and returns with it as rapidly as possible to
Berlin, I am saved."
"But if he does not come?" asked Bertram with a trembling voice,
fixing his sad looks penetratingly on Gotzkowsky.
"Then I am irretrievably lost," answered Gotzkowsky, in a loud, firm
Bertram stepped quickly up to him, and threw himself in his arms,
folding him to his breast as if to protect him against all the danger
which threatened him. "You must be saved!" cried he, eagerly; "it
is not possible that you should fall. You have never deserved such a
"For that very reason I fear that I must suffer it. If I deserved this
disgrace, perhaps it never would have happened to me. The world is so
fashioned, that what we deserve of good or evil never happens to us."
"But you have friends; thousands are indebted to your generosity,
and to your ever-ready, helping hand. There is scarcely a merchant in
Berlin to whom, some time or other, you have not been of assistance in
Gotzkowsky laid his hand on his shoulder, and replied with a proud
air: "My friend, it is precisely those who owe me gratitude, who are
now trying to ruin me. The very fact of having obliged them, makes
them my bitter enemies. Gratitude is so disagreeable a virtue, that
men become implacably hostile to those who impose it on them."
"When you speak thus, my father," said Bertram, glowing with noble
indignation, "you condemn me, too. You have bound me to everlasting
gratitude, and yet I love you inexpressibly for it."
"You are a rare exception, my son," replied Gotzkowsky, sadly, "and I
thank God, who has taught me to know you."
"You believe, then, in me?" asked Bertram, looking earnestly in his
"I believe in you," said Gotzkowsky, solemnly, offering him his hand.
"Well, then, my father," cried Bertram, quickly and gladly, "in this
important moment let me make an urgent request of you. You call me
your son; give me, then, the rights of a son. Allow me the happiness
of offering you the little that I can call mine. My fortune is not, to
be sure, sufficient to save you, but it can at least be of service to
you. Father, I owe you every thing. It is yours--take it back."
"Never!" interrupted Gotzkowsky.
But Bertram continued more urgently: "At least consider of it. When
you founded the porcelain factory, you made me a partner in this
business, and I accepted it, although I had nothing but what belonged
to you. When the king, a year ago, bought the factory from you, you
paid me a fourth of the purchase-money, and gave me thirty thousand
dollars. I accepted it, although I had not contributed any part of the
"You are mistaken, my son. You forget that you contributed the capital
of your knowledge and genius."
"One cannot live on genius," cried Bertram, impatiently; "and with
all my knowledge I might have starved, if you had not taken me by the
Gotzkowsky would have denied this, but Bertram continued still more
pressingly: "Father, if I were, indeed, your son, could you then deny
me the right of falling and being ruined with you? Can you deny your
son the right of dividing with you what is his?"
"No!" cried Gotzkowsky, "from my son I could demand the sacrifice, but
it is not only a question of earthly possessions, it is a question
of my most sacred spiritual good, it is the honor of my name. Had I a
son, I would exact of him that he should follow me unto death, so that
the honor of my name might be saved."
"Well, then, let me be, indeed, your son. Give me your daughter!"
Gotzkowsky stepped back in astonishment and gazed at Bertram's noble,
excited countenance. "Ah!" cried he, "I thank you, Bertram; you are a
noble man! I understand you. You have found out the sorrow which
gnaws most painfully at my heart; that Elise, by my failure, becomes a
beggar. You wish most nobly to assist her and protect her from want."
"No, father, I desire her for her own sake--because I love her! I
would wish to be your son, in order to have the right to give up all
for you, and to work for you. During your whole life you have done
so much for others; now grant me the privilege of doing something for
you. Give me your daughter; let me be your son."
Gotzkowsky was silent for some minutes, then looked at Bertram sadly
and sorrowfully. "You know that this has always been the wish of my
heart. But what I have longed for, for so many years, that I must now
refuse. I dare not drag you down in my misfortune, and even if I were
weak enough to yield to your request, I cannot sacrifice the happiness
of my daughter to my welfare. Do you believe, Bertram, that Elise
"She is kind to me, and is anxious for my welfare--that is enough,"
said Bertram, sadly. "I have learned for many a long year to renounce
all claim to her love."
"But if she loves another? I fear her heart is but too true, and has
not forgotten the trifler who destroyed her happiness. Ah! when I
think of this man, my heart trembles with anger and grief. In the hour
of death I could forgive all my enemies, but the hatred toward this
man, who has so wantonly trifled with the faith and love of my child,
that hatred I will take with me into the grave--and yet, I fear, Elise
has not forgotten him."
"This dead love does not give me any uneasiness," said Bertram. "Four
years have passed since that unlucky day."
"And for four years have I been faithful in my hatred to him. May not
Elise have been as constant in her love?"
Bertram sighed and drooped his head. "It is too true, love does not
die so easily." Then after a pause he added in a determined voice: "I
repeat my request--give me your daughter!"
"You know that she does not love you, and yet you still desire her
"I do. I have confidence enough in her and in myself to believe Elise
will not refuse it to me, but will freely make this sacrifice, when
she learns that you will only allow me, as your son, the privilege of
sharing my little fortune with you. For her love to you, she will give
me her hand, and invest me with the rights of a son toward you."
"Never!" cried Gotzkowsky, vehemently. "She must never be informed
of that of which we have been speaking. She does not forebode the
misfortune which threatens her. I have not the courage to tell her,
and why should I? When the terrible event happens, she will learn it
soon enough, and if it can be averted, why then I can spare her this
unhappiness. For my child I wish a clear, unclouded sky; let _me_ bear
the clouds and storms. That has always been the object of my life, and
I will remain faithful to it to the last."
"You refuse me, then?" asked Bertram, pained.
"No, my son. I accept you, and that which you have given me in this
hour, the treasure of your love; that I can never lose. That remains
mine, even if they deprive me of all else."
He opened his arms, and Bertram threw himself weeping on his breast.
Long did they thus remain, heart to heart, in silence; but soul spoke
to soul without words and without expressions of love.
When Gotzkowsky raised himself from Bertram's embrace, his countenance
was calm, and almost cheerful. "I thank you, my son; you have given me
new courage and strength. Now I will preserve all my composure. I
will humble my pride, and apply to those who in former times professed
gratitude toward me. The Council of Berlin have owed me twenty
thousand ducats since the time that the Russians were here, and I had
to travel twice in the service of the town to Petersburg and Warsaw.
These accounts have never been asked for. I will make it my business
to remind the Council of them, as in the days of their need they
swore eternal gratitude to me. Come, Bertram, let us see whether these
worshipful magistrates are any better than other men, and whether they
have any recollection of those sacred promises which they made me in
the days when they needed help, and when misfortune threatened them."
* * * * *
THE RUSSIAN PRINCE.
Before the door of the first hotel in Berlin stood a
travelling-carriage covered with dust. The team of six post-horses,
and the two servants on the coach-box, showed that it was a personage
of quality who now honored the hotel with a visit; and it was
therefore very natural that the host should hurry out and open the
carriage door with a most respectful bow.
A very tall, thin man descended from the carriage with slow and solemn
dignity, and as he entered the house gravely and in silence, his
French valet asked the host whether he had rooms elegant enough to
suit the Prince Stratimojeff.
The countenance of the host expanded into a glowing smile; he snatched
the candlestick hastily from the hands of the head butler, and flew up
the steps himself to prepare the room of state for the prince.
The French valet examined the rooms with a critical eye, and declared
that, though they were not worthy of his highness, yet he would
condescend to occupy them.
The prince still remained silent, his travelling-cap drawn deep down
over his face, and his whole figure concealed in the ample robe of
sable fur, which reached to his feet. He motioned to the host with
his hand to leave the room; then, in a few short words, he ordered his
valet to see to supper, and to have it served up in an adjoining
room, and as at that moment a carriage drove up to the house, he
commissioned him to see whether it was his suite. The valet stated
that it was his highness's private secretary, his man of business, and
"I will not see them to-day--they may seek their own pleasure," said
the prince, authoritatively. "Tell them that our business begins
to-morrow. But for you, Guillaume, I have an important commission. Go
to the host and inquire for the rich banker, John Gotzkowsky; and when
you have found where he lives, enter into further conversation, and
get some information about the circumstances of this gentleman. I wish
to learn, too, about his family; ask about his daughter--if she be
still unmarried, and whether she is now in Berlin. In short, find out
all you can."
The courteous and obedient valet had left the room some time, but
Prince Stratimojeff still stood motionless, his eyes cast on the
ground, and muttering some unintelligible words. Suddenly, with an
impatient movement, he threw his furred robe from his shoulders, and
cast his head-gear far into the room.
"Air! air! I suffocate!" cried he. "I feel as if this town lay on my
chest like a hundred-pound weight, and that I have to conceal myself
like a criminal from the eyes of men."
He threw his cloak open, and took a long and deep breath.
What was it, then, that so strangely excited Prince Stratimojeff,
and shook his very bones as with an ague? It was the memory of
former days; it was the painful and damning voice of Conscience which
tormented him. What reason had he to inquire after Gotzkowsky the
banker, and his daughter? How! Had the heart of Count Feodor von
Brenda become so hardened, that when he returned to Berlin he should
not long to hear of her whom he had once so shamefully betrayed?
It was indeed himself. Colonel Count Feodor von Brenda had become
transformed into the Prince Stratimojeff. Four short years had passed,
but what desolation had they not caused in his inner life!--four years
of dissolute pleasure, of mad, enervating enjoyment; four bacchanalian
years of sensual dissipation and extravagance; four years passed at
the court of two Russian empresses! In these four years Elizabeth
had died; and for a few days the unfortunate Peter III. had worn the
imperial crown. But it had proved too heavy for him; and his great
consort, Catharine, full of compassion and Russian humanity for him,
had sought to lighten his load! Only, in her too great zeal, she had
taken not only his crown, but his head, and changed his prison for a
The Guards shouted for the new empress as they had done for the old.
In the presence of their beautiful young sovereign they remembered
with delight the graciousness of her predecessor, who, in the fulness
of her kindness and power, had made princes of the subalterns, and
great lords of the privates.
Why should not Catharine resemble Elizabeth in that respect, and show
favor to the splendid soldiers of the Guards? She was merciful. She
was a gracious mistress to all her subjects, but especially so to
the handsome men of her empire. And the Count von Brenda was a very
handsome man. He had been the favorite of Elizabeth, why should he
not also be the favorite of Catharine? The former had treated him with
motherly kindness, for she was old; but Catharine was young, and
in her proud breast there beat an ardent heart--a heart that was so
powerful and large, that it had room for more than one lover.
The young count had been for some short months the declared darling of
the empress, and the whole world did homage to him, and looked upon
it as a matter of course that Catharine should make him Prince
Stratimojeff, and bestow on him not only orders and titles, but lands
and thousands of slaves.
What a mad, intoxicating, joyous life was his! How all the world
envied the handsome, rich prince, surrounded by the halo of imperial
favor! But nevertheless a cloud lay always on his brow, and he plunged
into the sea of pleasure like one ill of fever, who seeks something to
cool the heat which is consuming him. He threw himself into the arms
of dissipation, as the criminal condemned to execution, who in the
intoxication of champagne revels away the last hours of life in order
to banish the thought that Death stands behind him, reaching forth his
hand to seize him.
Thus did the prince strive in the wild excitement of pleasure to kill
thought and deaden his heart. But there would come quiet hours to
remind him of the past, and, at times, in the middle of the night, he
would start up from his couch, as if he had heard a scream, a single
heart-piercing cry, which rang through his very soul.
But this scream existed only in his dreams, those dreams in which
Elise's pale, sad face appeared, and made him tremble before her
indignant and despairing grief. Near this light figure of his beloved
appeared another pallid woman, whose sorrowful looks tortured him,
and struck his soul with anguish. He thought he saw his wife, the late
Countess Lodoiska von Sandomir, who, with weeping eyes, demanded of
him her murdered happiness, her youth, her life.
She was dead; she had died of grief, for she had felt that the man
for whom she had sacrificed every thing--her youth, her honor, and her
duty--despised her, and could never forgive her for having cheated him
into taking her for his wife. She died the victim of his contempt and
hatred. Not suddenly, not as with a lightning-stroke, did his contempt
kill, but slowly and steadily did it pierce her heart. She bore
the torture for one desolate, disconsolate year, and then she died
solitary and forsaken. No loving hand dried the death-sweat on her
cold forehead; no pitying lips whispered words of love and hope
to her; yet on her death-bed, her heart was still warm toward her
husband, and even then she blessed him.
A letter written by her trembling hand in her last hours, full of
humble, earnest love, of forgiving gentleness, which her husband the
prince found on his writing-table, as well as another, directed to
Elise Gotzkowsky, and enclosed in the first, bore witness to this
Lodoiska had loved her husband sufficiently to be aware of the cause
of his wild and extravagant life, to know that in the bottom of his
heart he was suffering from the only true love of his life--his love
for Elise; and that all the rest was only a mad and desperate effort
to deaden his feelings and smother his desire.
Elise's image followed him everywhere; and his love for her, which
might have been the blessing of a good man's life, had been a cruel
curse to that of a guilty one. In the midst of the wild routs, the
private orgies of the imperial court, her image rose before him from
these waves of maddening pleasure as a guardian angel, hushing him
often into silence, and stopping the wanton jest on his quivering
At times during these feasts and dances, he was seized with
a boundless, unspeakable dread, a torturing anxiety. He felt
inexpressibly desolate, and the consciousness of his lost, his wasted
existence haunted him, while it seemed as if an inner voice was
whispering--"Go, flee to her! with Elise is peace and innocence. If
you are to be saved, Elise will save you."
But he had not the strength to obey the warning voice of his heart; he
was bound in gilded fetters, and, even if love were absent, pride and
vanity prevented him from breaking these bonds. He was the favorite of
the young empress, and the great of the empire bowed down before him,
and felt themselves happy in his smile, and honored by the pressure of
his hand. But every thing is changeable. Even the heart of the Empress
Catharine was fickle.
One day the Prince Stratimojeff received a note from his imperial
mistress, in which she intrusted him with a diplomatic mission to
Germany, and requested him, on account of the urgency of the occasion,
to start immediately.
Feodor understood the hidden meaning of this apparently gracious and
loving letter; he understood that he had fallen into disgrace--not
that he had committed any error or crime. It was only that Count
Orloff was handsomer and more amiable than himself, or at least
that he seemed so to the empress. Therefore Feodor's presence was
inconvenient to her; for at that time in the commencement of her
reign, Catharine had still some modesty left, and the place of
favorite had not yet become an official position at court, but only a
public secret. As yet, she avoided bringing the discharged favorite in
contact with the newly appointed one, and therefore Feodor had to be
removed before Count Alexis Orloff could enter on his duties.
Prince Feodor Stratimojeff crushed the perfumed imperial note in his
hand, and muttered through his set teeth: "She has sacrificed me to
an Orloff! She wishes to send me away, that she may more securely play
this new farce of love. Very well; I will go, but not to return to be
deceived anew by her vows of love and glances of favor. No! let this
breach be eternal. Catharine shall feel that, although an empress, she
is a woman whom I despise. Therefore let there be no word of farewell,
not even the smallest request. She bids me go, and I go. And would it
not seem as if Fate pointed out to me the way I am to go? Is it not
a strange chance that Catharine should choose me for this mission to
It was indeed a singular accident that the empress unintentionally
should have sent back her discharged favorite to the only woman whom
he had ever loved. He was sent as ambassador extraordinary to Berlin,
to press more urgently her claims on a Prussian banker, to bring up
before the Prussian department for foreign affairs the merchant John
Gotzkowsky with regard to her demand for two millions of dollars;
and, in case he refused to pay it, to try in a diplomatic way whether
Prussia could not he induced to support this demand of the empress,
and procure immediate payment.
This was the mission which Catharine had confided to Prince
Stratimojeff, who, when he determined to undertake it, said to
himself: "I will take vengeance on this proud woman who thinks to
cast me off like a toy of which she has tired; I will show her that
my heart is unmoved by her infidelity; I will present to her my young
wife, whose beauty, youth, and innocence will cause her to blush for
Never had he been so fascinating and lively, so brilliant and
sparkling with wit, as on the evening preceding his departure. His
jests were the boldest and freest; they made even the empress blush,
and sent her blood hot and bounding through her veins. The court,
that would have been delighted to have seen the long-envied and hated
favorite now abashed and humbled before his newly-declared successor,
remarked with astonishment and bitter mortification that the
humiliation was changed into a triumph; for the empress, charmed by
his amiability and wit, seemed to turn her heart again toward him, and
to entreat him with the tenderest looks to forgive her faithlessness.
She had already forgotten the unfortunate embassy which was to remove
Feodor from her court, when he himself came to remind her of it.
While all countenances were still beaming with delight over a precious
_bon mot_ which Feodor had just perpetrated, and at which the empress
herself had laughed aloud, he stepped up to her and requested her
blessing on his voyage to Germany, which he was going to commence that
Catharine felt almost inclined to withdraw her orders and request
him to remain, but she was woman enough to be able to read pride and
defiance in his face. She therefore contented herself with wishing him
a speedy return to his duty. Publicly, in the presence of the whole
court and her new favorite, she afforded Prince Stratimojeff a fresh
triumph: she bade him kneel, and taking a golden chain to which her
portrait was attached, she threw the links around his neck. Kissing
him gently on the forehead, with a gracious smile full of promise, she
said to him only, "_Au revoir_!"
* * * * *
OLD LOVE--NEW SORROW.
Elise was in her room. Her face expressed a quiet, silent resignation,
and her large dark eyes had a dreamy but bright look. She sat in an
easy-chair, reading, and whoever had seen her with her high, open
forehead and calm looks, would have thought her one of those happy
and fortunate beings whom Heaven had blessed with eternal rest and
cheerful composure, who was unacquainted with the corroding poison of
passionate grief. No trace of the storm which had raged through her
life could be seen on her countenance. Her grief had eaten inwardly,
and only her heart and the spirit of her youth had died; her face had
remained young and handsome. The vigor of her youth had overcome
the grief of her spirit, and her cheeks, although colorless and
transparent in their paleness, were still free from that sallow,
sickly pallor, which is the herald of approaching dissolution. She was
apparently healthy and young, and only sick and cold at heart. Perhaps
she only needed some sunbeams to warm up again her chilled heart, only
some gleam of hope to make her soul young again, and strong and ready
once more to love and to suffer. She had never forgotten, never ceased
to think of the past, nor of him whom she had loved so unspeakably,
whom her soul could not let go.
The memories of the past were the life of the present to her. The tree
in the garden which he had admired, the flowers he had loved and which
since then had four times renewed their bloom, the rustling of the
fir-trees which sounded from the wall, all spoke of him, and caused
her heart to beat, she knew not whether with anger or with pain. Even
now, as she sat in her room, her thoughts and fancies were busy with
him. She had been reading, but the book dropped from her hand. From
the love-scenes which were described in it her thoughts roamed far and
wide, and awakened the dreams and hopes of the past.
But Elise did not like to give herself up to these reveries, and at
times had a silent horror even of her own thoughts. She did not like
to confess to herself that she still hoped in the man who had betrayed
her. She had, as it were, a sympathizing pity with herself; she threw
a veil over her heart, to hide from herself that it still quivered
with pain and love. Only at times, in the quiet and solitude of her
chamber, she ventured to draw aside the veil, to look down into the
depths of her soul, and, in agonizing delight, in one dream blend
together the present and the past. She leaned back in her chair,
her large dark eyes fixed on vacancy. Some passage in the book had
reminded her of her own sad love, had struck on her heart like the
hammer of a bell, and in response it had returned but one single note,
the word "Feodor."
"Ah, Feodor!" she whispered to herself, but with a shudder at the
name, and a blush suffused her otherwise pale cheeks for a moment.
"It is the first time my lips have spoken his name, but my heart is
constantly repeating it in hopeless grief, and in my dreams he still
lives. I have accepted my fate; to the world I have separated from
him; to myself, never! Oh, how mysterious is the heart! I hate and yet
I love him." She covered her face with her hands, and sat long silent
and motionless. A noise at the door aroused her. It was only Marianne,
her maid, who came to announce that a strange gentleman was outside,
who earnestly requested to speak to her. Elise trembled, she knew
not why. A prophetic dread seized her soul, and in a voice scarcely
audible she asked the name of her visitor.
"He will not give his name," answered the maid. "He says the name
is of no consequence. He had a letter to deliver from the Countess
Lodoiska, of St. Petersburg."
Elise uttered a cry, and sprang from her seat--she knew all. Her heart
told her that he was near. It must be himself. She felt as if she must
hasten to her father for protection and safety; but her feet refused
to carry her. She trembled so, that she was obliged to hold on to the
arm of a chair to keep herself from falling. She motioned with her
hand to deny him admittance, but Marianne did not understand her; for,
opening the door, she invited the stranger in, and then left him.
And now they stood in presence of each other, silent and
breathless--Elise trembling with excitement and bitter feeling,
wrestling with her own emotion, and deeply abashed by the meeting.
Both uttered an inward prayer--but how different were their two
"Now, God or devil!" thought Feodor, "give my words power, lend
enchantment to my tongue, that I may win Elise!"
Elise prayed to herself: "Have mercy on me, O God! Take this love from
me, or let me die."
In sad silence these two, so long separated, stood opposite to each
other--both hesitating, he knowing that he was guilty, she ashamed of
the consciousness of her love. But finally he succeeded in breaking
the silence. He whispered her name, and as she, alarmed and
shuddering, looked up at him, he stretched out his arms imploringly
toward her. And then she felt, thought, knew nothing but him. She
uttered a cry, and rushed forward to throw herself in his arms. But
suddenly she stopped. Her dream was at an end, and now awaking from
the first ecstasy of seeing him again, she collected herself, and
stood before him in the whole pride and dignity of her offended
honor. She found courage to sacrifice her own heart, and, with cold,
constrained manner, bowing to him, she asked, "Colonel von Brenda,
whom do you wish to see?"
The prince sighed deeply, and let his arms drop. "It is over," said
he; "she no longer loves me!"
Low as these words had been spoken, Elise had seized their purport,
and they touched her to the quick. "What do you wish?" she continued.
"Nothing!" said he, despondently. "I have made a mistake. I expected
to find a faithful heart, a woman like an angel, ready in the hour of
meeting to forget all else, and take refuge in this heart; to forgive,
and, with her blessing, to wipe out the curse of my existence. This is
what I sought. But God is just, and I did not deserve such happiness.
"Oh, my God!" said Elise to herself, "it is the same voice which once
charmed me." She no longer found strength in herself to bid him go.
She would have given her life blood to be able always to be thus near
"This time, young lady," said Feodor, "I come only as a messenger, the
executor of the will of one who is dead." He took a letter from his
bosom and handed it to Elise. "I bring you," he said solemnly, "the
last will of my wife, Countess Lodoiska."
"She is no longer alive?" cried Elise, and involuntarily an almost
joyful tone pervaded her voice.
This did not escape the prince. "I will win her," said he to himself.
His eyes shone brighter, his countenance looked prouder, and his heart
beat higher with triumphant joy. Elise had taken the letter, and still
held it in her hand. "Will you not read it?" asked he, gently, and
her heart trembled at the pleading tone of his voice.
"Yes, I will read it," she answered, as if awaking from a dream, and
breaking the seal hastily.
The prince fixed his sharp, piercing eyes on her, and seemed to wish
to read in her looks her inmost thoughts, and feeling them favorable
to him, he approached still closer to her.
The letter was short and hastily written, but every word entered her
soul and brought tears to her eyes. It ran thus:
"My dear Elise, when you receive this letter I shall be no more, and
the heart which has suffered so much will be at rest. But when I have
found repose in the grave, do you fulfil my trust. I leave you the
dearest legacy that I possess. I give you back your property, the
heart and love of Feodor, which never ceased to belong to you. I never
have been able to win this love to myself. He gave me his hand, his
heart remains yours, and that is killing me. Take it then, it is my
legacy to you; and if you accept it my purified spirit will bless your
The letter dropped from her hand; completely overpowered by deep and
solemn emotions, she sank in her chair, and hid her tears with her
hands. Feodor felt that she was again his, that he had regained
his sway over her. He rushed toward her, falling at her feet, and
passionately snatching her hands from her face, he exclaimed, "Elise!
in this moment her spirit is hovering over us. She blesses this love
which she has already forgiven. Oh, if you only knew what I have
suffered for you, you would, at least, not be angry with me. You would
pardon me for the sake of what I have undergone."
"Have I then not suffered also?" she asked, turning her face, covered
with tears, toward him.
"Oh! leave me here at your feet," he continued. "Look upon me as
a poor pilgrim who has wandered to the holy Sepulchre in order to
cleanse his heart of its sins at the sanctuary by sincere repentance
and prayers for forgiveness. You are my sanctuary, to you my heart
bends; the poor pilgrim has come to you to confess and be shrived
before he dies. Will you, my Madonna, hear him? May I tell you what I
have endured, how much I have suffered?"
"Speak," she said, half conscious, but eagerly listening to the music
of his voice. "Tell me what you have suffered, that I may forget my
own sufferings when I gave you up."
"Oh!" he continued, with a shudder, "I shall never forget that fearful
moment when I became aware of the deception, and discovered that it
was not you, but Lodoiska, whom I held in my arms. A raving madness
seized me, which threatened my own life. Lodoiska turned aside the
dagger, and pronounced your name. That name recalled me to life, to
the knowledge of my crime. I submitted to the punishment which I had
merited, and which you had imposed upon me. I led Lodoiska to the
altar, at which I had hoped to see you. I made her my wife, and my
heart pronounced _your_ name, while my lips bound me to _her_. It was
a terrible hour, a fearful agony raged within me, and it has never
left me since. It was there, when Lodoiska pressed me to her heart. It
was present in the tumult of battle. Then, however, when death raged
around me, when destruction thundered from the enemy's cannon, then
I became cheerful, and the pang left me as I rushed amid the enemy's
ranks. But even death itself retreated before me--I found on the
battle-field only honor and fame, but not the object for which I
fought, not death. I lived to suffer and to expiate my crime toward
you, Elise. But one hope sustained me, the hope one day to fall at
your feet, to clasp your knees, and to sue for forgiveness."
Completely overcome by his own passionate description, he bowed his
head on her knees, and wept aloud. He had succeeded in rousing his own
sympathy; he believed in his own grief. He had so feelingly played
the part of a repentant sinner, an ardent lover, that for a moment
probability and reality had become blended in one, and he felt himself
thoroughly possessed by crushing repentance.
But Elise believed in him. His voice sounded like music in her ear,
and every fibre of her heart thrilled and quivered. The past with its
griefs and sorrows was gone forever, he was once more there, with no
stranger to come between them, and she only felt that she loved him
He embraced her knees, looking pleadingly up in her face. "Elise,
forgive me," cried he; "say but one word, 'Pardon,' and I will go away
in silence, and never again dare to approach you."
Elise had no longer power to withstand him. She opened her arms, and
threw them with passionate tenderness around his neck. "Feodor, love
does not forgive, it loves," she cried with unspeakable rapture, and
tears of delight burst from her eyes.
Feodor uttered a cry of joy, and sprang up to draw her to his breast,
to cover her face with kisses, to whisper words of delight, of
tenderness, of passionate love, in her listening ear. "Oh! now all is
right again--now you are again mine. These four years are as if they
had not been. It was all a mournful dream--and we are now awake.
Now we know that we love each other, that we belong to each other,
forever. Come, Elise, it is the same hour which then called us to the
altar. Come, the priest waits. For four long years have I hoped for
this hour. Come, my beloved."
He threw his strong arm around her and raised her to his breast
to draw her forth with him. As Elise drew herself gently back, he
continued still more passionately: "I will not let you go, for you are
mine. You have betrothed yourself to me for life or death. Come,
the priest is waiting, and to-day shall you be my wife. This time no
unfriendly hand shall impose itself between us, and Lodoiska no longer
"But my father lives," said Elise, as earnestly and proudly she freed
herself from Feodor's arms. "Without his consent I do not leave this
threshold. It was for that the Lord punished us. My father's blessing
was not upon our love, and I had sinned grievously against him. Now,
it is expiated, and Fate is appeased. Let us go hand in hand to my
father, and ask his blessing on our love, that love which has remained
undiminished through so many years of grief."
"I submit to you. I will obey your will in every thing. But will not
your father reject me? I feel that he must hate me for the tears I
have caused you to shed."
"He will love you when he sees that you have taught me to smile once
more," said she gently. "Come to my father."
She wished to draw him along with her. But his consciousness of guilt
held him back. He wanted the daring courage to face this man whom he
had been sent to ruin; and involuntarily he shrank back from his own
deeds. "I dare not go before him so suddenly and unprepared," said he
"Then allow me to prepare him for your presence."
"And if he denies his sanction?"
"He will not do it."
"He has sworn never to allow you to marry a Russian."
"Oh, that was long ago," said she, smiling, "when Russia was our
enemy. Now we are at peace. The bloody streams of discord are dried
up, and an angel of peace rules over all countries. Even my father
will feel his influence, and make peace with you and me."
Feodor did not answer immediately. He stood thoughtful and
contemplative, weighing the necessary and unavoidable, and considering
what he should do. One thing only was clear. Neither Elise nor
Gotzkowsky must be allowed to suspect on what extraordinary mission
his empress had sent him thither. Only when Elise was irrevocably
bound to him, when she was his without recall, when Gotzkowsky had
given his consent to their union, then would he dare to disclose it to
him. It was necessary, above all, to postpone the negotiations about
the Russian demands for a day, and therefore he only gave his agents
his instructions, and imposed on them silence and inactivity for a day
longer. The principal thing, however, was to convince Elise and her
father that their union should suffer no delay, because he was only
allowed to remain a few hours. He put his arm around Elise's slender
waist and pressed her to his heart. "Listen to me, my beloved; my time
has been but sparingly dealt out to me. I have come on with courier
horses, so as to allow me more leisure on my return with you. But
to-day we must leave, for the army is on the frontier, equipped and
ready for war. Only out of special favor did the empress allow me a
short leave of absence, to fetch my wife. In her clemency she has
done what she was able to do, and I must now obey her orders to return
speedily, if I do not wish to bring her anger down upon me. That
nothing might prevent or delay us, I have brought a chaplain of our
Church with me, to bless our union. You see, my beloved, that every
thing is ready, and all that is wanting is the wreath of myrtle in
"And the blessing of my father," she replied solemnly.
Feeder's brow darkened and an angry expression flashed across
his countenance. Elise did not perceive it, for, in her noble
forgetfulness of self, she had leaned her head on his breast, and all
doubt and distrust were alien to her free and confiding love. The love
of a woman is of divine nature; it forgives all, it suffers all; it is
as strong in giving as in forgiving. Every woman when she loves is
an inspired poetess; the divine frenzy has seized her, and poetic
utterances of ecstasy issue from her trembling lips. This poor girl,
too, had become inspired. Confidingly happy, she reposed on the breast
of the man whom she had never ceased to love, whom she had blest in
the midst of her bitterest tears, whom she had prayed for, earnestly
entreating God to have mercy on him.
"Do you go to your father," said Feodor, after a pause. "Pray for
his consent and his blessing on both of us--I hasten to prepare every
thing. Tell your father that my whole life shall be spent in the
endeavor to redeem every tear you have shed for me with a smile; that
I will love him as a son to whom he has given the dearest treasure of
life, his Elise."
He pressed her to his heart and kissed her forehead. Elise raised her
face from his breast, and smiled on him with loving emotion. But he
placed his hands over her eyes; he was not callous enough to be able
to bear those innocent, yielding, tender looks.
"I must be gone," he said. "But this shall be our last separation,
and when I return, it shall be to lead you to the altar. In an hour,
dearest, you must be ready. At the end of that time, I will come to
take you to St. Petersburg, and present you at the empress's court as
my bride, the Princess Stratimojeff."
He looked down at her with an air of triumph, to see what impression
his words would have on her. He had expected to prepare a pleasurable
surprise for her with the princely title--to see her blush with proud
satisfaction. But Elise felt neither elevated nor honored by the high
rank. What did she care whether Feodor was a prince or a poor officer,
so that he only loved her, and would never again forsake her?
She replied, with some surprise, "Princess Stratimojeff! What does
"For three months," said he with a proud smile, "I have been Prince
Stratimojeff. The empress gave me this title. The world calls me
prince, but you--you will call me your Feodor?"
"Oh," said she feelingly, "my heart called you so when you did not
"Well, then, go wind the wreath of myrtle in your hair, and wait for
me. In an hour I will return."
He hastened to the door, but on the threshold he turned to send a
farewell greeting to her. Their eyes met and rested on each other,
and suddenly a deep, indescribable feeling of grief came over him. It
seemed to him as if he would never see her again; as if the threshold
once crossed, Elise was lost to him forever. Once again he returned,
and folded her passionately in his arms, and, completely overpowered
by his painful presentiments, he bowed his head on her shoulder, and
wept bitterly. He then tore himself loose. "Farewell!" he cried,
but his voice sounded hoarse and rough--"farewell! in an hour I
will return for you. Be prepared, do not keep me waiting in vain.
* * * * *
THE MAGISTRACY OF BERLIN.
Gotzkowsky had conquered his proud heart; he had left his house to
apply to those whom he had benefited and saved in the days of their
need and distress, and who had then avowed him everlasting gratitude.
He resolved now, reluctantly and with deep humiliation, rather to
remind them of those days than to ask of them any favors or assistance
beyond the payment of their debts to him.
First he went to the ober-burgomaster, President Kircheisen; to the
man whom he had saved from death, who had clung to him, and, when
he had found his speech again, had vowed with tears that he would be
forever grateful to him, and would bless the arrival of the hour in
which he could prove it to him by deeds.
This hour had now arrived, but Herr von Kircheisen did not bless it;
on the contrary, he cursed it. He was standing at the window of his
ground floor when Gotzkowsky passed by. Their eyes met. Gotzkowsky's
were clear and penetrating; Kircheisen's were cast down, as he stepped
back from the window. He only had time to tell the servants that he
was not at home for any one, whoever it might be, when the bell rang,
and Gotzkowsky inquired for Herr von Kircheisen.
"Not at home, sir."
"Not at home! but I saw him just this moment standing at the window."
"It must have been a mistake, sir. The president has just gone to the
"Very well. I will go to the town-hall," said Gotzkowsky, as he left
Passing by the window he looked in again. This time, however,
Kircheisen was not standing before the sashes, but at the side,
ensconced behind the curtain, he was spying Gotzkowsky through the
window. As he saw him passing by, pale of countenance, but erect and
unbent, he felt involuntarily a feeling of remorse, and his conscience
warned him of his unpaid debt toward the only man who came to his
rescue. But he would not listen to his conscience, and with a dark
frown he threw back his head with contempt.
"He is a bankrupt--I have nothing to do with him!" So saying, he
retired to his study, and in obedience to a natural instinct, he
opened his strong box, and refreshed himself with a look at the
thousands which he had earned from Gotzkowsky as "detective and
informer." And now his conscience no longer reproached him; the sight
of the shining money lulled it into a gentle slumber.
In the meanwhile Gotzkowsky continued his toilsome and humiliating
journey. He met men who formerly bent humbly to the earth before him,
yet who scarcely greeted him now. Others, again, as they passed him,
whispered, with a malicious smile, "Bankrupt!" As he came to the corner
of a street, he met the valiant editor of the _Vossian Gazette_,
who was coming round from the other side. As they met, he jostled
Gotzkowsky rather roughly, yet Mr. Kretschmer did not think it worth
while to excuse himself, but pulling his hat over his face he walked
on with a dark and scornful look. As Gotzkowsky passed the houses, he
could hear the windows rattle, and he knew that it was his former
good friends, who were drawing back when they saw him coming, and who,
after he had passed, opened the windows again to look after him, to
laugh at and mock him. It was an intellectual running of the gantlet,
and Gotzkowsky's heart bled from the blows, and his feet were tired
to death. What had he then done to burden himself with the cruelty and
contumely of the world? Had he not been benevolent and kind, full
of pity and humanity, obliging to every one? Had he not always shown
himself ready to serve every one, and never requested nor desired
services in return? Therein lay his fault and his crime.
He had been independent. He had never sought the favor of any
man, but, trusting solely to himself, had always relied on his
own strength. And now mankind wished to make him feel that he had
mortified them by his self-sufficiency--for small natures never
forgive one who dares to be independent of others, and finds his
source of honor in himself. And this crime Gotzkowsky had been
guilty of. What he was, he had made himself. He had owed nothing
to protection, nothing to hypocrisy or flattery, eye-service, or
cringing. Only by the strength and power of his own genius had he
elevated himself above the world which he ruled.
And now that he was down, it was but natural that the world should
fall upon him, tear him to pieces with its venomous fangs, to enjoy
his torture, and joyfully to witness the lowering of pride and
independence. Gotzkowsky arrived at the town-hall and slowly ascended
the steps. How often had he gone this same road in answer to the
pressing cry for help which the magistrate would utter in his
distress! How often had he mounted those steps to give his advice, to
lend his energy, his money, and his credit to these gentlemen of the
This day the doors were not thrown open to him the beadle did not bow
down to the earth before him, but proudly and with erect head stepped
up to him and bade him wait in the antechamber until he had announced
him to the assembled Council. He had to wait long, but finally
the doors opened and he was admitted. There sat the aldermen and
councillors, and the burgomaster, just as they had when, in their
need and distress, they had appealed to Gotzkowsky for advice and
assistance--just as they had when, in solemn session, they
determined to present him with a silver laurel-wreath as an honorable
Only the chief burgomaster was absent. Herr von Kircheisen was at
home, enjoying the sight of the money he had won from Gotzkowsky. This
day they did not receive him as a counsellor or friend, but more like
a delinquent. No one rose to greet him--no one offered him a seat!
They knew that he came to ask for something. Why, then, should they be
polite to him, as he was only a petitioner like all other poor
people? In the mean time Gotzkowsky did not seem to be aware of the
alteration. Smiling, and with a firm, proud step he walked to a chair
and sat down.
After a pause the burgomaster asked him churlishly what his business
was. He drew out a parcel of papers, and laying them on the table,
said, "I have brought my accounts."
A panic seized the worshipful gentlemen of the Council, and they sat
petrified in their seats.
"Your worships have forgotten my claims," said Gotzkowsky quickly.
"However, that I can easily understand, as the accounts are somewhat
old. It is now four years since I have had the honor of having the
Council of Berlin as my debtor; since I thrice performed the perilous
journey to Koenigsberg and Warsaw in order to negotiate the war
contribution in the name of the town. At that time, too, I was
obliged, in the service of the Council, to take with me many valuable
presents. I may enumerate among them the diamond-set staff for General
von Fermore, and the snuff-box, with the portrait of the empress,
surrounded by brilliants, which I delivered to the General
Field-Marshal Count Butterlin, in the name of the magistracy and town
of Berlin. But, gentlemen, you will find the accounts of all these
The gentlemen of the Council did not answer him; they seized upon the
papers hastily, and turned them over, and looked into them with stern
and sullen eyes. Not a word was said, and nothing was heard but the
rustling of the papers, and the low muttering of one of the senators
adding the numbers, and verifying the calculation. Gotzkowsky rose,
and walked to the window. Raising his looks to heaven, his countenance
expressed all the pain and bitterness to which his soul almost
succumbed. Ah! he could have torn the papers out of the hand of this
miserable, calculating, reckoning senator, and with pride and contempt
have thrown them in his face. But he thought of his daughter, and
the honor of his name. He had to wait it out, and bend his head in
At last the burgomaster laid the papers aside, and turned scowlingly
toward Gotzkowsky. The latter stepped up to the table with a smile,
making a vow to himself that he would remain quiet and patient.
"Have you read them, gentlemen?" he asked.
"We have read them," answered the burgomaster roughly, "but the
Council cannot admit that it owes you any thing."
"No?" cried Gotzkowsky; and then, allowing himself to be overcome by a
feeling of bitterness--"I believe you. Those in authority seldom take
cognizance of what they owe, only what is owing to them."
"Oh, yes, indeed," said the first councillor with solemn dignity, "we
know very well that we owe you thanks for the great services you have
rendered the town."
Gotzkowsky broke out into a loud, ironical laugh. "Do you remember
that? I am glad that you have not forgotten it."
"It is true," continued the councillor, in a tone of conciliation, "at
the request of the magistracy you took charge of the affairs of the
town. You travelled to St. Petersburg to see the empress; twice did
you go to Warsaw to see General Fermore, and twice to Saxony to visit
the king. You see the Council knows how much it is indebted to you."
"And we are cheerfully willing to be grateful to you," interrupted
the burgomaster, "and to serve you when and in what manner we can, but
these debts we cannot acknowledge."
Gotzkowsky looked at him in dismay, and a deep glow suffused his
cheek. "You refuse to pay them?" he asked, faintly.
"It pains us deeply that we cannot recognize these claims. You
must abate somewhat from them if we are to pay them," answered the
"Do you dare to propose this to me?" cried Gotzkowsky, his eyes
flashing, his countenance burning with anger and indignation. "Is
this the way you insult the man to whom four years ago on this very
spot you swore eternal gratitude? In those days I sacrificed to you my
repose, the sleep of my nights; for, when the town was threatened with
danger and alarm, there was no Council, no authority in existence, for
you were base cowards, and abjectly begged for my good offices. With
tears did you entreat me to save you. I left my house, my family,
my business, to serve you. At the risk of my life, in the depth of
winter, I undertook these journeys. You did not consider that Russian
bayonets threatened me, that I risked health and life. You thought
only of yourselves. I have not put down in the account the sleepless
nights, the trouble and anxiety, the privation and hardships which I
suffered. I do not ask any money or recompense for my services. I only
ask that I may be paid back what I actually expended; and you have the
assurance to refuse it?"
"No, we do not," said the burgomaster, quite unmoved by Gotzkowsky's
noble excitement. "We do not refuse payment; we only desire a
reduction of the amounts."
"You wish to cheapen and bargain with me," said Gotzkowsky with a
hoarse laugh. "You take me for a chapman, who measures out his life
and services by the yard; and you wish to pay me for mine by the same
measure. Go, most sapient gentlemen; I carry on a wholesale trade,
and do not cut off yards. That I leave to shopkeepers, to souls like
The burgomaster rose up proud and threateningly from his seat. "Do you
dare to insult the Council?"
"No, the Council of Berlin insult themselves by their own deeds. They
dare to chaffer with me!"
"And they have a right to do so," cried the burgomaster, quite beside
himself with rage. "Who asked you to play the great lord in our name,
and distribute royal presents--diamonds and gold snuff-boxes?
You could have done it much more cheaply. The Russian is not so
high-priced. But it was your pleasure to be magnificent at our
expense, and to strut about as a bountiful gentleman."
"Silence!" cried Gotzkowsky, in such a commanding tone that the
burgomaster was struck dumb, and sank back in his chair. Gotzkowsky
said no more. He took the accounts from the table, and, casting a
look of anger and contempt on the worthy gentlemen, tore the papers
in pieces, and threw the scraps at their feet. "I am paid!" he said,
proudly, and turned to leave the room.
One of the town councillors hastened after him, and held him back.
"You are too hasty: we may yet agree."
"No!" said Gotzkowsky, striving to free himself. "I do not chaffer and
bargain for my right."
The other held him tight. "But the Council are not averse to paying
you, if you--"
"If I will only traffic with you, is it not so?" interrupted
Gotzkowsky. "Let me go; we have done with each other."
"You will regret having repulsed the Council," said the burgomaster,
"I never regret an action when my honor is satisfied," said
Gotzkowsky, with proud contempt; and then, without honoring the worthy
gentlemen with another look, he left the hall, and returned into the
* * * * *
THE JEWS OF THE MINT.
Herr Itzig was a very pious and devout Jew. He kept the Sabbath
strictly after the custom of his ancestors. He was charitable to the
poor; and no Jew beggar ever left his door without a gift.
He sat in his room, performing his morning devotions, and so deeply
was he immersed therein, that he did not hear a repeated knocking
at the door until a low, gentle voice whispered, "Good-morning, Herr
Itzig first finished his prayer; for all the world he would not have
broken off before the end of it: "Be gracious and merciful to us,
Jehovah, and incline us to be compassionate and helpful to all who
approach us with supplication, even as we desire that thou shouldst
be to us." And now the pious Jew closed his prayer-book, and turned
That pale, bent man, who greeted him with a sorrowful smile--could it
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