The Youth of the Great Elector
Part 2 out of 10
"How glorious you look in those magnificent velvet robes!" cried Count
Schwarzenberg, with a sigh, "and how much your Spanish costume makes me
long for the sumptuous life of the imperial court! Ah! my dear count, here
among us you find hardly a trace of this costly, splendid living, and an
imperial valet or house servant has more pleasure and enjoyment than an
Electoral Stadtholder in the Mark."
"Yet it is a fine and sonorous title," said Count Lesle, smiling, while he
stretched himself out comfortably in the great armchair which Count
Schwarzenberg had rolled forward for him, "and it is also a great and
influential office. The Emperor's Majesty knows very well what a mighty
and potent man the Stadtholder in the Mark is, and that Count
Schwarzenberg is really Elector of Brandenburg."
"His Imperial Majesty knows, too, that I have never yet ceased to be the
faithful and devoted servant of the Emperor," cried Schwarzenberg, at the
same time drawing a simple chair to the side of the count's fauteuil, and
seating himself upon it. "His Imperial Majesty knows, I hope, that first
and above all other things I place my duty to the Emperor, and that I have
no higher aim than to subserve the interests of his Imperial Majesty."
"Yes, the Emperor, our most gracious Sovereign, knows that," said Count
Lesle feelingly. "He does not for a moment doubt the fidelity and
attachment of the Stadtholder in the Mark, who has always been mindful
that the Elector is only the Emperor's vassal, and the Emperor the real
lord of the whole German Empire."
"And to maintain this relation intact, yes, that is what I have made the
greatest task of my life," cried Schwarzenberg, with animation. "It is a
task, in truth, not easy to be accomplished, for the Emperor's supreme
Government has many enemies here at the electoral court, and very many
there are here who maintain that Brandenburg should free herself entirely
from imperial vassalage, and that the Elector should be sole lord within
his own domains. But now, dearest lord high chamberlain and count, tell me
wherefore you have come here so unexpectedly, and what news do you bring
"Very serious and very subtle news I bring with me, count," replied Count
Lesle, "and of such a tender, delicate nature that we could not willingly
entrust it to paper, even in cipher, but could only transmit it from my
lips to your ear, and thence to the locked-up recesses of your breast.
Therefore I have come to you, and need hardly say that not a breath of our
conversation is to escape, and that nobody must know of my having been
here. The question is about the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg--that
young man who has already tarried more than three years in the
Netherlands, and is imbibing there the hated poison of insubordination and
passion for freedom. It is high time that the Electoral Prince were
"Recalled!" cried Count Schwarzenberg, starting up amazed. "But, Count
Lesle, you do not know the Electoral Prince. You do not know the danger
that would accrue now if this restless, ambitious, and fiery young man
were to return home. My enemies and the secret opponents of the Emperor
here desire nothing more ardently than just this very thing, and the
Rochows and Schoenungs and all the reformers have already brought matters
to such a pass that the Elector himself presses most urgently for his
son's return home, and has even peremptorily required it of him. It is a
plot of all the Swedish wellwishers, all the anti-imperialists of this
court, believe me. They wish to place the Electoral Prince at their head,
and hope by this means to bring it about that the weak and vacillating
Elector shall secede from the Emperor and ally himself with the Swedes.
They teased and goaded the Elector, until he even sent his Chamberlain von
Schlieben to The Hague in order to fetch the Prince, and the latter has
but to-day returned from his vain expedition."
"From his vain expedition, do you say? The Electoral Prince remains at The
Hague, then, despite the strict commands, the pressing messages of his
father? You see by that what fruit his stay at The Hague has already
produced, and that the poison which he has imbibed there is even now at
work. The Electoral Prince seems to be thoughtful and studious. And so
much the more dangerous is it to leave him any longer at The Hague, where
all are ill disposed toward the Spaniards, where is to be found the real
hearthstone of the great European opposition to the house of Hapsburg,
where the Prince of Orange is his instructor in the art of war, and can
educate him to be a skillful and dangerous warrior and an enemy of the
"All that is very true!" said Schwarzenberg gloomily. "But for all that he
is less to be dreaded there than here, where he would cross all our plans
and bring to nothing all our schemes. The Electoral Prince is a dangerous
opponent, believe me. There is something bewitching in his character, and
he would be in a position either to carry the Elector along with him in
his career or to induce George William to follow his father's example, and
resign the government in favor of his son, the Electoral Prince Frederick
William. And do you know, Count Lesle, what would be the first act of
Frederick William's reign? To depose me, to take all power out of my
hands, and to institute a new course of policy for the house of
"Only get him here first, count, and then it is your affair to guard
against this extreme. Take example from what happened on one occasion in
Spain, where also rioters and innovators thronged around the heir to the
throne, by his abettance to overturn existing institutions and hurl the
King from his throne. My God! You know the story of King Philip and his
son Carlos. Hardly fifty years have elapsed since then. Profit by this
example, and learn from this story that if the son is dangerous, you have
only to render him suspected by his father, and he becomes innocuous. If
the son is the enemy of his father, then the father must also be made the
enemy of his son, that in this way an equilibrium be preserved. You are
much too great a statesman and too acute a diplomatist not to know how to
act in this matter. But the urgency of the case is pressing. You must have
him under your own eyes, under your own guardianship."
"It is true," said Schwarzenberg thoughtfully, "he imbibes deadly poison
there, and is quite too enthusiastic in his admiration of the Protestant
leader, the Prince of Orange. His letters to his parents overflow with
enthusiasm for the Orange general, whom he calls his master and teacher
in the art of war, and lavishes upon him extravagant praise."
"And they are giving themselves trouble enough to link the young Prince
yet more closely to the house of Orange, and the enemies of Spain and
Hapsburg," said Count Lesle emphatically. "The Emperor has obtained exact
accounts as to the practices going on at The Hague, whereby the Electoral
Prince may be brought into the land of Cleves and united by marriage with
the Palatinate house, whereby he may be brought equally under the
influence of the sovereign States and the Prince of Orange, and estranged
from the Holy Roman Empire.
"He is to marry a princess of the Palatinate!" exclaimed the Stadtholder.
"Ah! now I understand why the Electress, despite her tender love for her
only son, constantly endeavors to keep him away, and to prolong his stay
at The Hague. I always thought until now that it was on my account. I
thought that the Electress believed me to have evil and malign intentions
with regard to the Electoral Prince, and for that reason alone was opposed
to her son's return. But now I see into it; she is for this Palatinate
marriage, she wishes by that means to bind her son more closely to her own
house and its interests, to alienate him further from the Emperor and the
Holy Roman Empire. It is the daughter of the banished Bohemian King, the
Princess Ludovicka Hollandine, who is to be the tie to unite him to Orange
and the Palatinate. All this becomes suddenly clear to me, and I can not
imagine how I could have been so blind and so innocent as not to have
divined and penetrated into this earlier. The Electoral Prince does,
indeed, in each of his letters make mention of the little household over
which the banished Bohemian Queen, the Electress of the Palatinate,
presides at Doornward, not far from The Hague."
"She has now removed her residence farther, to The Hague itself," said
Count Lesle dryly; "without doubt, because winter approaches, and it will
be more comfortable for the Electoral Prince not to find it necessary to
travel that long way to Doornward to see his dearly beloved one. She must
be quite a pretty girl, the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine, and, moreover,
of very tender complexion, and not at all disposed to play the prude with
the young, handsome Electoral Prince, who seems particularly to please
"And the Electress is particularly partial to her sister-in-law, the
Electress of the Palatinate," said Schwarzenberg thoughtfully. "Tears
always come into her eyes whenever she speaks of her, and calls to mind
her brother's unhappy fate. It would, indeed, be for the advantage of
her house if the daughter of her banished brother should again exalt the
honor of her family, and find in Brandenburg amends for the lost
Palatinate. For when women take it into their heads to meddle with
politics, then are their hearts always interested; and even in politics,
match making is their especial delight. Yes, yes, Count Lesle, I see into
it now; you are right. The Electoral Prince is to wed the Palatinate
Princess, and the Electress favors this match."
"But the Emperor would be displeased at it in the highest degree," cried
Count Lesle. "It is therefore impossible that this alliance take place.
You must do everything to prevent the Elector from granting his consent,
and however many are for it, and blow upon one horn, yet the Elector must
strike no note in harmony with this Palatinate marriage."
"No, the Elector will not and shall not," replied the count decidedly. "It
is for me to prevent him, and--You are indeed right. There is nothing left
to be done but to summon the Electoral Prince from The Hague."
"It would be pleasant to the Emperor if the Electoral Prince came to his
court," remarked Count Lesle; "it would be a token of confidence, and make
an impression throughout the Holy Roman Empire upon friend and foe."
"Alas! the most important requisite of all is wanting--we want money,"
sighed Count Schwarzenberg, shrugging his shoulders.
"Well, that shall furnish no ground for objection, Sir Stadtholder. The
Emperor commissioned me expressly to announce to you that his Imperial
Majesty would gladly hold himself ready to furnish some assistance, yes,
if needful, all the money required for the expenses of this journey.
And the Emperor would not be niggardly with his supplies of money for
traveling, but give such sums that the Electoral Prince need not come
merely to his Majesty at Vienna, but also make a little excursion to
Innsprueck. For at Innsprueck the Archduke Leopold now holds his court, and
the Electoral Prince could not fail to enjoy himself there, for the court
at Innsprueck is brilliantly gay, and the archduke's youthful daughter,
Clara Isabella, is peculiarly fond of pleasure, and is a beautiful and
attractive young lady."
With a sudden movement of the head Count Schwarzenberg turned toward
Lesle. "You do not mean it?" he asked hesitatingly.
Count Lesle nodded. "It is much to be desired," he said, smiling.
"But I fear it is impossible!" cried Schwarzenberg. "Every one here will
be opposed to it; no one in favor of it. It is simply not to be thought
of, and impossible that the Electoral Prince should marry a Catholic."
"It only seems probable, and to effect it, it is only necessary to go to
work in the right way," said Count Lesle quietly. "You see by yourself how
the inconceivable can still become matter of reality. Would it not have
been supposed impossible that at this court, where there are none but
heretics, where Reformers and Lutherans contend for precedence, that a
Catholic and an imperialist could have become prime minister and
confidential adviser to the Elector? And yet so it is, and for twenty
years past the Catholic Count Schwarzenberg has been the favorite and I
may say the controller of the Elector of Brandenburg. And why should not
the Catholic minister and Stadtholder be able to negotiate a Catholic
alliance? You underrate your power, count, and are by far too modest."
"Say rather I know the ground on which I tread, Count Lesle. Believe me,
it is slippery and marshy soil, and a single incautious step may cause me
"Then guard against an incautious step, but advance boldly forward in the
interests of his Imperial Majesty, and be assured that Ferdinand will
prove himself to be a grateful and a gracious lord. And now, count, you
know all that I came to communicate to you, and it is time for me to set
"Will you set forth again so soon, Count Lesle, before you have done me
the honor of taking a little breakfast and drinking a glass of wine with
"Thank you, count, thank you most cordially. You know well, however, that
the master's business is before all things else. My imperial master awaits
me at Regensburg, and I shall then have the honor of being permitted to
accompany him to Vienna. His Imperial Majesty is a strict and punctilious
lord, and has calculated to the very day and hour when I may again reach
the imperial palace. For our interview here he allowed me one hour; and,
lo! the cock of your great wall clock had just stepped out and crowed
eleven as I entered your room, and is already here, crowing twelve as loud
as he can. It is therefore time for me to depart. I have briefly made you
acquainted with the Emperor's intentions and desires, and your wise and
fertile brain will know how to enlarge and construe. Farewell, Sir
Stadtholder in the Mark, farewell, and may every blessing attend you!"
Count Lesle had risen and drawn his fur cap once more far over his brow.
Schwarzenberg assisted him to don his ample and heavy wrappings, and then
escorted him to the door.
"Permit me at least to conduct you to your carriage, Count Lesle," he said.
"Impossible, count; that would excite remark among your people, and give
rise to conjectures on all sides. I gave myself out on entering as one of
your officials from Sonnenburg, and your dignity does not suffer you to
act toward your officials as toward an equal. Farewell, then!"
Count Lesle stepped out briskly, and hurriedly closed the palace door.
Schwarzenberg stood listening to the retreating footsteps of the imperial
legate until they died away in the long corridor. Then he slowly turned
away and sank with a sigh into the armchair which Count Lesle had recently
"Strange tidings those," he muttered to himself. "I must now then adopt a
wholly different line of action--must derange and newly model all my
plans. What I would altogether avoid I must now do--must recall the
Electoral Prince; must yield to him the precedence at court, both in rank
and position; must--" All at once he started up and shrank, as if a sudden
flash of lightning had interrupted his train of thought. "If it must be,"
he said quite softly to himself, "if nothing else is left for me, and I
see myself in danger, then I will do it. I shall resort to this last
But even while he pronounced the words he grew pale and cast around him a
timid, anxious glance, as if he dreaded being overheard by some traitorous
ear. Then he leaned his head upon the back of the armchair, and sat, long,
silent, and motionless, wholly absorbed in deep and earnest thought.
"Yes, it shall be so," he said at last. "He must leave The Hague; but it
does not signify necessarily that he will arrive here so soon. The way is
long, the roads are unsafe, and he must travel cautiously and
circumspectly, for many cutthroats wander about, and who knows whether the
Swedes may not make the attempt to capture and carry off the young Prince,
or murder him, that he may not some day contest with them the possession
of Pomerania. All this must, indeed, be risked; then--Master Gabriel
Nietzel must nevertheless still go to The Hague; only I shall give him
other instructions, and he will have a wholly different errand to fulfill.
Yes, yes, it shall be so; I shall have him summoned directly."
He had already stretched out his hand for the whistle, when the outer door
opened, and the valet entered.
"Pardon, your excellency. A lackey has just come from the palace. The
Elector begs and entreats of your grace that you will have the kindness to
repair forthwith to the Elector's residence."
"Present my respects to the Elector, and say that I shall do myself the
honor of waiting upon him. Go, tell the lackey that, and have my carriage
of state ordered out forthwith."
"Most gracious sir, I beg your pardon, but your excellency can not
possibly go in the great carriage of state."
"Well, and why not?"
"Your excellency knows that it has been raining four days without
intermission, and the ground is so soaked through that a man can not cross
the streets or square without sinking up to his knees, how much less then
a heavy vehicle. The carriage of the strange gentleman who has just been
with your excellency remained stuck fast a few steps from here, and the
coachman and footman, with a couple of our stableboys, are still busied in
trying to pull it out of the mud."
"Heaven defend us!" cried the count, traversing the apartment with rapid
strides; "then I must go myself directly and help the gentleman--"
But he suddenly bethought himself, and slowly stepped back from the door.
"With the help of my stableboys, he must already be again on the road--my
official from Sonnenburg," he said. "You think, then, that I can not take
the great coach of state?"
"Not possibly, gracious sir. It is a morass, such as has not been for ages,
and the townspeople have already brought out their mud carriages again."
"What is that? What are mud carriages?"
"Your excellency, I mean the stilts on which they parade around when the
mud is very bad."
The count laughed. "The end of it is that nothing is left for me to do but
to betake myself to stilts likewise in order to reach the electoral
"It would be the easiest way, indeed," replied the lackey; "only it is not
quite consistent with respect. But the great coach can not go."
"Then let them take my light hunting chaise, and attach four of my best
coursers. In ten minutes I must be in the carriage."
V.--THE ELECTOR AND HIS FAVORITE.
In exactly ten minutes the hunting chaise stood in the inner court of the
count's palace, and, as this was paved with huge granite flagstones, the
count succeeded in reaching his carriage without spattering his white silk
stockings, extending as far as the knee, or soiling his delicate velvet
slippers, with their brilliant buckles and high red heels. Then the
lackeys opened the great trellised gate of gilded iron, and with loud
thundering the carriage rolled from the court out into the street. The
coachman lashed the air with his whip, and the four coursers flew, hardly
touching the ground with their pretty feet. The mud, to be true, splashed
in mighty waves from the wheels and hoofs, giving the benefit of its
floods to many an honest burger's wife who could not on her stilts
immediately escape; often, indeed, was heard the anguished squeak or
piteous howl of some sucking pig or dog over which the hunting equipage
had rolled; but it paused not for these, and in a few moments halted in
safety before the mean little portal of that small, dark mansion, honored
with the title of the Elector's residential palace, which was situated on
the other side of the cathedral square, near the Spree and the pleasure
Before the portal stood a wretched carriage, covered with mud and drawn by
four raw-boned horses, whose trappings and harness were wholly wanting in
polish and neatness.
"The Elector means to ride out, it seems," said the count to himself, with
a contemptuous glance at the poor electoral equipage.
"Drive a little aside!" screamed the count's well-dressed coachman from
his box. "Let his excellency the Stadtholder drive up to the door, for it
is just impossible for the count to alight here in this mud."
But the coachman only shook his head proudly, in token of refusal, and
darted a look full of inexpressible contempt upon the Stadtholder's
"Drive out of the way!" shouted the count's coachman.
"Here I stand, and here I mean to stay until the Elector comes!"
"Let him remain, William, and speak not another word," commanded Count
Schwarzenberg. "Drive my carriage up so close to the electoral carriage
that I can conveniently step in."
The coachman obeyed, and the electoral charioteer, who had begun the
contention with the supercilious driver of the Stadtholder with inward
satisfaction, and hoped for a long protraction of the same, now felt
himself foiled, and saw with inexpressible astonishment the coachman turn
around, with rapid sweep make the circuit of the square, and draw up close
beside the electoral equipage. Before he yet comprehended the object of
this manoeuvre, the count had stretched forth his arm, opened with his own
hand the door of the electoral coach, stepped into it, opened the door on
the other side, and stepped out on the broad leather-covered plank which
extended like a sort of drawbridge from the threshold of the palace garden
to the electoral carriage.
"Bravo, Schwarzenberg, bravo!" called out a laughing voice, and as the
count, standing midway on the plank, looked up, he saw the Elector above
at the open window, nodding to him with friendly gesture, and greeting him
with a cheerful smile.
"That was good for the brazen scoundrel, Fritz Long," called down the
Elector; "how could the rascal dare not to move out of the way for the
"He did right, your Electoral Grace!" called up Schwarzenberg, as he
hastily doffed his gold-edged hat with its waving plumes, and bowed so low
that the tips of the white feathers surmounting the black ones touched the
"Put on your hat, and come up," said the Elector. "It is cold down there."
"Only permit me first, most gracious sir, to do a little act of justice,"
cried Schwarzenberg, turning with a pleasant smile to the electoral
coachman, who stared at him with sullen mien.
"Fritz Long," he said, with amiable condescension--"Fritz Long, you have
acted as became a brave and trusty electoral coachman. You are perfectly
right; you must never drive out of the way, even should the Emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire himself come to visit the Elector. In recognition of
your honesty and truth, accept this present from me."
And the count drew from the side pocket of his richly embroidered vest two
gold pieces, and laid them in the immense hand, gloved in a dirty, yellow
gauntlet, which the Elector's joyfully surprised state coachman reached
out to him. The count again nodded affably to him, and passed through the
palace portal. "I hope," he said to himself, while he slowly ascended the
broad wooden stairs--"I hope that in the next riot my fellows will
properly punish the shameless rascal, and take out the two gold coins I
have given him in little pieces on his broad back."
The Elector advanced as far as the antechamber to meet his beloved
minister, and opened the door himself. "Listen, Schwarzenberg," he said,
with a smile; "you are such a capital man. You know how to help in all
emergencies, and even when they drive you into the deepest mud you know
how to come forth dry-shod and clean."
"Well, I may indeed have learned something of diplomacy and strategy at
the electoral court," answered the minister, at the same time offering
the support of his shoulder to assist the Elector in returning to his
cabinet. "Your grace has summoned me, and I feared lest intelligence of a
disquieting nature had reached your highness, the--"
"Very disquieting intelligence, indeed," sighed the Elector, as he sank
down groaning into his leather armchair. "But I suppose you know it
already. Schlieben is back, and our son comes not with him; he only writes
us a lamentable letter, in which he explains that he can not come home at
this season of the year, and in the present conjunction of the times."
"But that is rebellion!" exclaimed Schwarzenberg warmly; "that is putting
himself in downright opposition to his Sovereign and his father!"
"You look upon it in that light too, then, Schwarzenberg?" asked George
William. "You agree with me that the Electoral Prince has acted like a
disobedient son and disrespectful subject?"
"Oh, my God!" sighed Schwarzenberg; "would that I could not agree with
your highness! Would that an excuse might be found for this conduct of the
Electoral Prince! It is painful to see how boldly the young gentleman
dares to resist the supremacy of his father."
"It is rebellion, is it not?" asked George, his excitement waxing
continually. "We send our own Chamberlain Schlieben to The Hague; we write
our son a letter with our own hand, enjoining him to return home; we,
moreover, inform him verbally through Schlieben of the urgent necessity of
his return, and still our son insists that he will remain at The Hague,
and has the spirit to send Schlieben home without accompanying him."
"That is indeed to put himself in open opposition and rebellion against
his most gracious lord and father. And now your Electoral Highness must
persist in requiring the Electoral Prince to set out and come back."
"He must and shall come back, must he not? The Electress, indeed,
intercedes for him, and would gladly persuade us that we should grant our
son one year's longer sojourn at The Hague, to perfect himself in all
sorts of knowledge."
"Your highness," said Schwarzenberg softly, edging himself closer to the
Elector's ear--"your highness, the Electress knows very well that the
Electoral Prince has something in view at The Hague totally different from
the acquisition of knowledge."
"Well, and what may that be?"
"A marriage, your highness. A marriage with the daughter of the widowed
Electress of the Palatinate--with the fair Ludovicka Hollandine."
"That would indeed he a fine, plausible marriage!" cried the Elector,
starting up. "A Princess of nothing, the daughter of an outlawed Prince,
put under the ban by the Emperor!"
"But this Prince was the Electress's brother. It would be very pleasant to
her grace's tender heart to exalt her prostrate house once more and bring
it into consideration again, and she would therefore gladly see her
brother's daughter some day a reigning Princess. Besides, the future
Electress would then owe her mother-in-law a lifelong debt of gratitude,
and the Dowager Electress might exert great influence and share in the
government of her son."
"Yes, indeed, they all count upon my death," groaned the Elector; "they
all long for the time when I shall be gathered to my fathers. They grudge
me life, although, forsooth, it is no light, enjoyable thing to me, but
has brought me trouble, deprivation, and want enough. But still, they
grudge it to me, and if they could shorten it, would all do so."
"But I, my beloved master and Elector--I stand by you. I have placed it
before myself as my sacred aim in life to guard you as a faithful dog
guards his master, and to turn aside from you all that threatens you with
danger and vexation. The Emperor, too, as your supreme protector, keeps
his benignant eye fixed upon you, his much-loved vassal, and his wrath
would crush all that should endeavor to injure you. There are, indeed,
many here who think that the Elector of Brandenburg ought to make himself
free and independent of that very Emperor, beneficent though he be, and,
because your highness stands in their way, they attach themselves to the
son, and, placing him at their head, wish to constitute him an opponent of
the Emperor and empire. The Electress has probably not yet forgiven and
forgotten that the Emperor put her brother under the ban of the empire,
and banished him from country and friends. And the Prince of Orange, and
the Sovereign States, the Swedes and all the enemies of his Imperial
Highness and your Electoral Grace, would all unite their efforts to render
the Electoral Prince a pliant tool in their hands. Therefore they wish to
detain him yet longer at The Hague, and so to bind him there that he shall
be wholly theirs, linked by an indissoluble chain. On that account they
wish to bring about this marriage with the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine.
I must confide to your highness the information that report has already
bruited it abroad, and that it is spoken of at the imperial court. I have
to-day received dispatches from Vienna which apprise me that the Emperor
is very much opposed to this matrimonial project, and will never give his
consent to it."
"And I, too, shall never give my consent!" screamed the Elector. "I will
not again be brought to feud and strife with Emperor and empire. I will
not range myself on the side of the Emperor's foes, and neither shall my
son. I have always said that the Electoral Prince was staying far too long
in foreign parts, and that he would return an alien. But you would never
agree to it, Adam Schwarzenberg; you always thought that the Electoral
Prince was much better off in his place than here, where the malcontents
and disturbers of the peace would, throng about him, and that he could
only learn what, was good and profitable there, while here he would learn
much that was evil. And now it proves that the air there is much worse for
him still, and that the tempters have more power over him there than here."
"I was blind and short-sighted when I fancied myself wise," replied
Schwarzenberg, in a tone of contrition; "I was presumptuous enough to
suppose I knew better than my Elector and lord, and now acknowledge in
deep abasement how very wrong I was, and how far superior to myself my
noble and beloved Electoral Lord is in penetration and foresight. I crave
your pardon, most gracious sir, crave it in penitence and humiliation."
The proud Count von Schwarzenberg bowed his knee before the Elector, and
with a glance of earnest entreaty pressed his lips to his Sovereign's
hand. George William, flattered and enraptured by this humility on the
part of his almighty favorite, bent forward and imprinted a kiss upon his
"Rise, my Adam, rise," he said tenderly. "It does not become the grand
master of the German orders, the rich and distinguished count of the
empire, to kneel before the little Elector, who is not master of an army,
but so poor that he knows not how he shall live and pay his servants; who
has nothing of his possessions but the name, and nothing of his position
but the burden! Stand up, Adam Schwarzenberg, for I love to see you erect
and stately at my side, and to be able to look up to you as to a staff on
which I may lean, and which is strong enough to bear me."
Count Schwarzenberg arose from his knees, and, resting his elbows upon the
high back of the armchair, inclined his head toward the Elector, who
looked up at him with glances of fond affection.
"My lord's coffers, then, are actually empty?" he asked.
"So empty, Adam Schwarzenberg, that my servants can not obtain their
wages, and if a beggar were to accost me on my way to church, I could give
him nothing, because not a florin is to be found in my own purse--so
empty, that our whole project of the Electoral Prince's return threatens
to be wrecked thereby, for our son has incurred debts which we are not
able to liquidate. Schlieben informs us that the debts of the Electoral
Prince amount probably to seven thousand dollars, and, besides that, he
needs at least two thousand dollars more to defray the expenses of his
journey home, together with his retinue, his carriage, and his horses."
"That is indeed a bad business," said the count thoughtfully, "for it is
almost impossible to raise money in these hard times. Nevertheless a
remedy shall and must be found, provided that my most gracious Sovereign
will condescend to accept aid from his most humble servant and retainer."
"What say you, Adam? You will help me again?" asked the Elector. "Twice
you have rescued me already from want, and supported my poverty with your
wealth. I am your debtor, your insolvent debtor, who pays no interest, to
say nothing of the capital."
"But like a magnanimous, high-spirited gentleman, always give the greater
for the less," cried Schwarzenberg, smiling. "It is true I had the good
fortune to be able to lend your highness a hundred thousand dollars on two
occasions, but your highness gave me in pledge two fair domains in Cleves,
which surely would be worth more than the sum lent if they should be sold."
"But nobody would buy them now because war and pestilence rage there, and
no one knows who is master there. I give them to you, however, these
domains of Huissen and Neustadt: from this very hour they are yours, and I
shall forthwith make out for you a deed of donation."
"Oh, my most revered sir, how kind and generous you are!" said
Schwarzenberg, "and how you shame me with your magnanimity and goodness!
With grateful and submissive heart I accept your gift, and shall this very
day tear to pieces both the bonds, and lay them at your Electoral
"By no means, Adam," said the Elector, almost indignantly, "for then I
should not have presented you with Huissen and Neustadt, but you would
have paid for them!"
"Then, at least, let me add now another sum, most honored sir, and
condescend to accept from me fifty thousand dollars without writing an
acknowledgement of debt."
"Will you lend me fifty thousand dollars?" asked the Elector, joyfully
"I received important remittances of money from my mastership Sonnenburg,
and have also saved something from my estates," said the count. "It is
true for the time being I have nothing left for myself, but it is better
that the servant should suffer privation than his lord. I shall have the
honor of transmitting to your highness this very day the fifty thousand
dollars in specie and reliable bills of exchange."
"And I shall immediately write you a receipt for them with my own hand,"
cried the Elector, hastening with youthful speed to his writing table, and
grasping paper and pen. With alacrity he dashed off a few words on the
paper, moistened a great wafer, laid paper over it, and, pasting it
beneath the writing, pressed his great signet upon it.
"There is the deed," he said; "take it, Schwarzenberg, and send me the
But the count refused the proffered paper, smilingly waving it off with
his hand, while reverentially taking one step backward.
"First the money and then the deed," he said; "all must be in order,
gracious sir, and you shall not acknowledge yourself a debtor ere you have
received your money."
"Oh! how well I feel all at once!" cried the Elector, "and what a free,
glad consciousness I have again in no longer feeling myself a poor debtor,
but once more knowing that I have money in my pockets. Now we will give
orders for our servants to be paid off; then we will pay the Electoral
Prince's debts, and send him money for his traveling expenses, that he may
come home and have no pretext for refusal and delay."
"Your highness ought to send another chamberlain to persuade the Electoral
Prince in a friendly manner to return," said the count. "There is, for
example, Herr von Marwitz, a peculiarly polished and clever gentleman, and
in good standing with the Electress and all favorers of the Swedes, but
withal a faithful servant of his honored lord."
"Yes, Marwitz shall set off for The Hague, and to-day, too," replied the
Elector, with animation. "Marwitz shall bring back my son to me, and I
shall exhort and command him under penalty of my wrath to take no excuses
whatever, and to enter into no further explanations. He shall pay his
debts, take my son money for his journey, and say to the Electoral Prince
that my accumulated wrath as father and Elector will fall upon and crush
him if he does not now obey me. I will have an obedient and submissive
son, with whom my will is law, else it were better that I had no son! This
very day Marwitz shall set out."
"I beg the favor of your Electoral Highness to defer the departure of the
Chamberlain von Marwitz until to-morrow," pleaded the count. "Your grace
will without doubt desire to write a few words to your son; the Electress,
too, will doubtless avail herself of the opportunity to communicate with
her son and dear relatives; and I also have a few dispatches to prepare
for our envoys there. Most humbly, therefore, I beseech you that Marwitz
may not commence his journey to The Hague until to-morrow or the day
"To-morrow then be it, Adam, to-morrow he must start."
"Then your highness and the Electress must prepare your letters to-day,
and--candidly speaking, I had a great request to make of your Electoral
Grace. I have arranged a little hunting party for to-day, and would esteem
it an especial favor if your highness would do me the honor to take part
"I shall do so gladly, most gladly!" cried George William, delighted. "I
could desire no more pleasant diversion for the present day than a little
hunting party, and you know that well, Adam, and understand splendidly how
to guess at my wishes. Yes, we shall hunt--but I have no dogs. Mine were
all left behind in Prussian, and the head huntsman informs me that the
pack of dogs in this place is in very bad condition. I want a hunter and a
strong fellow, such a capital boarhound as I have long wished for but have
never been able to find."
"I hope that I have found such an one for your highness," said the count,
smiling. "I have had inquiries instituted everywhere, and learned that
there was a capital animal at Stargard, in Pomerania. I immediately
dispatched a special messenger to Herr von Schwiebus, to whom the animal
belongs, and in your highness's name asked the purchase price of the
boarhound, and requested that they would send the creature along for your
"And he is here, the boarhound?" asked the Elector, with sparkling eyes.
"Adam, you do indeed understand how to rejoice my heart and guess my
wishes. Where is the boarhound? Let me see him."
"Most gracious sir, Herr von Schwiebus seems perfectly wrapped up in this
animal, and at first would not hear at all of parting with him; indeed, he
was quite angry with Count Henkel for having told me of his precious
possession. Only when he heard that it was your Electoral Grace who wished
to make the purchase, he softened down a little, and sent a picture which
he has had taken of his favorite, in order that your highness might form
an idea of the animal and decide whether it would really please you."
"Have you the picture with you, Adam?" asked the Elector eagerly.
The count hurried to the door and took from the little table standing
there a roll of paper, which he had laid there on his entrance. He
unfolded it, spread it out on a table, and on each corner of the paper
placed a weight.
"I entreat your highness just to observe the portrait of the beautiful
animal," he begged.
The Elector hastily approached, and an expression of joyful surprise
escaped from his lips at the sight of this picture, which, executed with
tolerable artistic skill in water colors, represented a large and finely
shaped hound, with massive head, clipped ears, and long tail.
"Adam, that is a wonderful animal!" cried the Elector, after a pause of
mute rapture. "That boarhound I must have, let it cost what it will. Tell
me the price, Adam, the price for this divine creature."
"Most gracious Elector, Herr von Schwiebus seems to be a queer fellow. He
said the dog would not seem dear to him in exchange for all the money in
the world. If, however, your highness insisted upon buying him, he would
give him up on condition that in payment for the dog he might cut down in
the electoral forests three thousand trees of his own selection."
"He shall have his price, yes, he shall have it!" cried the Elector, his
eyes fixed immovably upon the portrait. "Send forthwith a courier from me
to Herr von Schwiebus, and have him notified that I buy the boarhound for
three thousand trees, which he may select and fell from my Letzling
forest. He shall, conformably with his terms, immediately send me the
boarhound. Make haste, Adam, and attend to this matter for me; I long so
to have the beautiful creature here. And as regards the Electoral Prince,
we will put off Marwitz's departure until the day after to-morrow, for we
shall not have time for letter writing to-day on account of the hunting
party, and that will occasion the delay of one more day."
"Not until the day after to-morrow will Marwitz set out on his journey,"
said Count Schwarzenberg contentedly to himself, when he had left the
Elector, and was once more alone in his own cabinet. "Not until the day
after to-morrow! So Gabriel Nietzel will have three days the start of him,
and, moreover, he can travel more rapidly. The only thing to be considered
now is, what shall be the nature of his errand there? We shall at once
deliberate as to what will be best!"
Long did he pace the floor of his cabinet with bowed head and arms crossed
upon his chest; then all of a sudden he whistled for his valet, and
ordered him to look for Master Gabriel Nietzel, and to bring him in at
"Your grace," replied the valet, "Master Nietzel has just come into the
antechamber, and requests an audience of you."
"Admit him. But first I have a few tasks to give you. Listen!" he beckoned
the valet to come nearer, and softly and hurriedly communicated his
instructions. "And now," he concluded, "now let the master enter, and then
make haste to do what I have told you."
"Well," cried the count, when a few minutes later Gabriel Nietzel entered
the cabinet--"well, now tell me, master, what brings you here so early. My
appointment with you was not until this evening."
"Forgive me, your excellency, but in the joy of my heart I thought you
might perhaps bestow a moment upon me. I only wished to let your
excellency know that it has turned out exactly as I hoped. I communicated
to the Electress my purpose of making an artist's tour into Holland. Her
highness seemed highly delighted at the idea, and gave me an open note to
the Electoral Prince, introducing me to her son as a skillful portrait
"Just show me this note."
The painter handed him a small, neatly folded paper, which the count tore
open and perused with a rapid glance.
"Nothing more, in fact, than a very warm recommendation," he said. "And
this is all?"
"No, your excellency, the best part is yet to come. The Electress has
appointed me her court painter. I receive the same salary as the recently
deceased court painter, Mathias Ezizeken, namely, a yearly income of fifty
dollars, board and rent free, with two suits of new clothes annually." 
"Now, indeed, you may well be content," laughed the count; "that is truly
a magnificent appointment, and henceforth you become a prominent man at
court here! But tell me, master, do you still accept in addition the
little stipend I have allotted you?"
"Your excellency, I esteem myself happy indeed that your grace has granted
it to me."
"And my treasurer has paid out to you the three thousand ducats?"
"Yes, your excellency, he has paid them out to me, and I am now released
from all cares."
"You have only one care left, master," said Count Schwarzenberg--"this one
care, that I may some day denounce you as a shameful deceiver, who has
sold me a bad copy of his own manufacture for an original, and be assured
that this deception may bring you to the gallows at any time if I choose
"But, most gracious sir," stammered the painter, pale as death, "I thought
you had forgiven me, and--"
"Forgiven, so long as you are a faithful and obedient servant," replied
the count, in a severe tone--"forgiven, so long as I can count upon your
submission; but forget, that I shall never do. And at the slightest
mistake, the least resistance to my commands, I shall remember what a
cheat and good-for-nothing you are, and take back my forgiveness. You have
the three thousand ducats, but you have not yet given a receipt for them.
Sit you down there at my table and write the receipt. I will dictate it to
Like an obedient slave Gabriel Nietzel slunk to the table, sank down
before it, took the pen which the count handed him, and placed it on the
paper put before him.
"Write," ordered the count, and with loud voice he dictated: "I, Gabriel
Nietzel, painter by profession, hereby affirm that I have this day
received from his excellency the Stadtholder in the Mark, Count
Schwarzenberg, the sum of three thousand ducats in ready money. This money
is the price paid for a painting by Titiano Vecellio, representing the
goddess of beauty with a Cupid, who presents Venus her looking-glass. I
bought this picture at Cremona for two thousand ducats, and I vow and
swear upon my conscience and by all that I hold sacred that this painting,
which I have sold to the count for an original painting, is actually an
original painting by Titiano Vecellio's own hand."
"Now, master, why do you hesitate? Why do you not write?"
"Oh, sir, have some pity upon me!" groaned the painter. "I can not write
that. I can not swear that it is an original by all I hold sacred."
"Why, what does it signify?" laughed the count; "paper is lenient. The
advantage to me is only that I can by means of this receipt prove to
connoisseurs and picture lovers that I have bought an original painting
from you. For the rest, if you will not write, why then, very good. I
shall have you arrested on the spot, inform the Electress of what a
deceiver you are, have the three thousand ducats forthwith taken away
again, and keep you in prison until the suit is made out against you; then
you shall be hung conformably with law and usage."
"Mercy, your excellency, mercy!" gasped Nietzel. "I am writing even now!"
And with trembling hands he completed the receipt, and, on the count's
further command, subscribed his name.
Schwarzenberg read it over attentively. "This is a document, my dear
painter," he said, smiling, "that may some day bring you to the gallows,
for, only see, I have other confirmatory evidence."
From a casket on his table he drew forth a roll of parchment, to which
were attached two great seals, hanging by silken strings, and while he
unrolled it he beckoned the painter to come near. "See," he said, "this is
a testimonial which I have had made out for me at Venice by the Duke di
Grimani, affirming that Titian's Venus is his property, and that you spent
three months in his palace painting a copy of the original. You see well,
dear court-painter Nietzel, that you are completely in my hands, and that
I can have you strung up at any time, for the Stadtholder makes short work
of cheats and perjurers, and sends them off to the gallows, where they
belong! Now say, master, will you to the gallows or will you live in honor
and joy as the Electress's court painter and my secret pensioner, my open
foe? I give you free choice. Make your own unbiased decision."
"I have no longer any choice," groaned Gabriel Nietzel. "Your excellency
well knows that I have no choice. I love life; I have not courage to die,
therefore I am your slave."
"Not at all; you are court painter to her highness the Electress, and
shall retain your office if you behave yourself wisely and discreetly.
This very day you set out on your journey to Holland."
A flash of joy gleamed in the painter's eyes, and his brow cleared. The
count remarked it and laughed aloud.
"Oh, my dear! I guess your thoughts," he cried. "You think that when you
are in Holland I can no longer reach you, and you will take good care not
to put yourself in my power again. But know that my arm is far-reaching,
and that I have spies and agents everywhere, who are very devoted to me
because I pay them well. They will find you out wherever you are, and no
jurisdiction would refuse delivering up to me a criminal if I demanded
him. But besides that, Master Gabriel Nietzel, I hold here a sure pledge
for your valuable person."
"What sort of pledge does your excellency mean?" inquired Nietzel
"Why, I mean the fair Rebecca, whom you brought with you from the Ghetto
of Venice, and whom it pleases you here to give out to be your wife,
married at Venice. I hope, however, that you have not committed so heinous
a sin as to take a Jewess to wife, for then you should not escape with the
gallows, but should be burned at the stake with your cursed Jewess, your
Master Nietzel answered not a word. With a loud groan he sank upon a
chair, and covered his face with both his hands, weeping aloud.
"Your fair Rebecca stays behind here with your boy," continued Count
Schwarzenberg; "and that she may be in perfect safety and never lack for
my protection, I shall have her brought to Spandow, my usual place of
residence. There she shall live, well watched and cared for, and there
remain until your return. If, however, you have then proved yourself to be
a good and obedient servant, I will myself restore to you your Rebecca,
and nobody shall dare to molest you."
"Tell me what I have to do, your excellency," said the painter, with cold,
desperate decision. "I am ready and willing for everything, for I love my
Rebecca and my son, and I will deserve them."
"And it will not be made hard for you, master. You go, then, to Holland,
introduce yourself to the Electoral Prince through the Electress's letter
of recommendation, and try to make yourself as agreeable and charming to
him as possible. When you have succeeded in that, lament to him that life
in Holland does not suit you at all, that you are homesick, and entreat
most earnestly that the Electoral Prince include you in his traveling
suite. This he will naturally do, and you will accompany him on his
journey home. Have you understood me, and paid good heed to all my words,
"Yes, your excellency, I have noted each word."
"And you have found without doubt that it is by no means a difficult thing
that I require of you. But the journey back, Master Nietzel, the journey
back is a very dangerous and bad affair. You know, so many freebooters
rove about everywhere, and Westphalia especially is swarming with Swedes
and Hessians. If such a troop of soldiers knew beforehand that the
Electoral Prince was coming that way, they would certainly lie in wait for
him and fall upon him, either for purposes of plunder or in order to carry
him off and extort a high ransom for him. The Electoral Prince will not
passively submit to capture, but will resist; a battle will ensue, and
then it might easily happen that in the heat of conflict a dagger should
pierce the Prince or a ball go through his head. Those Swedes and Hessians
are wild, fierce soldiers, and the Prince is in perpetual danger,
especially in Westphalia. You must represent this to the Electoral Prince,
and, to prove to him your zeal and love, you will entreat permission
always to go a few hours in advance of him to make sure that the way is
free and the Electoral Prince is threatened by no danger. He will
therefore each morning acquaint you with the course of his route, and
where to arrange night quarters for him, and the point where you shall
rejoin him again. You are to precede the Electoral Prince as courier, and
if, some day, he should be attacked at a wild spot on the road by a troop
of Swedish or Hessian soldiery, robbed, taken prisoner, or even killed,
that is no fault of yours, and no one could blame you on that account, for
you have proved and evidenced your zeal in the most striking manner. You
have comprehended me, Master Nietzel? Have you paid good heed to my words?"
"Yes, your excellency, I have paid good heed, and understood everything
well," returned Master Gabriel, on whose brow the sweat stood in great
"Well, I have only this to add: Should the unfortunate accident really
happen that the Electoral Prince is attacked by robbers and killed in
Westphalia or somewhere else, then look to it, that you be found that day
among his defenders, and bear off as token some wound received--for
instance, a sabre thrust on the right arm. With this true sign of your
valor and your faithfulness come here to Berlin, and be assured that no
one shall dare to suspect you when he witnesses your grief and especially
your sabre thrust. It need be no deep wound, and surely the fair Rebecca
has a healing balm which she can apply to you. Besides, the Electress will
protect you, and be certain that I will stand by you with all my might and
influence. And now, master, we have concluded all our business, and you
will set out in an hour. I permit you, however, first to take leave of
your fair Rebecca and the pretty child. Only, you must not be alone again
with the beautiful woman, and therefore I have given orders that your wife
and son be brought here. You will be pleased to stay so long at my
chamberlain's house; luncheon shall be served there for yourself and your
family, and you can take it in the presence of my chamberlain. I have
already imparted to you the needed commands, and taken care to have your
wife and child fetched directly here. A vehicle is also prepared, ready to
convey your wife to Spandow; I have a good, trustworthy housekeeper in my
house there, and with her the two can dwell, and shall want for nothing,
except it be yourself."
"Most gracious sir," said Gabriel Nietzel, with an expression of deep
anguish, "I love my wife and child above everything, and am prepared to
suffer and endure everything for them. But if I returned home and found my
wife sick, or dead, or, what were yet worse, found her--
"Well, why do you hesitate, master? Faithless, found her faithless, would
you say--well, what then?"
"Well, then life would have no value at all to me," said Gabriel Nietzel
firmly and decidedly. "Then would it be quite indifferent to me whether I
were hanged or burned; then would I desire nothing but to die, and--before
my death to avenge myself."
"Ah! I understand you quite well, master, and know you well. You please me
uncommonly with your energetic defiance and your hidden threat. In return
I, too, will give you an open, candid answer. Master Gabriel Nietzel, I am
no enamored fool, who runs after every apronstring, or generally takes any
special pleasure in women. I have neither time nor inclination for that,
and leave such things to the young, the idle, and men who have no ambition
and no head, but only a heart. I, Master Gabriel, have no heart at all, or
at least none now any longer, and I herewith give you my word of honor as
a nobleman and gentleman that your lovely Rebecca has nothing to dread
from me. On the contrary, I shall have her watched and guarded, as if she
were a ward intrusted to me, for whose honor I held myself responsible."
"I thank your excellency--I thank you with my whole heart," said Gabriel
Nietzel, breathing more freely; "and now you shall find me ready and
willing to execute your commands faithfully and punctiliously."
"It rejoices me, master, it rejoices me to see what a tender husband, or
rather lover, you are. I repeat to you, you need feel no anxiety about
your Rebecca. She will find herself quite secure in my society, while I
fear that the Electoral Prince will have but little safety in your
society, but be very often in danger."
"I fear so, too, your excellency," said Gabriel Nietzel, with a feeble
effort to smile.
"But a good old proverb has it, 'All they that take the sword shall perish
by the sword,'" continued the count. "It is not your fault, master, if the
Electoral Prince does not know this proverb. Now farewell, master, and be
of good courage, for another good proverb says, 'Fortune smiles on the
brave.' Go now, master, my chamberlain awaits you in the antechamber."
"I am going, your excellency," said Gabriel Nietzel humbly. "May almighty
God be with us all, and guard my wife and child!"
He bowed low and reverentially, then strode hastily toward the door.
"Gabriel Nietzel, one word more!" called out the count, as the painter
stood with his hand already upon the door knob. He turned and slowly came
back. "Master Gabriel Nietzel," continued the count, with a mocking laugh,
"be so good as to give me the Electress's letter."
The painter drew forth his leather pocketbook, took out the open letter of
recommendation, and handed it to the count.
But the latter smilingly rejected it. "You may keep that, master; I have
already read that. The other, the second missive from the Electress, you
must give me."
Gabriel Nietzel shrank back, and gazed into the count's large, glittering
"The other writing," he murmured, "the second writing?"
"Why, yes, master, that secret writing, which you have naturally promised
to shield with the last drop of your blood, and to hand inviolate into the
hands of the Electoral Prince. My God! we know how often such oaths are
made, and that hardly one has ever been kept. You have not been made court
painter for nothing, with your salary of fifty dollars, free rent, and two
suits of clothes. You must give something in return. Give me that second
writing of the Electress, the one which you have sworn to hand only to the
Electoral Prince; or rather, no, you shall not forswear yourself. Just
tell me where you have stuck it, and I shall take it for myself."
"Your excellency, it sticks in my left breast pocket," whispered Gabriel
Nietzel. The count laughed aloud, and with one movement drew forth from
Master Gabriel's left breast pocket a small packet, wound round with
silken strings. With cautious hand, extremely solicitous not to break the
string, he untied it, and took out the paper found beneath. Within this,
indeed, lay a small, well-sealed letter.
"'To my dear son, the Electoral Prince Frederick William,'" read the
count, with loud voice. "You see, I was not mistaken. It is the
Electress's handwriting, and it is directed to the Electoral Prince."
"And I have solemnly sworn to give it into no other hands than his,"
murmured the painter.
"You shall keep your oath, Master Gabriel. Now go into the antechamber. My
chamberlain awaits you there, and perhaps your fair Rebecca is also there
"But my letter, your excellency--shall I not have my letter again?"
"Certainly, master, you shall have it again. In a half hour I shall come
out myself and give it to you. Oh, fear nothing. The Prince will not
suspect that any strange hand has touched it. Indeed, it concerns me very
nearly that the Electoral Prince should put confidence in you, and be
convinced of your honesty and good faith. Go now, master, I shall bring
the secret epistle back to you unscathed, and put it again into your left
When Master Gabriel Nietzel had crept out slowly and sorrowfully, the
count hastened to his writing table, took up flint, tinder, and steel, and
made the sparks fly until one fired the tinder and made it glow. Now he
held a splinter of wood to the glowing tinder, and by its flame lighted
the wax taper in the golden candlestick. Then he quickly fetched, from a
secret drawer of his writing table, a small knife with a fine thin blade,
heated this at the light, and carefully and adroitly slipped it under the
great electoral seal, which he carefully detached from the letter. He laid
it carefully upon a small marble slab, and opened the letter. It was a
very long, confidential communication from the Electress to her beloved
son. With closest attention the count read it twice, and then with great
pains folded it up again.
"It is just as I thought," he said softly to himself: "the Electress
wishes the longer absence of her son. She intimates to him that she will
not be displeased if he marries there, and even promises that she will
soften his father's wrath. She counsels him not to come here, and warns
him against the evil spirit who has ensnared his father's heart, and
surely aims at the life of her dear and noble son. Well, it must be
confessed, the Electress is on the right trail. Her mother's instinct
gives her insight into the future, and makes her a prophetess. I know it
very well, Electress: we two have never loved one another, and have
carried on a bitter warfare against each other for twenty years, in
which, however, God be thanked, Schwarzenberg has always come off
victorious. I hope, too, it will continue to be so, and this letter will
furnish me with a good weapon. I shall take a copy of it. Who knows what
use I may make of it one of these days, and out of this paper fashion a
dagger which may turn against the writer and against the receiver, if it
reaches the hands of the Electoral Prince. Yes, I shall take a copy, and
then restore the original to its envelope and affix the seal. And Master
Gabriel shall take it to you, my dear Prince. Oh, take heed, and be upon
your guard, Frederick William, for your respected mother is right. I am
your evil spirit, and I can only stand if you fall; therefore, fall you
must! Oh, I have learned much to-day, and received many a good lesson. 'It
is better,' so said the Elector to me--'it is better that I have no son
than a disobedient son, who resists my will.' But he shall resist you,
Elector George William--he will be disobedient to you, and I shall do my
part toward making him so. Then how said Count Lesle: 'If the son becomes
the father's enemy, then it must be contrived to render the father the
son's enemy; thus will the equilibrium be preserved.' Oh, my dear Count
Lesle, I know very well the history of Philip of Spain and his disobedient
and rebellious son Don Carlos. Take care, take care, Electoral Prince
Frederick William, that you share not the fate of Don Carlos, and that
your father punish you not as King Philip did his son!"
I.--THE DOUBLE RENDEZVOUS.
The Princess Ludovicka Hollandine walked restlessly to and fro in her
apartment. Sometimes she stopped at the window and listened intently;
then, finding all without still dark and silent, she stepped back and
continued her restless walk, at times listening again at door or window.
While passing the great Venetian mirror on the wall, on both sides of
which were placed two silver candlesticks with immense burning wax tapers,
she caught sight of her image as brightly and distinctly as if it had been
a portrait, and she drew nearer, like a connoisseur bent on examining a
picture. She saw before her within the carved gilt framework a beautiful
maiden's form, in sky-blue satin robe that fell in wide, heavy folds
around her full and blooming figure. The low-necked bodice left wholly
uncovered her dazzling white shoulders, and beneath the transparent gauze
of her sleeves shone the fair white arms as from out a silver cloud. Her
head rested proudly and gracefully upon the slender alabaster neck, and
was crowned by a profusion of black hair, caught up behind in great loops,
and fastened with bows of blue satin ribbon. On the broad and lofty brow
it was massed in the form of a diadem, with numberless pretty little
ringlets. Her cheeks were pale, but of that clear, transparent paleness
which has nothing in common with sickness and suffering, but is only
peculiar to vehement, passionate natures, with whom the cheeks are
colorless, because all the blood concentrates in the heart. Her large dark
eyes had at the same time a languid, melting expression and the fire and
glow of passion; the finely cut, slightly curved nose, the firm, somewhat
projecting chin, indicated energy and decision; and around the full, rosy
lips hovered a singular expression of good nature and frivolity.
She contemplated herself for a long time, then a well-pleased smile passed
over her fascinating countenance. "I am beautiful," she said, "yes, I am
beautiful, and I believe those are right who suppose that I resemble my
great-grand-mother, the beautiful Mary Stuart. O Mary! you beautiful,
bewitching Queen--oh teach me the arts which won for you the hearts of all
men; inspire me with the glow of passion, let it flash forth from me in
bright flames, and grant that these flames may kindle and fire the one I
love, whom I will possess, and on whom all my hopes and desires are fixed!
But hush! did I not hear steps?"
She again hurried to the window and listened, holding her breath. A
shrill, thrice-repeated whistle was heard, sounding strangely awful in the
stillness of the night.
"It is he," murmured the Princess, "it is the concerted signal."
She took from a table standing near a package consisting of cords and
knots, and unrolled it. It was a rope ladder, twisted artfully and durably
of fine cords, and held together at the top by a strong iron ring. This
ring the Princess now slipped over the iron hook which was fixed in the
middle of the cross work of the window, and lowered the rope ladder, while
at the same time, as if in answer, she repeated the whistle in the same
manner. Then she bounded back from the window, flew through the room to
both doors, assured herself that the bolts were secured, and with hasty
hands dropped the curtains over them.
"No one can hear us, no one can see us, no one can get in here," she
murmured; "he may come."
A slight rustling was heard below the window, then a dark mass appeared in
the open space, and a closely muffled manly form jumped from the
windowsill down into the apartment. Wholly enveloped in the folds of an
ample black cloak, whose hood was thrown over the head and drawn far over
the face, it was impossible to recognize the visitor's features.
The person thus disguised curiously and inquisitively turned his head to
both sides of the room, strode rapidly across it, lifted the curtains from
both doors, examined the fastenings of the bolts, went to the divan,
peered under it, and, after completing this silent inspection of the
chamber, returned to the window, loosened the cord from the hook, drew in
the rope-ladder, and closed the window.
Princess Ludovicka Hollandine, standing in the middle of the apartment,
had watched this singular demeanour on the part of the mysterious intruder
with growing astonishment. She had first held out her arms to greet the
expected, the longed-for, to press him to her beating heart, but, finding
that he came not to embrace her, she had slowly dropped her arms again.
She had looked toward him with a tender glance, a fascinating smile, but
when he hastened not to her, her glance had grown dark and her smile had
vanished; and now, when he did approach her, she assumed an air of
distant, proud reserve. He seemed not to see it, and, bending his knee
before her, his head being still concealed, he pressed the hem of her
garment reverentially to his lips.
"Most beautiful, most condescending of all princesses," he whispered
softly, "I sue for pardon, for forgiveness."
The Princess shrank back, and a glowing flush overspread her cheeks. "My
God!" she murmured, "that is not the voice--"
"Not the voice of the one whom your highness desires to see," said the
kneeling figure, concluding her sentence for her. "Yes, most amiable
Princess, your tender, sensitive heart is not deceived. I am not the
Electoral Prince of Brandenburg. I am--"
"Count d'Entragues, the French ambassador," cried the Princess, as the
disguised man now threw back the hood of his mantle, and lifted up to her
his youthfully handsome, smiling face.
"Scream not, most gracious lady," said he, hastily, "and do not scold me,
either; but be merciful and forgive me. I lie here at your feet and
entreat for pardon, and will not rise until you have granted it."
The Princess still kept her astonished and inquiring glance fixed upon
him, but the sight of this handsome young man, disarmed her wrath.
"Stand up, Count d'Entragues," she said--"stand up and account to me for
this daring crime."
"Your highness is right," returned he, "it is a daring crime, and only the
extremest necessity could have driven me to this. I shall immediately
therefore have the honor of explaining all this to the lovely, bewitching
Princess Ludovicka Hollandine."
With youthful agility he arose from his knees, took off his cloak, which
he carelessly threw into a corner of the apartment, and presented himself
to the Princess in a gold-embroidered velvet suit, richly trimmed with
lace and ribbons. Ludovicka fixed her large eyes upon the proud and
dazzling apparition of the young count, and the angry flashing of her eyes
"Sir Count," she said, imperiously, "without evasion and without
circumlocution explain to me directly the meaning of this!"
"You permit me to do so, then, fairest Princess? You thereby empower me to
remain a half hour in your charming presence?"
And while the count thus questioned, he took the hand of the Princess and
covered it with kisses. Then, with graceful gallantry and solemn
seriousness, as if they had been in the midst of a grand courtly
assemblage, he conducted her to the divan. There she seated herself, and
he bowed before her with all the formality and obsequiousness of a
courtier as he took his place beside her.
"Now your highness desires to know above all things how I can have dared
to intrude here at so unusual an hour, and without the shadow of
permission," he said with his mellifluous, insinuating voice. "Most
gracious Princess, I confess that you are well justified in this
curiosity, and I hasten to gratify it. Your grace expected a visitor
indeed, but not the tiresome, unbidden Count d'Entragues--not the
ambassador and servant of King Louis XIII or Cardinal Richelieu, but you
expected an eloquent, handsome young Prince, who loves the Princess
Ludovicka Hollandine with passionate enthusiasm, and to whom after long
and vain entreaties she has at last granted a rendezvous."
"My God!" said the Princess, with an expression of horror, "how know you
"My most gracious Princess, I have a magician in my service, who acquaints
me with everything that happens here at court and, above all things, in
the palace of the Queen of Bohemia, and first of all in the apartments of
the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine."
"And the name of this magician is?"
"Ducato, sweetest Princess, Ducato. Ah! if you knew what dear, precious
secrets this magician has imparted to me, how loquaciously he blabs out to
me everything that the fairest Princess in the world thinks and does by
day and by night! I know, for example, how the lovely Princess stays with
her mother with ever so much seriousness, goes with her to church, visits
respectfully the Stadtholder of Holland, and fondles and pets the little
Princess Louise; how she carries on her studies, plays the lute, paints
and sings. But, God be thanked! life consists not entirely of days, but
happily has its nights likewise."
"What do you mean by that, Sir Count d'Entragues?"
"I mean," replied the Count, while he smilingly bent over closer to the
Princess--"I mean that here at The Hague there is a wonderful, charming
combination of young gentlemen and noble young ladies, who have laid
themselves out expressly to embellish these nights, and to indemnify
themselves for their somber, gloomy days by joyous, merry nights. It is a
secret order, into which it is a distinguished honor to be received, and
which is shrouded in deepest secrecy. Never would a lady own that she
belongs to it, and yet they say that the fairest, most exalted, most
virtuous ladies press to be received into this order. It is not known of
any of the ladies of the court that they belong to it, but it is suspected
of each. No one can say that he has seen this or that one among the noble
and virtuous ladies there, for at all the reunions of the members of the
order the ladies wear small half-masks, and it is the first and most
sacred law of the order that no man dares to lay so much as a finger upon
this mask--this precious secret of the ladies. Moreover, they appear only
in Grecian robes, so that it is difficult to recognize the beautiful forms
of the ladies again in their elaborate court dresses and with their stiff
Fontanges. The name of this secret society is Media Nocte, and it is
especially an honor to belong to it, for nobody is admitted who has not
stood his probation--that is to say, shown that he has acquired
considerable proficiency in some art, and excels in it. He, therefore, who
can not sing or play on the lute, paint or improvise, speak eloquently, or
by some gift contribute to the enjoyment of the company, can never arrive
at the distinction of becoming a member of this order. When, therefore, it
is whispered of a gentleman that he belongs to the order, he is supposed
to be not merely an accomplished gentleman, but an entertaining companion,
a favorite of the Muses. If this secret is whispered of a lady, then we
look upon her with admiration, rapture, joy for we know that we have
before us one of those choice, enchanting, and rare beings, who are
exalted above all prejudice; who believe not, with zealots and ascetics,
that we live only to die, but who joyfully acknowledge that we live to
live, and, therefore, that the noblest, worthiest task proposed is to
render this life as pleasant as possible."
"Why do you tell me all this, dear count?" asked the Princess impatiently.
"It is true," replied he, smiling; "why should I tell you what you know
already? I tell it to your highness in order to prove to you that I,
thanks to my little magician Ducato, know the secret of the Media Nocte; I
tell it to you in order now to whisper a secret in your ear: the Princess
Ludovicka Hollandine belongs to the society, she is a member of the order
of the Media Nocte."
The Princess only with difficulty suppressed a shriek, and stared with
horror at the smiling countenance of the young count.
"Hush, gracious lady, hush!" whispered the latter while he took her hand
and imprinted a reverential kiss upon the tips of her rosy fingers. "Why
should you wish to deny what is so genial and so delightful? My magician
Ducato always tells me the truth; why should we dispute it? But it was not
that which your highness wished to learn of me. You would ask me, how I
know that the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg loves the beautiful Princess
Ludovicka Hollandine, and was to have his first rendezvous with her
to-day. Once more, it is the magician Ducato who has told me that; yes,
that good, obliging magician has done yet more for me. He put into my
hands the pretty little note which the Princess Ludovicka sent yesterday
through her confidential maid-servant to the confidential valet of the
Electoral Prince, before the Prince had read it himself."
"That is shameful--that is unheard of!" said the Princess, with glowing
cheeks and tears in her eyes. "It is an abominable piece of deceit on the
part of my maid, and she shall pay for it. To-morrow morning I shall
dismiss her, and--"
"That she may tell all the world the little secrets of her exalted
mistress?" asked Count d'Entragues. "Oh, no, your highness; the maid is
perfectly innocent of deceit, and it was only the magician Ducato who
played the Princess's pretty little note into my hands. And will my
sweetest lady know now what I did with the little note? I read it first,
then--saw there that a rendezvous was granted the Prince at one o'clock. I
took a very small sharp knife and--"
"And? My God, go on! What did you with the knife?"
"I very delicately erased and altered the number from a one into a two.
Then I refolded the note, and handed it to my magician for further
preferment to the Prince."
"The Electoral Prince has received my note, then?" asked the Princess. "He
"Come at two o'clock, instead of one o'clock," replied the count, and he
intercepted the look which Ludovicka cast upon the large French clock upon
the mantelpiece. "Yes, we have just a half hour before the Prince makes
his appearance, and I hope that will suffice to obtain your highness's
pardon for my boldness, and to establish a good understanding between
myself and the most spirituelle, most genial, and most beautiful Princess
of all the European courts. Will your highness be kind enough to grant me
The Princess smiled imperceptibly. "The question comes somewhat late," she
said. "If you had asked it while you stood there on the windowsill, before
you came into my room, then I should have replied: 'No, be off! No, you
are a shameless person, who has dared to spy out my secrets, to bribe my
servants, and to deceive me, while he approaches me in a way that he knew
perfectly was not open to him.' But you are here now; alas! I have not the
power to expel you, and to punish you before all the world as you deserve."
"O Princess! as if your harsh and cruel words were not a punishment, which
touches my heart more sensibly than the cut of a sword or thrust of a
The Princess seemed not to have heard these words of the count, spoken
with artistic effect, and continued: "You are here now, and I will at
least know what inspired you to run this unheard-of risk of forcing
yourself upon my notice. I am therefore ready to listen to you, on
condition that you try to be short and not burden me too long with your
"Permit me to thank you, most condescending Princess," cried the count,
while he sank from the ottoman down upon his knees, and pressed his
glowing lips upon the hem of the Princess's robe. "I thank you, and swear
that I will not overstep the limit prescribed, and depart at two with the
first stroke of the clock."
"Rise, count, rise and speak," said Ludovicka, in commanding tones, and
with the full dignity of a Princess.
Count d'Entragues again resumed his seat upon the divan. "Your highness
commands now that I explain how I could have dared to come here?"
"I confess that I am very anxious to hear this explanation."
"Well, then, your highness is young, very young indeed, hardly eighteen
years old, but you possess, in addition to a soft and tender heart, an
almost masculine intellect. I apprehend from this that you interest
yourself in politics."
"There you are entirely mistaken, count. I hate, I abhor politics, and
when my mother proposes to talk politics with me I always run away."
"That is bad, very bad, your highness; for I am forced to talk politics to
you. But I shall not be tedious, but limit myself to what is absolutely
necessary. I shall therefore begin, in order to give your highness a proof
of my reverential, unlimited confidence, by telling you what no one here
knows--by telling you why I have been sent here and what my errand is.
Princess, I have been ostensibly sent here to the Stadtholder of Orange
and as ambassador from the King of France to the Sovereign States. In
reality, I have been sent to two entirely different persons--to the
Electoral Prince of Brandenburg and to the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine."
"To me?" asked the Princess, and her beautiful face expressed the most
"Yes, to yourself, most gracious Princess. And does your highness know
why? Because our spies here, as well as the gentlemen of the French
embassy to Holland, had reported that the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg
was smitten with the most glowing love for your highness."
The Princess blushed with pleasure, and a wondrous smile lit up her
radiant countenance. "But," asked she, "how does it concern the court of
France whom the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg loves?"
"It concerns the court of France very nearly, your highness. I can not
avoid now burdening your highness a little with hated politics, while I
explain to you how it comes that the love of the Electoral Prince of
Brandenburg is a state affair for the European courts. It comes from this,
your highness, because the Electoral Prince, however small and
insignificant his house, however inconsiderable, too, his future realm of
Brandenburg, is still a very important personage. Three crowns are
hovering in the air above his head, and if he obtains all three he will be
a mighty Prince, and his sword may turn the scale in the balance of peace
"What three crowns are those which hover thus above the Prince's head?"
"There is first the crown of the dukedom of Prussia, with which the King
of Poland has to invest the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg, and which the
Elector of Saxony would be too glad to see fall upon his own head. Then,
in the second place, there is the crown of the duchy of Pomerania, which
belongs to the house of Brandenburg by right of inheritance, and which the
Swedes are struggling for; and finally, in the third place, there is the
crown of the duchy of Cleves, Juliers, and Berg, which the Emperor of
Germany has indeed adjudged to that house, but which is so torn by
Hessians and Spaniards, by the States, by the Swedes and various robbers,
that probably hardly anything at all of it will be left. But nevertheless,
there it is, and if the future Elector of Brandenburg actually succeeds in
uniting upon his own head these three crowns, besides the electoral hat of
Brandenburg, then he will be mighty and influential, and have a full
sounding voice in the concert of the European princes. But now you must
know that the Elector of Brandenburg is sickly, and has not many more
years to live. Then the Electoral Prince Frederick William becomes his
successor, and it is only needful to have seen the Prince for a few hours,
to have looked into his fiery eyes, to be made aware that he will not
tread in his father's footsteps, that he will not be the submissive vassal
of the German Emperor, a mere tool in the hands of his minister, but that
his efforts will be directed to making himself a free, independent Prince,
and his country a strong, powerful, and self-sustaining state. The
Minister von Schwarzenberg, the almighty representative of the present
Elector, knows this very well, and on this account dreads and hates the
Electoral Prince; he has therefore removed him from his father's court in
order to take away all influence from him, and he would esteem himself
happy if some lucky accident or criminal hand should free him from this
inconvenient successor to the throne. But heretofore accident has not
favored him; nor has he yet dared to press the murderous hand into his
service; and he has therefore been compelled to devise some other method
for securing his future, and so enchaining the Electoral Prince that he,
too, may remain the Emperor's obedient vassal. As the best means for
attaining this object it has occurred to them to bind the Electoral Prince
to the German imperial house by marriage, and to receive him into the
Hapsburg family. The Archduke Leopold, the future Emperor, has a very
pretty daughter. She is intellectual, ardent, a strict Catholic, and has
at heart the greatness of the Hapsburg house and the German Emperor. This
princess, or rather archduchess, has been selected for the Electoral
Prince of Brandenburg, and on that account the Electoral Prince is now to
return home, for the Elector and his Minister Schwarzenberg are much bent
upon the imperial alliance, and have already promised that the Electoral
Prince shall make a visit to the imperial court. But, excuse me, I am
misusing your indulgence, Princess. I am holding forth to you a
long-winded political harangue, forgetting entirely how you hate politics,
what a heinous crime I am committing, and that I weary you."
"You do not weary me at all," replied Ludovicka quickly. "On the contrary,
you interest me greatly. Only go on. I am listening attentively. You said
that the Electoral Prince was to return home in order to make a visit to
the imperial court, and to marry an archduchess of Austria?"
"Pardon me, your highness. I only said this was the new plan of the
imperial court, and consequently of the Minister Schwarzenberg and his
Elector. And, indeed, the plan is good, for the son-in-law of the Emperor
would be wholly dependent upon Austria, and if then the three pending
crowns should settle upon his brow, it would be the same as if Austria
herself wore them. Then they would cause the young married couple to make
an agreement respecting claims of inheritance, in accordance with which
the survivor should become heir to the first deceased. Then, some day, the
Electoral Prince, or the young Elector, would have the misfortune to fall
from his horse, or be pierced while hunting by some missent bullet, or
fall a victim to a sudden problematical sickness; in short, he would die,
and his wife would be his heiress, and through her the Electoral Mark
Brandenburg, the duchies of Prussia, Pomerania, and Cleves, accrue to the
imperial house. This would be then to put an end to the long, fearful war,
to make peace with Sweden by relinquishing Pomerania to her, and, in order
to see this war finally ended, which has desolated the whole of Germany,
the other German powers would acquiesce in Pomerania becoming Swedish, and
Cleves, Brandenburg, and Prussia Hapsburgian."
"Sir Count!" cried the Princess, "now you become tiresome, for you have
digressed from your subject!"
"From the Electoral Prince? Oh, no; I have already come to him again,
fairest Princess! I said all Germany would consent to this marriage.
Poland, too, would rather invest the Catholic imperial house with the
Prussian crown than the reformed Elector, and prefer an Austrian neighbor
as friend to a Russian; only two European powers would look askance upon
this union, and consequently do all they possibly could to prevent its
"And who are these two powers, Sir Count?"
"One power is France, who would never consent to so striking an
aggrandizement of the house of Austria, and can not passively submit to
see it spread itself so extensively north, west, and east."
"And the second power, count?"
"The second power is the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine of the Palatinate,
who would never give up the handsome Electoral Prince, and would snatch at
any means of preventing his marriage with any one else. Will you
condescend to acknowledge that I have told the truth?"
"Yes!" cried the Princess passionately--"yes, you have told the truth! I
love him, and the only happiness upon earth for me is in becoming his
"Princess, I presume to make a proposal to you. Let the two powers that
wish not the marriage with an Austrian archduchess conclude together a
league offensive and defensive. The power France accedes to this with joy.
It promises to further and support the second power in all her plans, to
lend her efficient aid, that the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine may wed the
Electoral Prince of Brandenburg."
"Oh, heavens, count, you would do that, you--"
"France will do that, not I," said the count passionately. "No, not I,
Princess, for you know well that I was rash enough to lift my eyes to your
heavenly apparition, my heart--But hush, you poor, foolish heart, suffer
and be dumb, sacrifice yourself, and only busy yourself in making happy
the sweet object of your warm and glowing love! Princess, you love the
Electoral Prince! France offers you her assistance that you may marry him.
This marriage will throw the Elector as well as the German Emperor into
the greatest rage; they will both refuse their consent; they will require
Holland to deliver up the Electoral Prince; they will proclaim invalid the
marriage between two minor lovers, and will cut off the Electoral Prince
from all means of subsistence."
"Oh, that is shocking, you give me a glimpse of a background which fills
me with dread and horror," lamented the Princess.
"Fear nothing, dread nothing," whispered the count. "France is here to
support you. France offers the young couple an asylum in Paris, and will
receive them at her court with pleasure. France will take care that the
Electoral Prince and his wife want for nothing; she will pay him rich
subsidies, contribute vast sums of money that the Electoral Prince may
present his young bride with a costly outfit; and finally, in the name of
her mother, the Electress of the Palatinate, provide the Princess with a
truly princely income."
"How kind, how generous that is of France!" cried Ludovicka. "It will
promote my happiness, it will aid me in being united with my beloved; it
thereby pledges me to eternal gratitude, and never shall I forget that I
owe to France the happiness of my whole life."
"And that, adored Princess, that is the only thing that France claims for
its good offices--a little gratitude! A faithful remembrance of its good
offices rendered, the sure promise that the Elector Frederick William of
Brandenburg will never range himself on the side of the enemies of France,
never league himself with the house of Austria against France, but forever
remain the faithful ally and friend of France!"
"I promise you that--I give you my solemn word for it! Oh, we are no
ingrates, to reward you with ingratitude; be sure and certain of that. The
Electoral Prince loves me; he will bid all welcome that makes a union with
me possible; he will be eternally grateful to those who will lend us a
"And--forgive me, your highness, for asking one question--has he offered
you his hand; has he made you a formal proposal of marriage?"
"He has sworn a thousand times that he loves me; he has so long and so
often besought me to grant him an interview that I have at last done
so--all the rest follows."
"Now," said the count, with a meaning smile, "that is just as one may take
it. In any case, this interview will be useful and to the purpose, and
your highness must now bring the Prince to declare himself formally."
"My heavens!" cried the Princess impatiently, "I tell you that he has very
often declared himself, that he has sworn to me a thousand times that of
all the world he loves me, and me alone! What more would you have him
"Princess, you are an angel of innocence and maidenly simplicity. When I
say the Prince must declare himself, I mean by that that he must sue for
your hand; he must say to you in so many words that he wishes to marry
"Good! he shall do so, even to-day. Oh, sir, it pleases you to doubt the
love of the Electoral Prince? You dare to think it possible that he may be
only amusing himself with me--that he has no serious designs? I shall
prove to you that you are mistaken--that you wrong me and the Electoral
Prince alike by your doubt. This very night he shall offer me his
hand--this very night I shall engage myself to him!"
"And to-morrow night the nuptials must take place!" cried the count.
The Princess shrank back and a glowing blush overspread her cheeks. "So
soon--to-morrow night?" she murmured. "My God! this haste--"
"Is necessary, if the marriage is ever to take place at all, Princess.
There is a common but very wise proverb which says, 'Strike while the iron
is hot.' Strike, Princess, strike, for I tell you what does not happen
to-morrow night will be utterly impossible the day after. We have
fortunately our secret agents everywhere, as well here as at the courts of
Berlin and Koenigsberg, and we therefore know that both Count Schwarzenberg
and the Elector have sent their messengers here to induce the Electoral
Prince to a speedy departure, and to threaten him with his father's wrath
in case he should allow himself to marry the Princess Ludovicka
"But that is abominable!" cried the Princess, with tears in her eyes. "One
of these messengers," continued the count, "and indeed the messenger of
Count Schwarzenberg, as I suspect, has already arrived this evening, and
the Electoral Prince has already received him. The other will probably
come to-morrow, and if you then still delay, if you do not surprise the
Prince in the first storm of his indignation, and thereby lead him to bind
himself to you by a secret marriage, then all is lost, and the two powers
Hollandine and France are conquered by Brandenburg and Austria."
"That shall not be!" cried the Princess, jumping up, and with hasty steps
moving to and fro. "No, we are not to be conquered! They shall not tear my
beloved from me!"
"Well, Princess, if you are firmly resolved, then I beg as a favor to be
allowed to be of service to you."
"Yes, help me--advise me."
"I have counted upon your love and your energy, Princess, and therefore
have already drawn up a stated plan. Will you hear it?"
"Not merely hear, but execute it, too, if it is at all practicable," cried
Ludovicka, while she remained standing in the center of the room, and
turned her large, flaming eyes upon the count, who had likewise arisen and
advanced smilingly toward her.
"Well, then, Princess, the plan is short and simple. The Prince makes you
to-night his offer of marriage."
"Yes, this very night," said she, proudly.
"He swears that he will marry you as soon as possible."
"Oh, you may be sure of that; he will swear it to me."
"Own to him that you have friends on whose aid and assistance you can
count, but let him not suspect who these friends are. Then lead the
conversation to the Media Nocte--But, my heavens!" exclaimed the count,
interrupting himself, while he looked as if accidentally at the clock, "it
only wants now a few minutes of two o'clock, and the Electoral Prince will
certainly come punctually, and therefore will be here directly. I have
written out all that it is necessary that you will have the complaisance
to do between this and to-morrow. Read it over at your leisure, and
impress it rightly upon your mind. Here is the paper, and may my writing
find a hearing and favor! If such be the case, as I hope and desire, then
will your highness have the goodness to open your window a little at ten
o'clock and display from it an orange-colored ribbon. All the rest will
take care of itself, and what your highness has to do is on the paper. I
hasten to withdraw, that your highness may have time to read my writing."
"But if the Prince should come now?" asked Ludovicka anxiously--"if he
should see a man descending from my window?"
"You are right, Princess; that is to be dreaded; and I, too, have
considered that. I will not leave through the window."
"Not through the window? But in what other way would you--"
"Go away, would you say? By yonder door! I know perfectly well that it
leads into the Princess's private apartment, and thence into the
antechamber. Oh, I know the Castle Doornward well, for is it not the
residence of the Electress of the Palatinate and her fair daughter the
Princess? Therefore I have had drawn out for myself an exact plan of
it. Moreover, your waiting maid Alice awaits me in the antechamber.
Forgive her for not having been able to withstand the persuasions of her
compatriot, the magician Ducato. Alice will permit me to slip out of the
castle by a back door. And now, adored Princess and exalted Electress of
the future, permit your most faithful and devoted servant ere he depart
once more to press your beloved hand to his lips, and to tell you how
inexpressibly happy--and, alas! how inexpressibly wretched--it makes him
that he can and--must assist in marrying the Princess Ludovicka to the
With a bewitching smile the Princess held out her hand to him. "Count
d'Entragues," she said, "I shall be eternally grateful to you for your
self-sacrifice and good faith. I shall esteem myself happy if some day I
may find an opportunity of proving this to you. Farewell!"
He pressed a long, glowing kiss upon her hand. "Farewell!" he said. "When
I see you again, Princess, I shall accompany you to the altar, and must
witness the transformation of the Princess Ludovicka into an Electoral
Princess of Brandenburg, and in my heart will be prayers, but also tears!
He sprang up, crossed the room with light, quick steps, unbolted the door,
and vanished behind the curtain. The Princess watched him until he had
disappeared, and, after she had convinced herself that he was actually
gone, and had bolted the door again, she took out the paper and read over
its contents slowly and with most serious attention.
As she read, brighter and brighter became her face, constantly more
radiant the smile upon her rosy lips. "Yes," she cried, after she had
twice read it through, "that will do--it shall be so! To-morrow in the
Media Nocte I will--"
A loud shrill whistle sounded. "He comes!" whispered she, "he comes!"
With trembling hands she thrust the paper into a casket belonging to her
writing table, and hurried to the window to open it and lower the rope
At this moment the whistle rang forth for the second time, its tones
following one another in quick succession.
"It is he--it is my beloved," murmured Ludovicka, and with a happy smile
she listened out into the night.
II.--THE ELECTORAL PRINCE.
The Princess had not long to wait. The groaning and creaking of the rope
ladder already betrayed the presence of its burden. Ludovicka leaned
farther out of the window and saw the dark shadow mount higher and higher;
already she heard his breath, and now--oh, now he was there, swung himself
in at the window, and without saying a word, without seeing anything but
herself, only herself alone. He fell on his knees before the Princess,
flung both arms round her waist, and, looking up at her with a beaming
smile, whispered, "I thank you, Ludovicka, I thank you!"
She bent down to him with an expression of unutterable love, and their
bright eyes met in a tender glance. They formed a beautiful picture, those
two youthful figures combining in so lovely a group. She, bending over him
with a look brimful of love, he gazing up at her with animated, radiant
eyes. The full light of the wax candles in the silver chandelier
illuminated his countenance, and Ludovicka looked down upon him with a
smile as blissful as if she had now seen him for the first time.
"You are handsome," she whispered, softly, while with her white hand she
stroked his dark-brown hair, which fell in long waving curls, like the
mane of a lion, over both powerful shoulders. "Yes, you are handsome," she
smilingly repeated, and playfully passed her hand over his features, over
the lofty, thoughtful brow, the energetic, slightly prominent, aquiline
nose, over the full glowing lips, which breathed an ardent kiss upon the
hand that glided past.
"Now let me look into your eyes and see what is written in them,"
continued Ludovicka, and she stooped lower over the kneeling youth, and
looked long into those large, dark-blue eyes, which gazed up at her,
lustrous and bright as two twinkling stars.
"Have you read what is in my eyes?" he asked, after a long pause, in which
only their glances and their beating hearts had spoken to one another.
"Have you read it, my Ludovicka?"
With a charmingly pouting expression she shook her head. "No," said she
sadly, "I can not read it, or perhaps there is nothing in them, or at
least nothing for me!"
He jumped up, and, throwing his arms around her neck, leaned his face
close against hers, flashed his burning glance deep into her eyes, and in
doing so smiled a blissful, childlike smile.
"Now read," he said, almost imperiously--"read and tell me what is in my
She slowly shook her head. "There is nothing in them," she whispered.
"But, indeed, how can I know? The Electoral Prince Frederick William is so
very learned, and it is only my own fault that I can not read what is in
his eyes. It is written in Latin, or perhaps in Greek!"
"No, you mischievous, you cruel one," cried he impatiently. "You just will
not understand and read what is plainly and intelligibly written in my
eyes. My heart speaks neither Latin nor Greek, but German, and the eyes
are the lips with which the heart speaks."
"Well then, tell me, Cousin Frederick William, what is in your eyes?"
"I will tell you, Cousin Ludovicka Hollandine. They say: I love you! I
love you! And nothing but I love you!"
"But whom? To whom are these three little words addressed?"
"To you, you heartless, you wicked one, to you are these words addressed.
But not little words are they, as you say; they are great words, full of
meaning: for a world, a whole human life, my whole future, lies in these
three words--I love you."
He embraced her and pressed her close to his heart, and Ludovicka leaned
her head upon his shoulder and looked up at him with moist and glowing
eyes. He nodded smilingly to her, and then took her head between his two
hands and gazed long and rapturously upon her beautiful face.
"So I have you at last, and hold you, my golden butterfly," he said
gently. "You are mine at last, and I hold you fast by your transparent
wings, so that you can not flutter away from me again to fly up to the
sun, the flowers, the trees! O my butterfly! you pretty creature, made of
ethereal dust and rainbow splendor, of air and sunshine, of lightning
flashes and icy coldness, are you actually mine, then? May I trust you?
Think not I am only a poor little flower on which you may smilingly rock
yourself an hour in the sunshine, and enjoy the perfume which mounts up
from its heart's blood, and the love songs which its sighs waft to you in
the breeze! Tell me, you butterfly, will you no more flutter away, but be
true and never more distress and torment me?"
"I have never wished to distress and torment you, cousin."
"And yet you have done it, so often, so grievously!" cried he, and his
handsome open countenance grew quickly dark, while his eyes flashed with
indignation. "Ludovicka," he continued, "you have tortured and tormented
me, and often when I have seen how you smiled upon others and exchanged
glances with them, and allowed yourself to be pleased by their homage,
their devotion--often have I felt then as if an iron fist had seized my
heart to tear it from my breast, and felt as if I enjoyed this, and as if
I exulted with delight over my own wrath. Tear out my foolish heart, you
iron fist of pain, said I to myself; cast it far from me, this childish
heart, for then shall I be happy and glad, then shall I no longer feel
love but be freed from the fearful bondage it imposes upon me. How often,
Ludovicka, how often have I been ashamed of these chains, and bitten at
them, as the lion, languishing in a dungeon, bites at his."
"Truly, fair sir," cried Ludovicka, as arm in arm she and her beloved
moved toward the divan--"truly, to hear you talk, one would suppose that
love was a misfortune and a pain."
"It is so indeed," said he, almost savagely--"yes, love is a misfortune
and a pain; for with love comes doubt, jealousy, and jealousy is the most
dreadful pain. And then I have often said to myself as I wept about you
for rage and woe because I have seen you more friendly with others than
with me--I have often said to myself that it is unworthy of a man to allow
himself to be subjected by love, unworthy to make a woman the mistress of
his thoughts, of his desires; that a man should strive for higher aims,
aspire to nobler things."
"To nobler things? Now tell me, you monster, is there anything nobler than
a woman? Is there a higher aim than to win her love?"
"No; that is true, there is nothing higher!" cried he passionately. "No
there is nothing nobler. Oh, forgive me, Ludovicka, I was a heathen, who
denies his goddess, and finds fault with her out of excess of feeling. My
God! I have suffered so much through you and your cruelty! And I tell you
if you had not now at last heard my petition, at last granted me a
"Then you would have killed yourself," interrupted she--"then you would
have stabbed yourself on the threshold of my door, while you cursed me. Is
not that what you would have said?"
"No; I would have found out the man whom you preferred to me, and I would
have killed him, and you I would have despised--that is what I would have
said. But no, no, I can not conceive of or imagine myself despising
you--loving you no more! My whole soul is yours, and my heart flames up
toward you as if it were one vast and living lake of fire. You smile; you
do not believe me, Ludovicka! But I tell you, if you do not believe me,
neither do you believe in love itself."
"I do not believe in it, either, cousin; and you are quite right, your
heart is a lake of fire. You know, though, all fires become extinct?"
"When fuel is denied them, Ludovicka--not till then. They burn constantly,
if supplied with constant fuel."
"So then, my Electoral Prince, my heart is the fuel you would require?"
"Yes, my Princess, I do require it. I implore it of you. Be good,
Ludovicka, torment me not. Let me at last feel myself blessed--let me put
my arm around you, and say and think, she is mine! mine she remains!"
"Mine she remains!" repeated Ludovicka, sighing. "Alas! Frederick, how
long ere you will no longer wish that I were yours; how long ere all the
oaths of your heart will be forgotten and forever hushed? I have heard it
from all women--they all say that the love of men is perishable; that,
like a flash of lightning, it shines forth with vivid blaze, then vanishes
"And they have all deceived you or been deceived themselves, Ludovicka.
The love of men never expires, unless forcibly extinguished by women. Be
trustful, my Ludovicka, trustful, and pious, and let love, holy and still,
ardent and glowing, penetrate your heart, just as I do, without trembling,
without hesitancy, and without the fear of men."
"You love me, then, love me truly?" asked Ludovicka, tenderly clinging to
"I love you with wrath and pain, love you with rapture and delight, love
you in spite of the whole world! I will know nothing, consider nothing,
hear nothing of the folly of the wise, of the irrationality of the
rational, of the stupidity of the sage. I will know nothing and hear
nothing, but that I love you! Just as you are, so cruel and so lovely, so
coquettish and so innocent, so passionate and yet so cold. Oh, you are an
enchantress, who has changed my whole being and taken possession of all my
thoughts and all my feelings. Formerly I loved my parents, feared my
father, respected my friend and early teacher, the faithful Leuchtmar,
listened to his counsels, followed his advice. But now all that is
past--all is swallowed up. I think only of you, only know you, only hear
"And yet a day will come when I shall call upon you in vain, a day when
you shall no longer hear my voice."
"It will be the day of my death."
"No; the day when you leave this place. The day on which you return to
your native land to become there a reigning lord, and leave the poor
humbled Princess Ludovicka behind here deserted and alone."
"But you? Will you not go with me?" he asked, in amazement. "Will not my
country be yours? And if I am a reigning lord, will you not stand as
sovereign lady by my side?"
"I?" asked she, bewildered. "How do you mean? I do not understand you."
"I mean," he whispered softly, while he clasped her closely to himself--"I
mean that you shall accompany me as my wife."
"But!" cried she, smiling, and with an expression of radiant joy--"but you
have never said that I should be your wife."
"Have I not told you that I love you? Have I not been repeating to you for
a year that I love you? And does it not naturally follow that you and you
alone are to be my wife?"
"But they will not suffer it, Frederick!" cried she, with an expression of
pain. "No, they will never suffer you to make me your wife."
"Who will not suffer it, Ludovicka?"
"Your parents will not suffer it, and the great Lord von Schwarzenberg,
who rules your father, as my mother has told me, and Herr von Leuchtmar,
who rules you and--"
"Nobody rules me," interrupted he indignantly, and a flush of anger or
shame suffused his face. "No, nobody rules me, and I shall never be
subject to any other will than my own."
"So you say now, Frederick, while you look into my eyes, while you are at
my side. But to-morrow, when I am no longer by, when your tutor shall have
proved with his cold, matter-of-fact arguments that the poor Princess
Ludovicka is no fit match for the Electoral Prince of
Brandenburg--to-morrow, when your tutor will chide his beloved
pupil for ever having allowed so foolish a love to enter his
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