The Youth of the Great Elector
Part 5 out of 10
us to shame by the splendor of your _fete_, we will allow you but a short
respite. To-day is Wednesday, the eighteenth of June, we therefore appoint
Sunday, the twenty-second of June, for your festival."
"Be it then on Sunday, a sunny day truly for me and for my house," cried
Count Schwarzenberg. "My son, too, will do himself the honor to
participate in the joys of the _fete_, which your highness will do me the
favor to give in my house, for he has returned from his journey, and will
this very day petition for leave to present himself."
A fugitive glance from the count strayed across to the ladies, while he
bowed low before them, but, however cursory this glance, it gave him full
opportunity for perceiving Princess Charlotte Louise's deep blush, and the
joyful flashing of her eyes.
"She loves him," he said softly to himself, "yes, she loves him, and my
son will be Elector of Brandenburg."
"We shall be pleased to see again your son, Count John Adolphus," said
George William kindly. "He is a very elegant and accomplished gentleman,
besides being a very submissive and obedient son, in whom your father's
heart may well rejoice. My son would do well to follow his example, and I
shall be delighted for him to form a friendship with the count."
"I shall diligently strive to gain the friendship of the son as well as of
the father," replied the Electoral Prince, smiling, "and it shall not be
my fault, indeed, if I do not obtain it."
"Most honored sir, you can gain no more than you already possess,"
exclaimed Schwarzenberg, bowing low. "Will the Electress now permit me to
address a question to her highness?"
"Ask your question quickly," cried the Electress, "that I may hear the
request it is to introduce, for I am really curious to know what the rich
and powerful Count Schwarzenberg can have to desire of the poor,
"First, then, my question, most gracious lady: At what hour does your
highness command my _fete_ to begin?"
"Will you leave the decision to me, my husband?" asked the Electress,
The Elector nodded assent.
"As you have invited my daughters," said the Electress, "I presume that
there will certainly be dancing, and evening hours suit best for that. Let
the _fete_ commence at six o'clock."
The Elector's brow darkened, for he did not at all relish gay, noisy
evening parties, and a solemn dinner at the regular hour would have been
far more welcome to him.
"Your grace has prescribed the hour for the opening of the ball," said
Count Schwarzenberg reverentially. "But I now also entreat further that
you name a dinner hour, for I hope your highness will favor me by dining
with me on that day."
"Yes, that honor shall be shown you," cried the Elector cheerfully. "We
shall come, surely we shall come. And I will myself appoint the hour for
the mid-day meal. Let it be at two o'clock. Then we shall have some
pleasant hours at table before the dancing comes off and the music puts
our heads in a whirl."
"Two o'clock, then, most gracious sir."
"And now, Sir Count," cried the Electress, "now for your request. Say
quickly what it is. What can you have to ask of me?"
"Most gracious Electress, I hardly venture to express it, and yet, by
granting my request, you would do me a very great pleasure and honor. Some
splendid silk stuffs have been sent me from France by my cousin, who is
Austrian ambassador there. I had given him such a commission, as I thought
of making a present to my aunt, the Countess Schwarzenberg at Vienna. My
cousin bought these stuffs for me, and writes me, moreover, that they are
the newest fabrics from the looms of Lyons, and that he has just sent
three such dresses to the Empress and the two archduchesses at Vienna.
Now, it did not seem to me becoming or appropriate that the Countess
Schwarzenberg should wear robes such as the Empress and archduchesses
wear, and I think gold and silver brocade suited to none but ladies of
"And you would give them to us, Sir Count?" cried the young Princess
Sophie Hedwig, with heightened color in her cheeks and sparkling eyes.
The Electress and older Princess laughed aloud at this naive and hasty
question, and even the Elector laughed a little.
A slight blush suffused the Electoral Prince's face; he withdrew to the
window and looked out. Count Schwarzenberg, however, looked smilingly upon
the young Princess, whose girlish impatience had come so opportunely to
"I would venture," he said, "most humbly to ask her highness's permission
to lay the brocade stuffs at her feet."
"Mamma, do so," coaxed Sophie Hedwig; "take the pretty dress patterns from
the good Stadtholder."
"Well, then, I shall do so," said the Electress. "I accept your present
for myself and the young ladies, and I thank you."
She extended her hand to the count, which he kissed.
"And you will give orders, Electress, that the dresses be made up in time
for Count Schwarzenberg's _fete_!" cried the Elector cheerfully. "You must
at least honor him by displaying his present first at his own house."
"There are a few plates accompanying it," remarked Schwarzenberg--"a few
plates on which are painted the newest styles of ladies' dresses now
fashionable in Paris. The robes of the Empress and the archduchesses were
made by them."
"So shall our dresses be too!" cried Sophie Hedwig, joyfully clapping her
hands. "Shall they not, dearest mamma--shall not our dresses be made by
the fashion plates?"
Just at this moment the Electoral Prince again emerged from the window
recess, and approached his father.
"I beg your highness's gracious permission to withdraw," he said. "I
should like to retire to my own apartments a little while, in order to lay
aside my dusty traveling suit."
"Do so, my son," replied the Elector, with a friendly nod of the head. "Go
to your rooms, which have been prepared for you a whole half year, and
await your return. Dress yourself and rejoin us at dinner. For the rest, I
bid you heartily welcome, and may your return be productive of good, not
evil, to yourself and us all."
"God grant that I may merit my father's favor, and ever show myself worthy
of it!" exclaimed the Electoral Prince, with deep seriousness. "I have now
the honor of taking my leave!"
He bowed low before the Elector, and with a like salutation bade farewell
to the Electress and the Princesses. After greeting the count with a smile
and a wave of his hand, he hurried with light elastic step through the
apartment to the door.
When the Electoral Prince left his father's cabinet he found without the
officers and servants of the household arranged in solemn order. They
received him with a thrice-repeated cheer that was loud enough to
penetrate through the door into the Electoral apartment, and to reach the
Elector's ears in a manner by no means pleasant.
Affectionately and smilingly Frederick William thanked them. He could call
each one of them by name, and charmed them all by recalling little
incidents of his earlier days in which they had borne a part.
"I hope we shall always remain good friends," he said, when he had reached
the door of the long entrance hall, "and once more I thank you for your
Old Jock, who stood next to the door, and who looked quite grand in his
artfully patched livery of state--old Jock had already just opened his
mouth for another thundering hurrah, when the Electoral Prince laid his
hand gently upon his shoulder.
"Hush, Jock, hush! do not shout," he said, loud enough to be heard by
everybody. "It is enough that I read my welcome in your eyes, and not
necessary for your lips to pronounce the words aloud. Our much-loved and
gracious father is sick and suffering, and we must not therefore allow his
rest to be disturbed by loud noises. Be quiet and silent, therefore, and
only believe me when I say that I know I am welcome to you all!"
He gave them one more friendly nod, and stepped out upon the long corridor,
on the other side of which lay his own apartments. Quickly he went on,
opened the door of the antechamber with a vigorous pressure of his hand,
and entered. The trunks and other baggage lay in wild disorder, heaped up
in the outer hall, and old Dietrich, with a few other servants and
lackeys, was busied in untying parcels and unpacking. The Electoral Prince
went hurriedly past, and entered his sleeping room. Here, too, he found
all in confusion; the dust lay thick upon the unwieldy old furniture,
whose cushions were covered with faded and even here and there ragged
tapestry. From the walls, hung with discolored papering, a few old
ancestral portraits looked gravely and gloomily down upon him, and their
melancholy eyes seemed to ask him what he wanted here, and why he had come
to awaken them from their repose, and disturb the dust which had been
collecting for years. It seemed to the Prince as if he heard this
inhospitable question quite clearly uttered by the lips of his ancestor
Albert Achilles, before whose picture he was just passing, and whose
large, glittering eyes seemed to look out in defiance. Frederick William
stopped and looked at his forefather with a sad smile. "I have come much
against my will, Elector Albert Achilles," he said. "I assure you, very
much against my will, and if I did not think of the future, I would go
away again and _never_ come back. But for the sake of the future the
present must be endured; therefore forgive me, my great, valiant ancestor,
and believe me I will do you honor!"
He nodded to the picture and strode on, advancing into the next room,
which was to be his study. Here everything was still exactly as he had
left it almost four years ago. The old furniture stood unmoved in its
familiar places; there was still the brown varnished writing table at
which he had formerly applied himself to his studies, in company with his
tutor Leuchtmar von Kalkhun; beside it stood the simple, rude book
shelves, and on them, covered with dust and cobwebs, the old leather-bound
volumes from which he had drunk in knowledge and wisdom. Before both
windows hung, just as then, the dark red silken curtains, only that the
sun had partially deprived them of their original coloring and interwoven
sickly streaks of yellow. The old sofa, too, was yet in existence with its
sleek brown leather covering, and by its side stood the two leather
armchairs, with their high, straight backs and awkwardly turned feet. No
one had taken the trouble to repair these inroads of dilapidation, and,
long as they had been expecting the Electoral Prince, no preparations
whatever had been made for his reception. Four years had passed over these
chambers without leaving any further trace of their presence than dust and
cobwebs, and faded stripes on cushion and curtain. Sighing, the Electoral
Prince threw himself into one of the two armchairs. The old piece of
furniture creaked under him, as if by this sound it would greet him and
remind him of the past. He leaned his head against the back, whose leather
cooled his temples as if a cold hand had been laid upon the brow of him
who had just come home. Slowly his glance swept through the room, and it
seemed to him as if he saw the four last years glide by like phantom
shapes through the lonely, dreary, and dusty chamber. They looked at him
with wan smiles and lusterless eyes, and hovered past shadowlike, leaving
behind for him nothing but dust, nothing but a hardly cicatrized wound.
Sometimes it bled yet, this wound of his past. Sometimes he thought that
there was no healing for it, that it would never close, and that its pain
would never cease.
Just so thought he as the shadows of the four years floated by him through
that gloomy, dusty room. Just so thought he, when the youngest of these
phantoms paused beside him, threw back her gray veil of mist, and under it
disclosed to him a beautiful, rosy female face, with flaming eyes, pouting
lips, and lovely smile, when she raised her hand and beckoned to him,
whispering: "Leave all behind and come to me! _I_ am waiting for you! _I_
love you! Oh, come to me!"
How sweetly enticing were these whispered sounds, how burning was the pain
in the wound but barely healed! Again it began to bleed, again tears rose
to his eyes. He was not ashamed of them, and yet, as he felt them flow
burning down his cheeks, he stretched out his hands deprecatingly to the
phantom with the rosy cheeks and fascinating smile, to the shadow of the
last year, and murmured: "Away from me! Come not near me, to tempt my
heart! I may not follow you--I may not, and I _will_ not."
"And I _will_ not!" he repeated quite aloud, and jumped up from his
easychair, shaking his head defiantly and proudly, like a roused lion.
"What will you not?" asked a soft voice behind him, and when he turned
round he saw at his back Baron von Leuchtmar, who had just entered, and
whose mild, gentle glances rested upon him with tender expression.
"Leuchtmar!" cried the Prince, hastening to meet him with both hands
outstretched. "God be praised, that you are here, that you come to me at
this moment! Ah! would that you had not left me at Spandow, but had
remained at my side!"
"No, my Prince! It was proper that the eyes of the people should have
greeted you alone, and that the boy, whom they had seen go off at the side
of his tutor, should now appear to them again as a bold and independent
young man, who relies upon his own powers only, and has no longer any
tutor at his side, but his own sense of duty and his conscience. But why
so sad, Prince Frederick William? Your journey was verily a triumphal
procession; like a Roman imperator you entered your father's city, and now
do I find you here, solitary, with troubled countenance, with tears upon
"With tears upon my cheeks?" repeated the Prince; "with imprecations, with
wrath, and sorrow in my heart. Oh, friend, why were you not with me? You
would have saved me perhaps from the bitterness of the last hour. You
would have stood by me, would have encouraged me!"
"My God, what has happened then?"
"It has happened that I was received as if I were some criminal returning
after a course of sin!" cried Frederick William, with indignant pain. "It
has happened that they have treated me as if I were a rioter and inciter
of rebellion, who had come hither with criminal designs, at the head of a
mob, and as a captain of robbers, who had attacked his Sovereign in his
stronghold. It has happened that they allowed me to sue for pardon upon my
knees without lifting me up--that they have treated me like an abandoned
villain, from whom they expected each hour to witness some new out-break."
"But consider, my Prince, that you had reason to expect that your
reception would be ungracious, and that it was your father from whom these
trials would come to you."
"No, not from my father, but from _him_--that evil spirit who, with his
cold smile and mocking composure, stood at my father's side! He has
poisoned my father's heart with jealousy and hate, he has filled it with
mistrust toward his only son, and sowed discord, that he may himself reap
a harvest from the hatred! And he was witness of my humiliation, and I saw
how he looked down upon me with scornful superiority as I knelt before my
father and pleaded in vain for one word of love from his lips! But _he_
had withered this word upon his lips, and only for _him_ were words of
tenderness and veneration there! Only for _him_ acknowledgments,
confidence, and love! As he stood there with cold and haughty face at the
side of my poor father, who, stooping and insignificant, cowered below
him--oh, so far below him in his easychair--I felt it in every nerve of my
heart, in every fiber of my brain, that _he_ and _he_ alone is ruling lord
here, the commander and Sovereign; and that he who will not bow and cringe
before him, will by him be hurled into the dust and trodden upon! They all
bow before him--_all_! He is like a magician, who by the magnetic glances
of his eyes subjects to his will all who approach him, and makes the
stoutest hearts soft and pliant, so that like wax they allow themselves to
be molded by his forming hands. Even my mother, who is his enemy, who has
been battling against him for twenty years, even she is conquered by him,
and he has become her master and forces her to his will. She knows not at
all that she has fallen within the circle of his magic, yet is, like all
the rest, a mere tool in his hands. But she feels it not, and fancies
herself free, while she lies bound, and has no will of her own in his
presence. I have seen it, I have felt it, and it has filled my heart with
unutterable woe, with raging anger. She felt not at all the shame and
humiliation under which I almost expired; she came not to my aid, for the
magician was there, and in his presence my mother forgot her son so
recently come back to her, and _he_ was the center around which all
turned, _he_ was master of the situation, and before _him_ all shrank into
wretched nothingness. He charmed the hearts which had remained cold at my
reception, charmed them with the prospect of a _fete_, which, as he said,
he was to give in my honor, and they believed the mockery, and allowed
themselves to be touched by that noble condescension, and felt not the
cruel boasting with which he solemnizes the return of him who is a thorn
in his flesh, a thorn which he is firmly determined to pluck out, and
tread under foot! I came here humble, poor, and empty-handed, and _he_
solemnizes my return by offering presents to my mother and my sisters!
And they accept them, feel not at all the degradation, and will appear at
the _fete_ in clothes with which my enemy, my adversary, my murderer has
"Prince, you go too far. Your hatred carries you away."
"No, I do not go too far!" cried the Prince, beside himself. His
countenance was deadly pale, his eyes flashed, and his whole being seemed
pervaded by the fire of wrath and hatred. "No, I do not go too far, and my
hatred does not carry me away! He is the evil demon of my house--of my
country! He is to blame for all the disasters of the last twenty years,
for all the humiliation and shame by which my family has been visited. The
Mark is to be ruined--that is his end, that is his aim; the Electoral
house of Brandenburg must die out--that is his hope; and he will leave
untried no means whereby this hope may become reality. He has already
tried once to murder me, and he will try it again. A dagger's point
lurks in each glance that he fixes upon me, a drop of poison in each word
that he directs to me. If I stood alone with him upon the summit of a
tower, he would hurl me down, and then afterward follow my coffin with a
thousand tears! And my father would lean upon him, and thank God that only
his son had been snatched from him, not his friend, his favorite; and my
mother would weep for me, and yet go about in mourning which he had
presented to her, and she would esteem it a peculiar act of amiability if
he should exert himself to divert her mind and raise her spirits. No voice
would be raised against him, and no one would venture to accuse him, for
my father himself would protect him, and the grace and favor of the
Emperor would speak him clear of any suspicion. He is my master, my
lord--that is what fills me with rage and indignation; and I will surely
die of this if the count does not succeed in dispatching me first, and
putting me out of the way."
"He will not venture to attempt that, for he knows public opinion would
accuse and denounce him as the murderer."
"What cares he for public opinion, what asks he about it--_he_ who has
power to repress it, _he_ who stands so secure that it can not touch
"Nobody stands so high, Prince, that public opinion can not reach him and
dash him into the depths below, for public opinion is the voice of the
nation, and the voice of the nation is the voice of God! And believe me,
Prince, this voice will one day accuse and sentence him."
"Yes, one day perhaps, when he has thrust me out of the way and murdered
me, when my father has gone to his last home, when the Emperor has
pronounced the Mark of Brandenburg an unincumbered fief, and bestowed it
as an act of grace upon Count Schwarzenberg or his son. Oh, I know all his
plans, and I know that no moment of my life is henceforth secure--know
that I am a victim of death if prudence and cunning do not save me! I
thought of all this during my long journey to this place. I have weighed
all, pondered all, and my whole future lay before me like a white sheet of
paper. I saw a hand unroll it, and with bloody letters inscribe the word
'Death'; but I saw this word blotted out by a cautious finger, and, ere it
was written to the end, replaced by the word 'Life' in characters small
and hardly visible. Yes, I _will_ live, _will_ reign, _will_ have fame,
honor, and influence, _will_ make a name for myself! Leuchtmar, I have
left behind in Holland my youth, my hopes, my dreams, my heart! I come
here as a man, despite my eighteen years, as a man who from the wreck of
his youth will save only this: the future and fame! A man, who has
suffered so much, that he can say of himself: I defy pain, and it has no
longer any power over me! I defy life, and _will_ conquer it! Yes,
Leuchtmar, I _will_ conquer it; and although I no longer love it, I do not
mean to allow it to be snatched away from me. Hear me, friend, for to-day
is the last time for a long while that I may speak openly and candidly to
you. I entreat you, guide of my youth, to preserve for me your friendship
and your faith. I beseech you never to lose confidence in me, and, if ever
a doubt should intrude itself with regard to me, to remember this hour, in
which I have laid bare to you my heart, and in which you have been a
witness to my indignation and grief, my excitement and hatred! You are
familiar with my countenance, friend; impress it upon your memory, in
order that you may never forget it, even if you should not see it for a
long time again. Look once more in my eyes, and read in my glances my love
and reverence for you!"
"I do look into your eyes, son of my heart," said Leuchtmar, deeply moved.
"I look through your eyes into your soul, into your heart, and read
therein great determination and heroic aims. Strive after them, my
favorite, and when the present seems to you dark and gloomy, then lift
your eye to the glittering star, which hovers over you and is your
future. To endure evil, and still to remain joyful and valiant, therein
lies true heroism. To turn from the dust of earthly needs, to step over it
with head held heavenward, thereby is true faith proved. God bless you, my
son! Be brave, be wise, be true! Trust in yourself, your friends, your
people, and your God; then is the future yours, and you will overcome all
your foes, and will triumph over the proud man who now thinks that he
triumphs over you. I said to you, be brave, be wise, be true. I forgot one
thing, though, which I shall now add--_be circumspect_! Remember that
oftentimes it is not the sword which carries off the victory, but cunning;
remember Brutus, who freed Rome."
"Oh, my friend, you have spoken truth," exclaimed the Prince; "you have
read to the bottom of my soul, and understood my inmost thoughts. Now am I
glad and full of confidence, for my friend and teacher will never doubt
me. And hear one thing more, my Leuchtmar. You must accept a memento of
this hour, a memento which I prepared even before my departure from The
Hague, and which shall be to you a proof of my gratitude. I am poor and
powerless, and as I build all my hopes upon the future, so must I do with
my presents as well. You must accept from me a gift of my future, friend.
I know full well that what you have done for me can not be recompensed,
but I would so gladly testify my gratitude to you, and therefore I give
you this paper!"
He drew forth a paper from his pocketbook, and handed it to Leuchtmar with
a friendly smile. "Take it and read," he said.
Baron Leuchtmar von Kalkhun took the paper, and fastened his eyes upon the
words, which were inscribed in large letters on the outside.
"A Deed of Expectancy!" he said, astonished.
The Electoral Prince nodded. "A deed of expectancy, written with my own
hand and sealed with my own signet ring. Yes, yes, my friend, I have
nothing to give away but expectations; yet if the Electoral Prince should
ever become Elector, he will convert these expectations into reality and
truth. Now unfold the paper, and see what manner of expectation it holds
"An act, donating the feudal tenure of Neuenhof, lying within the
territories of Cleves!" cried Leuchtmar joyfully. "Oh, my dear Prince,
that is truly a princely gift!"
"Yet it is not the Prince, but the grateful scholar who gives it to you,"
said Frederick William, "and in proof of this I have written these words,
which I will read to you myself." He bent over the paper, and read: "We
have voluntarily and with due consideration promised and engaged to give
to Baron Leuchtmar von Kalkhun this estate of Neuenhof, out of the
particular and friendly affection which we bear to him. We also swear that
if we hereafter attain to power and authority, and our much-esteemed
Romilian von Leuchtmar be to our sorrow cut off by death, we in the same
way will this estate to his eldest son, and grant him the enjoyment of all
that we assigned and destined for his father in his lifetime."
"That is indeed to carry happiness and reward beyond the grave!" cried
Leuchtmar, with tears in his eyes. "Oh, I thank you, my Prince, thank you
from my inmost soul, for myself and my children!"
"You have nothing at all to thank me for, friend," said the Prince. "I
shall ever be much more in your debt. If, however, I some day become a
good Prince to my country and a father to my people, then you must reflect
that this is the return I make to you, my teacher, my educator! You see I
hope in the future, and think that I shall succeed in evading murderous
designs and fulfill my aims. But, indeed, your warning I may never forget,
and circumspect I _must_ be first of all. Wear a mask, as Brutus did! Let
me embrace you once more, friend Leuchtmar; look me once more in the eye.
And now--I hear some one coming! Farewell, Leuchtmar! I put on my mask and
not for a moment can I withdraw it from my features."
The door was now opened, a valet entered and announced, "Her highness the
Electress!" And before the Electoral Prince had time to advance, the
Electress had entered the room.
"I come to welcome you once more, my Frederick!" she cried, stretching out
her arms to her son. "Entirely without witnesses, simply as his mother
would I greet my son, and tell him how happy I am that he is once more
She flung her arms around her son's neck, and pressed him ardently to her
bosom. Baron Leuchtmar, who upon the Electress's approach had stepped
aside, now crept softly through the apartment to the door, and was already
in the act of opening it, when the Electress quickly raised her head and
"Stay where you are, Baron Leuchtmar," she said; "why would you slip away
"I may not presume by my presence to disturb the confidential discourse
between the Electress and her son."
"You do not disturb us at all, for you belong to us, Leuchtmar," replied
Charlotte Elizabeth, nodding kindly to him. "On the contrary, I will tell
you that I knew you were here, and came here on that very account, in
order to salute you without witnesses, and to have a private conversation
with you and my son. For well I know, Leuchtmar, that we may confide in
you, and that you belong to _us_--that is to say, to the enemies of
Schwarzenberg, to the enemies of the Imperialists and Catholics, to the
friends of the Swedes and Reformers."
"Your highness may be well assured that I return home just as I went
away," said Leuchtmar earnestly--"that is to say, an upright Protestant, a
true Brandenburger, and a determined opponent of those who concluded the
peace of Prague, and thereby separated the Elector of Brandenburg from the
Swedes, and made him wholly and solely subservient to the Emperor's
"You will not name _him_, the evildoer, who has brought this to pass,"
cried the Electress, "but I will name him: it is Count Schwarzenberg! It
is the Stadtholder in the Mark, who has brought upon us all this mischief
and disgrace, who has sundered us from our nearest blood relations, the
family of the Swedish King, and has leagued us with and subjected us to
those who are our sworn enemies and adversaries, the Imperialists, the
Austrians. Oh, my son! promise me that you will some day take vengeance
for the ignominy and humiliation which we must now undergo. Swear in this
first hour of your return home, solemnly joining hands with me, that as
soon as you come into power the first act of your government shall be to
renounce allegiance to the Emperor and to ally yourself again with the
Swedes, our natural allies."
She stretched out her right hand to her son. "Swear, my son!" she cried,
solemnly, "give me your hand upon it!"
But Frederick William did not lay his hand within hers. He drew back,
declining her proffered hand.
"Forgive me, my dearest mother," he said, "forgive me; but I can not
swear, for I do not know whether I could keep my oath! May the good God
long preserve my gracious father's life, and grant him a glorious reign.
But if hereafter, and surely to my deepest regret, duty and the right of
Succession deliver into my hands the reins of government, then I must
guide them, as circumstances direct, as determined by the contingencies of
the times and the good of the country; and I dare not bind myself
beforehand by any given word or by promises."
"You refuse, my son, to promise me that you will make amends for all the
evil done by that wicked enemy of your house, your family, and your
"Dearest mother, I know not of whom you speak, and who it is that has
burdened himself with so heinous a crime."
With impulsive movement the Electress laid her hand upon his arm, and
looked him steadily in the eye.
"Are you dissembling, or is that the truth?" she asked. "You do not know
of whom I speak? You do not know who is the enemy of your house and
"I am trying in vain to study it out, mother, and I beg you not to be
angry with me on that account, for your grace must reflect that I have
been absent almost four years, and am therefore a little unacquainted with
the situation of affairs here. If you had addressed that question to me
before my departure, most assuredly I should have replied without
hesitation, 'It is Count Schwarzenberg!' But I have since then found out
that I had done the count injustice in many things through my inexperience
and want of foresight; that he is a very great and experienced statesman
and politician, who with his far-seeing glances can discern much more
clearly than I with my unpracticed eyes the relations of things. Who knows
but that, after all, the peace of Prague has been a real blessing to our
land. When I behold its present pitiable and languishing condition as a
neutral, how can I avoid reflecting with horror upon what might have been
the state of things had we joined any decided war party. Had we sided
with the Swedes, the enmity of the powerful Emperor, vastly surpassing us
in material resources, would long since have destroyed us root and branch,
and my dear father would have most probably shared the same lamentable
fate as the Elector of the Palatinate, his brother-in-law, or the Margrave
of Liegnitz and Jaegerndorf, his cousin. He must have wandered with wife
and children an exile in foreign lands, or died of grief among strangers.
On the other hand, had we sided with the Emperor against the Swedes, a
raging, implacable foe would have quartered himself in the heart of our
dominions, and not merely Pomerania, but the Mark and the duchy of Prussia
would have been overrun-by his warlike hordes. But on my journey hither I
have witnessed the misery and unspeakable wretchedness of our land, and
asked myself with heavy, sorrowing heart what would have become of our
unhappy country in times of war if neutrality could reduce it to such
poverty and plunge it in such want and suffering. And then I was forced to
acknowledge that Count Schwarzenberg had acted right well as Stadtholder
in the Mark in wishing, before all things, to preserve the Mark intrusted
to him from yet greater calamity, by holding it to that neutrality, being
alike impartial between the Emperor and the Swedes. I therefore begged his
pardon in my heart for having often accused him unjustly before, for he is
indeed a faithful and zealous servant to his master, and especially
endeavors to further his interests, to maintain his position, and to
console him in these times of affliction. I see, too, that not merely the
Elector holds him in high estimation, and honors him as his true and
valued counselor and friend, but that my mother as well has taken him into
her favor, and that she has quite recovered from the mistrust with which
she previously regarded him. For surely it is a proof of great favor when
the Electress allows the count to offer presents of dresses to herself and
her daughters, and no one of us can mistrust _him_, who so cordially
rejoices over my return that he volunteers to celebrate it by a splendid
festival. The whole Electoral family has accepted the invitation to this
festival, and thereby prove to Berlin, yea, to the whole country, that we
are on the best terms with the Stadtholder, and that nothing has
transpired which could shake our confidence in him.'"
The Electress had listened to her son with ever-growing amazement. Her
glances had grown more and more indignant; she had often turned from her
son to Leuchtmar, as if to read in his features whether or not he shared
her astonishment and irritation. Now, when the Prince was silent, she
stepped across to Leuchtmar, and laid her hand upon his arm.
"Leuchtmar," she asked with trembling voice, "is he in earnest? Has he
actually altered so entirely? Has he really gone over to our enemies and
"Most gracious lady, the Electoral Prince is by far too tender a son ever
to become alienated from his mother," replied the baron earnestly.
"He speaks the truth, my dearest mother," exclaimed Frederick William,
nearing his mother. "Never could I alter toward you, never forget the
gratitude and love I owe you, never go over to your enemies and
adversaries. But why should we carry politics into private life, and what
have Swedes and Imperialists, Catholics and Reformers to do with our
family life and our domestic circle? Let us hand politics over to those
whose duty it is to deal with them; let us not seek to meddle in the
government, for we have no right to do so, and should step aside for those
who understand matters far better than we do, and who manage the machine
of state with as much foresight as wisdom. I, at least, am determined to
hold myself aloof from all such burdensome affairs, to enjoy my youth and
freedom, and I thank God that I have not to bear the weight of
administering the government, but have only the pleasant task allotted me
of permitting myself to be governed!"
"It is not possible!" cried the Electress, with an outburst of
passion--"no, it is not possible that _my_ son can so speak and think! O
Leuchtmar! what have you made of my son? Who has changed him, my darling,
my only son? I hoped that he would come back a hero, around whom would
cluster all those who are true to our house, our faith, and our
fatherland! I hoped that in him I should find a refuge against the
aggressions, the villainy, and the wiles of my enemy! I hoped that the son
would succeed in winning back his father's heart, and turning him against
that proud man who rules him entirely, and who will crush us all. O God!
my God! for three long years I have been looking forward to his return as
the time of vengeance and retribution, and now that son is here, and what
do I find in him? A son weakly obedient to his father, a submissive
admirer of Count Schwarzenberg, a weakling who longs not at all for honor
and influence, who is glad that he has not to govern and work, but that
others must govern and work for him! Alas! I am a poor mother, and much to
be pitied, for in vain have I hoped that my son would assist me to avenge
the misfortunes of my house, and punish and bring my enemies to account!"
She covered her face with her hands, weeping aloud. The Electoral Prince
gave her a look of mingled grief and pain, took one hurried step forward,
as if he would go to her, and encircle her in his arms, then paused,
retreated slowly, gently, ever farther from the spot where she still stood
with face concealed and sobbing aloud. It was as if an invisible hand
continually drew him farther from his mother, ever nearer the door of the
antechamber. Now he stood close to it, leaned against it, and--was the old
castle so disjointed, or had the Electoral Prince with sudden touch
pressed upon the latch?--the door flew open. The Electoral Prince fell
backward into the antechamber, and, had it not been for the Electress's
valet, against whom he stumbled, would have fallen to the ground.
"By my faith!" he cried, while he nodded to the lackey, who stood there
with red face and deep embarrassment of manner--"by my faith! it was a
piece of good luck for me that you were standing so near the door, my
friend, else I should probably have had a bad fall. This rickety old
castle must be repaired. One can not even lean against the doors without
their flying open!"
He nodded to the lackey, who stood there in confusion, not having at all
recovered his self-possession, and stepped back into the room. In passing,
his eye caught that of Leuchtmar, who replied by a nod of assent, stolen
and significant; then he approached the Electress, who, surprised by this
sudden and unexpected interlude, had let her hands glide from before her
face, and now dried her tears.
"I beg my revered mother's pardon for disturbing her so ridiculously," he
said, seizing her hand and pressing it to his lips. "It was not my fault,
and only occasioned by the insecure fastening upon the door. It was by a
right fortunate accident that your grace commanded your valet to station
himself close to the door of the cabinet, for he thereby saved me from an
"I did not command the lackey to station himself in your sleeping
apartment," said the Electress, "and consider it contrary to all rules of
She rapidly crossed the study and opened the door just as the lackey was
slinking through the one opposite.
"Frederick, come here!" cried the Electress, and with head sunk and
humbled mien the lackey came a few paces nearer.
"Did I not order you to wait for me in the antechamber, and to forewarn us
of the approach of any one else?" asked the Electress.
"Your highness," replied the lackey humbly, "I followed your grace's
orders exactly, and stood here in the antechamber and kept guard, but
"But this is not the antechamber, you blockhead!" cried the Electress. "It
is there, without! Go out there and wait!"
The lackey made haste to obey the order given him, and the Electress
turned to the Prince. "I beg you, my son, to pardon the man his
stupidity," said she; "but he deserves some indulgence in so far as he has
only been in our service for a short while, and consequently is not well
acquainted with the plan of the palace. My valet fell sick on the journey
from Koenigsberg here, and we were obliged to leave him behind, which was
so much the more inconvenient as he was our hairdresser besides, and
understood how to arrange the Elector's hair as well as my own and the
young ladies'. Count Schwarzenberg heard of it, and by a piece of good
fortune, was able to spare us one of his valets."
"Oh!" cried the Electoral Prince, smiling. "This fellow, then, has been
transferred from the Stadtholder's service to that of your grace?"
"Yes, and I must say that he is a very useful and efficient servant, who
understands all the newest styles of French hairdressing, and is well
skilled in other ways also. I beg you therefore to excuse him for this
"He is perfectly excusable," said the Electoral Prince, bowing. "So much
the more excusable, as it might well happen that he is not yet familiar
with this castle."
"It is true," cried the Electress, casting her eyes around the room, "it
does look a little dilapidated and desolate here, and care ought indeed to
have been taken to refurnish your apartments and give them a more
comfortable aspect. You know, Frederick, we only expect to tarry here for
a short time, and think of returning to Prussia very soon, and there I
shall see myself that you are provided with handsomer and more commodious
rooms. There I am the princely lady of the house, and everywhere reigning
duchess, while here, in the resident palace of Berlin, I seem to myself
only a guest, who has nothing at all to say in the directing of the
household, but must silently acquiesce in everything. And it _is_ so, too,
and has come to this pass, that the Stadtholder in the Mark is the only
ruling lord and commander, and the Elector seems to come here only as the
"The Stadtholder, though, seems at least a right polite and splendid
host," remarked the Electoral Prince, smiling, "a host who lays himself
out to attend to the comfort and entertainment--nay, even to the
wardrobes--of his noble guests."
"Your Electoral Highnesses!" cried an advancing lackey--"your Electoral
Highnesses, the steward of the household is without, and announces that
dinner is served, and that the Elector and the young ladies have already
repaired to the dining hall."
"Then let us go too, my son," said the Electress, offering her hand to the
"But, most gracious mother, I still have on my traveling suit, and--"
"My son," sighed the Electress, "your traveling suit is so showy and
elegant that I can only wish that in the future your court dress may
always be so handsome. Come, give me your arm, and let us hurry, for your
father does not like to be kept waiting, and is very punctual at
mealtimes. You, Baron von Leuchtmar, follow us. We herewith invite you to
be our guest, and to accompany us to table."
The Electress took the Prince's proffered arm, and swept through the door
held open for her by the lackey. The steward of the household, who had
awaited them in the antechamber, golden staff in hand, now preceded them,
the lackeys flew before them to open the doors, and through a suite of
gloomy, deserted rooms, with old-fashioned, dusty, and half-decayed
furniture, moved the princely pair, followed by Baron von Leuchtmar,
behind whom strutted the lackeys at a respectful distance. The Elector
stood with the two Princesses in the deep recess of the great window, when
his wife and son entered; he greeted them both with a short nod of the
head, and, casting a dark, unfriendly glance at Baron von Leuchtmar, who
was reverentially approaching him, gave his arm to his wife, and led her
to the two upper places at the oblong table.
"It seems our son can not dispense with his tutor," said he, in a low,
peevish tone of voice to the Electress. "He brings his tutor to dine with
us, as if it were a matter of course."
"I beg your pardon, George," whispered the Electress. "I invited the
baron, whom I found in our son's room. Do me the favor to receive him
affably. He has bestowed much labor and love upon our son, and has ever
been a faithful servant to us."
"To you, perhaps, but not to me," muttered the Elector, while he allowed
himself to sink down in his great, round easychair, thereby giving the
signal for dinner to commence.
The hours of dinner were usually those in which George William was
accustomed to dismiss all the cares and anxieties of government, and to
give himself up with cheerful countenance to harmless conversation with
his wife and daughters.
At times he even loved to carry on a lively chat with those court
officials who were present, at the table, or to amuse himself with hearing
their recital of the events of the day or the gossip of the town. But
to-day the Elector remained gloomy and taciturn. He left it to his wife to
lead the conversation, and get from the Electoral Prince accounts of her
dear relations at the Dutch court. The Prince answered all her questions,
confining himself meanwhile to the duly necessary, and never
spontaneously adding anything or entering into any details as to his own
life and residence at the court of Holland. The Elector continued to
listen in moody silence, and this reserve on the part of his son seemed to
put him still more out of humor. His face continually grew darker, and he
even disdainfully pushed away untasted his favorite dish, a wild boar's
head, served up with lemons in its mouth, after it had been presented to
him for the third time.
"You have been beating about the bush long enough now, Electress!" he
cried warmly. "You have made inquiries after all possible things, except
the principal matter and person in whom you are at bottom most interested.
It might have been expected that our Electoral Prince would have begun
himself, since 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.' But
our young gentleman remains elegantly monosyllabic, and it would seem that
he is not at all overjoyed upon his return to the poverty-stricken, quiet
house of his father. It is true, he has lived in much handsomer style at
the Orange court, lived there, indeed, amid plenty and pleasure--by the
way, we can sing a little song on that subject, for our son has seen well
to the outlay, but the payment all fell to the lot of us at home. But now,
sir, now tell us a little of the petty court at Doornward, of our
sister-in-law, the widowed Countess of the Palatinate, and finally, what
I know your mother thinks the principal thing, finally tell us also about
her beautiful and fascinating daughter, the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine."
The Prince slightly shuddered. At the mention of this name, which he had
not heard since his departure from The Hague, he could not prevent the
ebbing of all his heart's blood, and a deadly pallor overspread his
cheeks. He cast down his eyes, and yet felt that all eyes were turned upon
him with questioning, curious glances. But this very consciousness
restored to him his self-possession and composure. Once more he raised his
head with a vigorous start, shook back into their place the brown locks
which had fallen down over forehead and cheeks, and met the Elector's
looks of inquiry with a full, intrepid gaze.
"Most gracious father," he said, with quiet, passionless voice, "very
little can be said about the petty court of Doornward. Our aunt, the
Electress of the Palatinate, reflects with sorrow upon the past; the three
Princesses, her daughters, and their three little brothers, reflect with
hope upon the future, and of the present therefore but little is to be
"They must be very beautiful, those Princesses of the Palatinate, are
they not?" asked the Elector.
"I believe they are," replied the Prince composedly.
"He only believes so!" cried his father. "Just see how they have slandered
him, for they would have had us believe that he knew exactly, and was
quite peculiarly edified by the beauty of the Princesses of the
"And why should he not have been, your highness?" asked the Electress,
smiling. "The Princesses of the Palatinate are our own cousins, and it
seems very natural, surely, that he should have a cordial, cousinly regard
"Maybe, Electress!" cried George William, "but it were to be wished that
it had stopped there! I should like, therefore, to hear something about
the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine. Is she, indeed, so very fair as report
represents her to be?"
"Yes," replied the Prince, with husky voice--"yes, she is very fair. Only
question Leuchtmar on the subject; he can confirm what I say."
"I prefer to question yourself," said the Elector, with inexorable
cruelty, "and to learn something more concerning your fair cousin from
your own lips. We have been informed that the Princess Ludovicka
Hollandine is a very lively, merry young lady, and that she is by no means
disinclined to become our daughter-in-law."
"But, my husband," pleaded the Electress in an undertone, "you would not
speak of such confidential matters in the presence of our court, and--"
"Ah, Electress!" interrupted George William, "these confidential matters
have been bruited abroad everywhere; the talk has been, not merely here at
Berlin, but throughout the land, yea, even so far as the imperial court at
Vienna, that our son meant to surprise us on his return from the
Netherlands by presenting to us the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine as his
wife, without applying to us beforehand for our consent. I therefore
desire that the Electoral Prince answer me openly and candidly, that we
may all know once and forever how the matter stands, and what we have to
expect. The good, gossiping city of Berlin, the whole land, even the
imperial court and the whole world, which seems to interest itself so much
in the marriage of our Prince, will then soon have an opportunity of
learning directly and reliably what is the state of affairs, and that is
exactly what seems to me desirable, and was the motive for our question.
Therefore, let our son tell us how matters stand between the Princess
Ludovicka Hollandine and himself."
The Electoral Prince sat with downcast eyes. His cheeks were still deadly
pale, and on his high, broad brow rested a threatening cloud. He put his
hand around the stem of the large glass goblet before him, and held it so
firmly that the glass broke with startling clangor and poured its purple
wine upon the tablecloth. The shrill clinking seemed to rouse him from his
reverie; with a hasty movement he threw a napkin over the red stain, and
again raised his eyes, slowly and tranquilly.
"Your Electoral Highnesses desire me to tell you the truth with regard to
all the reports circulated as to a marriage between the Princess Ludovicka
Hollandine and myself," he said. "I will, therefore, as becomes an
obedient and submissive son, acquaint you with the truth. And the truth is
this," he continued, with raised voice, while at the same time his cheeks
became suddenly scarlet and his eyes flashed with the fire of
inspiration--"the truth is this: the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine is the
prettiest, sweetest woman in the whole world; happy and enviable is the
man whose fortunate destiny will permit him to take her home as his bride,
blessed above all men he on whom this noble, fascinating, and amiable
girl bestows her love, whom she allows to enjoy the treasures of her mind
and heart. Your highness said that the Princess Hollandine was not ill
inclined to become your daughter-in-law. On that point I can give you no
information, for I perceived nothing of this inclination; but this I can
and must confess, that _I_ experienced the most glowing desire to make
the Princess your daughter-in-law; this I must confess, that I have loved
the beautiful, witty, and charming Princess Hollandine with my whole soul
and from the very depths of my heart. But never would I have ventured to
make the noble Princess my wife in opposition to your will, father; and
since I must admit that a union with her is not in accordance with your
wishes, and that it is opposed by policy and state reasons, I have
obediently submitted to your orders, and brought to you and my country the
greatest and holiest of sacrifices that a man can offer: I have sacrificed
my love to you, father! It has indeed been a bitter struggle with me, and
I do not deny that I yet suffer, but I shall conquer my pain; yet that I
can ever forget the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine, I can not promise, for
he who has truly loved never forgets. You have desired me to acquaint you
with the truth, father, now you know it. Let it now he blazoned forth
through all Berlin, through the whole country, even as far as the imperial
court of Vienna, and through the whole world. The Princess Ludovicka also
will then hear of it, and the report of this confession of my love will
reach her. But let rumor announce this one thing more to the Emperor, to
our country, and to her: that, while the Electoral Prince Frederick
William of Brandenburg could, indeed, give up a marriage with a Princess
whom he loved, out of respect and obedience to his father, he never will
take as his wife a princess whom he does not love, out of obedience and
respect; that the Electoral Prince thinks himself much too young and
inexperienced to marry, and that he most humbly implores his father to
spare him the consideration of all matrimonial projects for long years to
come, since he is firmly determined not to marry yet, and this, indeed,
not out of any refractoriness toward his father, nor out of any want of
veneration for the princesses who might be proposed to him, but merely
because his heart has received a sore wound, and because this must first
heal. But I do not reproach the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine with having
inflicted this wound. On the contrary, I speak it aloud, and may my speech
penetrate to her ears as a parting salutation: Blessed be the Princess
Ludovicka Hollandine of the Palatinate, and may God send her the happiness
she deserves so richly by her beauty, intellect, and goodness of heart!"
And, carried away by his own warmth and enthusiasm, forgetting all sense
of restraint in this moment of highest excitement, Frederick William
jumped up from his seat, took up in his hand the unbroken cup of the glass
whose foot he had smashed, and filled it to the brim with wine.
"Most gracious mother!" he cried, "look here! the base of this goblet is
broken off, and an apt symbol it is of my love. With the last wine which
this glass will ever hold let me drink a last farewell to my love, and do
you pledge her with me: To the health of the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine
of the Palatinate!"
The Electress had listened to her son with tears in her eyes, and the two
Princesses also had been deeply moved by the vehement and painful recital
of their brother's love. Now, upon his invitation, spoken with so much
ardor and enthusiasm, the Electress rose from her seat and took her glass
in her hand; the Princesses followed her example.
"To the health of the Princess Ludovicka Hollandine of the Palatinate!"
said the Electress, with full, distinct voice, and the young ladies
repeated it after her.
"Here is to her health!" cried Frederick William, with animated features
and beaming eyes. "May she be great, happy, and blessed forever!"
At one draught he emptied the chalice, then, in the fervor of the moment,
forgetting all discretion, he threw the glass backward over his shoulder
into the hall, so that it fell, with a crash, shivered to atoms, upon the
The Elector rose, his face flushed with passion, and violently rolled his
chair back from the table. "Dinner is over," he said. "May this meal be
blessed to all!"
The court officials bowed low and withdrew. Herr von Leuchtmar also made a
motion as if to go, but George William's call detained him. "Come here,"
he said imperiously; "I have still a couple of words to speak with you.
Just tell me, Baron Leuchtmar von Kalkhun, is it you who have taught the
Electoral Prince such singular manners, or are those the fine fashions
which he has been used to at the Orange court? Is it the custom there to
make scandal at table, and to throw glasses behind them?"
"Your Electoral Highness," replied Leuchtmar hesitatingly, "I do not
"Permit me, most gracious father," interposed the Electoral Prince, while
he most respectfully drew near to his father--"permit me to answer you on
that point myself. No, it is not the fashion to behave so strangely at the
Netherland court, and God forbid that my former tutor, Baron von
Leuchtmar, should have taught me such ill manners. It was only my heart,
which for the moment was stronger than any form or fashion, and I pray you
to forgive it, for henceforth it shall be right good and quiet, and not
even cause it to be remarked that it still beats."
The Elector only answered by a silent nod of the head, and then turned
again to the baron.
"Leuchtmar," he said, "I have now a few words to address to you, and, had
you not appeared here to-day, I should have been obliged to have had you
summoned to-morrow to tell you what I have to say. You have brought the
Electoral Prince back to us, a young gentleman, who has outgrown the
schoolroom and needs no tutor; let life then receive him into its school
and play the tutor for him. But he has outgrown you and your protection,
and your office is herewith at an end. I might wish, indeed, to retain you
still near the person of my son, and so I could have done if the Electoral
Prince had married, and we had set up a princely establishment for him, as
would have become his rank. But the Electoral Prince's distinct
declaration that he will not marry for some years, even if we should
desire it, is welcome to us in so far as we shall not have to give him a
separate household, which would have been rather hard upon us in these
times of sore embarrassment. The Electoral Prince will therefore reside at
our court, simply and quietly as we ourselves, and we can not provide him
separate attendants. Therefore, you are honorably dismissed from your
office, and it will suit us no longer to confine you to our household. You
are free to seek another master, another office, and we herewith dismiss
you forever from our service. It will not, indeed, be difficult for you to
find another service, and, since you are so well disposed to the Swedes,
you would do best to repair to The Hague, or, indeed, to Sweden itself."
"If Baron von Leuchtmar will do that," exclaimed the Electress, "he shall
not want for recommendations from me, and my uncle the Stadtholder will
surely esteem it a privilege to receive into his service a man so
pre-eminently wise, learned, and trustworthy as Baron von Leuchtmar. I
will at any time write on the subject to the Stadtholder of Holland, and
tell him what a debt of gratitude we owe you, and how little able we are
to requite you. We shall further entreat him to do what is, alas!
impossible for us--to give you a good, honorable, and lucrative position
for the whole of your life."
"I thank your highness out of a sincere soul for so great a favor," softly
replied Leuchtmar. "Meanwhile I do not intend to go into any other
service, but to content myself with quiet retirement in the bosom of my
"Do just as you choose," said the Elector, "and may good fortune attend
you everywhere. Electress, give me your arm, and let us withdraw to our
own apartments. And _he_, our son, will doubtless, first of all, have to
take a most touching and tearful farewell of Leuchtmar, and sing a
mournful ditty about the cruel father who would take away from him his
nurse--that is to say, his tutor."
"No, most gracious father," cried the Electoral Prince, laughing, "I shall
sing no mournful ditty, but cheerfully second your decision. It is quite
fine to have no longer a tutor at one's side, for it makes one feel as if
he were indeed a grown-up man, no more in need of a governor; and as to
that touching and tearful parting, that is by no means called for. Herr
von Leuchtmar and I have had some hot disputes lately on the subject of
noble politics. He was too much of a Swede for me, I too much of an
Imperialist for him, and those two things accord not well together, as you
know yourself. Meanwhile, farewell, Baron von Leuchtmar, and for all the
good you have done me accept my best thanks! And now a last embrace, and
then God go with you, Herr von Leuchtmar!"
He flung his arms around Leuchtmar's neck, and pressed him closely to his
heart. "Farewell, my dear friend," he whispered, "farewell; we shall meet
"We shall meet again, my Brutus," said Leuchtmar, quite softly, and laid
his hand upon the Prince's brow, blessing him.
Frederick William felt the tears gush from his heart to his eyes, and with
a brusque movement repelled the baron. "Farewell!" he repeated hoarsely,
then hurried with quick steps through the dining hall to the door.
"Frederick William, come with us!" cried the Elector, but the Prince did
not or would not hear his call. He hurried through the antechamber and the
long corridor, and when he had gained the solitude of his own gloomy
apartments, and not until then, rang forth from his breast the long
restrained scream of agony, streamed from his eyes the long-restrained
tears. He sank down upon the old creaking armchair and wept bitterly.
"Well, Master Gabriel Nietzel, here you are," said Count Schwarzenberg,
greeting the painter, who had just entered, with a gracious nod. "And it
must be granted that you are a very punctual man, for I agreed to meet you
here at Spandow by twelve o'clock, and only hear, the clock is just now
striking the hour."
"Most gracious sir, that comes from my already having stood an hour before
the gates of your palace, waiting for the blessed moment to arrive when I
might enter. I have been gazing this whole hour up at the dialplate of the
steeple clock, and it seemed to me as if an eternity of torture would
elapse while the great hour hand slowly, oh, so slowly, made its circuit
of sixty minutes."
"You are a queer creature!" cried Count Schwarzenberg, shrugging his
shoulders. "Romantic as a young girl, full of virtuous desires, and yet
not at all loath to commit certain delicate little crimes, and to pass off
copies for originals, and that not merely pictures on canvas, but pictures
in flesh and blood as well. For what else is your Rebecca but the copy of
a respectable, decent matron, whom you thought to smuggle in as an
original, while in reality she is nothing but a copy."
"In the eyes of the law and the Stadtholder perhaps, but not in the eyes
of God and of him who loves her more than his life and his eternal
salvation, for he is ready, in order to possess her, to renounce even his
honor and his peace of conscience. Oh, your excellency, be pitiful now and
let me see my Rebecca. You have given me your word, and you will not be so
cruel as to break your promise."
"I promised you nothing further than that I would intrust certain damaged
pictures to you for repairing, and that I would show you a picture which
might perhaps be familiar to you--that was all. I shall perform my
promise, and that immediately. But first, just tell me how you are
progressing with the painting I ordered of you. Perhaps you have already
with you some sketch of it? It would be peculiarly pleasant to me, for on
the day after to-morrow I give a _fete_ in my palace at Berlin, and it
would be quite opportune if I could then lay the sketch before the dear
Electoral Prince, who is to honor the _fete_ with his presence. He is a
connoisseur, and interests himself greatly in such things. Say, then, how
comes on your sketch, and can it be completed by that time?"
"It can, noble sir! But it is not possible for me to speak about that now,
for my thoughts are wandering and my heart beats as though 'twere like to
burst. If I am to become a reasonable man once more, let me--first of
"See the picture which I promised to show you?" interposed the count.
"Well, then, you shall see it, Master Gabriel Nietzel. Remember, though,
that I only show it to you on condition that you examine it in silence. So
soon as you shall venture to speak to it, it vanishes, and you see it
never more. One has to prescribe strict regulations to you, for you are
such an odd fellow, freely entertaining bad thoughts, but shrinking from
bad deeds like an innocent child. But you shall prove to me by deeds that
you are in earnest about making amends for your crime against _me_, the
world, the laws, and the Church. Only when you have done the right thing
shall you again obtain your beloved and your child, and may depart
unhindered from this country. Mark that, Master Nietzel; and now come.
Follow me to my picture gallery."
He nodded smilingly to the painter, and led the way out of the cabinet and
through a suite of magnificent apartments. At the end of these they
entered a spacious, lofty hall, whose walls were hung with great paintings.
"This is my picture gallery," said the count on entering; "now look and be
Gabriel Nietzel remained standing near the door, and leaned against one of
its pillars. He could proceed no farther, his knees shook so, and all the
blood in his body seemed to concentrate in head and heart. He shut his
eyes, for it seemed to him that he must expire that very moment. But
finally, by a mighty effort of will, he conquered this passionate emotion,
slowly opened his eyes, and ventured to cast a weary, wandering glance
through the hall. How wonderfully solemn this broad, handsome room seemed
to him, and how devout and prayerful was his mind! A mild, clear light
fell from the glass cupola above, which alone illuminated the hall, and
displayed the pictures on the walls to the best advantage. In the middle
of the room, beside the splendid porphyry vase standing there upon its
gilded pedestal, leaned the tall, athletic form of Count Schwarzenberg,
casting a long, dark shadow upon the shining surface of the inlaid floor.
Gabriel Nietzel saw all this, and yet he felt as if he were dreaming, and
that all would vanish so soon as he should venture to move or step
forward. The count's voice aroused him from his stupefaction.
"Now, Master Nietzel, come here, for from this point you can best survey
the pictures, and judge of their merits."
Nietzel advanced with long strides, breathless from expectation, blissful
in hope. Now he stood at the count's side, and lifted his eyes to the
pictures. With one rapid glance he swept the whole wall. Paintings,
beautiful, costly paintings, but what cared he for _them_? Glorious in the
pomp of coloring, and perfect in their truth to nature, they looked down
upon him out of their broad gilt frames, but he had no senses for _them_.
His eyes fastened again and again upon that broad, massive gold frame
which hung opposite him in the center of the wall. The painting which this
frame inclosed could not be seen, for it was hidden from view by the green
silk drapery hanging before it, and at the side of the frame was suspended
a string. Gabriel Nietzel saw nothing of the paintings, he only saw the
green curtain, only the string which kept it fast. His whole soul spoke in
the glance which he directed to them.
Count Schwarzenberg intercepted this glance and smiled.
"You are certainly thinking of Raphael's exquisite Madonna," he said, "and
because that is always seen from the midst of a green curtain, you
suppose, probably, that behind this curtain must also be concealed a
Madonna and Child. Well, we shall see some day. Stay in your place, stir
not, speak not, and perhaps a miracle will take place, and you shall
behold _una Madonna col Bambino_ of flesh and blood. But silence, man, for
you well know how it is with treasure diggers: as soon as you speak, the
treasure vanishes. Now, then, look and stand still!"
He stepped across to the wall and grasped the string. The curtain flew
back and--there she stood, the Madonna with the Child in her arms, so
beautiful, so instinct with life and warmth, as only nature has ever
painted and art imitated from nature. There she stood with that richly
tinted olive complexion, with those transparent, softly reddened cheeks,
with those full crimson lips, with those large black eyes at once full of
mildness and fire, and with that broad and noble brow full of depth of
thought and yet full of repose. And in her arms that sweet child, that
vigorous boy so full of life, loosely clad in his little white shirt, that
left bare his plump arms and firm legs. Roses were on his cheeks, dimples
in his chin, and in the great black eyes lay the deep, earnest look, full
of innocence and wisdom, that is sometimes peculiar to children.
The painter had sunk upon his knees, stretching out both arms to the
picture, and from his eyes the tears flowed in clear streams over his
cheeks. But indignantly he shook them away, for they prevented him from
seeing the Madonna, _his_ Madonna. Prayers he murmured up to her, prayers
of love and confidence, supplications for steadfastness in danger, for
courageous perseverance during separation. But he ventured not to address
them audibly to the beloved Madonna, for he knew that a mere word would
have snatched her away from him.
And she, she knew it too, and therefore she also was silent. Only with her
eyes she spoke to him, and the tears which flowed from her eyes gave
eloquent reply to his. Thus they looked at one another, at once full of
bliss and pain. The child, which until now had sat quiet upon its mother's
arm, silent and as if in deep thought, suddenly began to move. Its large
eyes were fixed upon the man who lay there on his knees, and, whether it
were the result of an involuntary movement or the instinct of love, it
spread out its arms and smiled.
"My child, my darling child!" screamed Gabriel Nietzel, springing from his
knees and rushing forward with outstretched arms. But the frame with its
living picture hung too high--his arms could not reach it, his lips could
not touch that smiling, childish mouth to press upon it a father's kiss of
blessing and seal of love. "My child!" he cried again, and now, since love
had once opened his lips, silence could no longer be maintained.
"Rebecca, my beloved," he cried.
"Gabriel, my beloved," sounded down.
"You have broken your word!" cried Count Schwarzenberg angrily, and he
vehemently drew the string, so that the green curtain hastily rustled
together. But it was in vain. A rounded, powerful female arm thrust it
back, and now it was no more a Madonna with her Child who looked forth
from the green curtain, but a glowing creature, a wife flaming with
indignation and love, with defiance and grief.
"Nobody shall hinder me from looking at you, from speaking to you!" she
cried. "I _will_ see you, Gabriel. I _will_ tell you, that I love you and
am true to you. I _will_ tell you that I would rather go barefoot through
the world, begging with you and the child, than to live longer in this
count's grand castle, amid splendor, without you. Gabriel, rescue me from
this place; do all that they require of you, only take me away from here."
"Rebecca, I will rescue you, for I can not live without you--without you
the world is a desert to me. You are my sun and the light of my life."
"Gabriel, release me, while yet there is time. They will make a Christian
of me, and I shall renounce my faith and my salvation, in order to be with
you again, but afterward I shall die of repentance."
"Rebecca, I shall release you, and I too am ready to renounce my salvation
in order to be with you. But I will not die of repentance, for I shall
have you again, and when I look upon you and the child I shall feel no
"Gabriel, release me, give back to me my happiness, my home, my family.
For you are all that to me, and without you the world is a desert."
"Without you the world is a wilderness, Rebecca. Swear to me that you love
"I swear to you, by the God of my fathers, that I love you!"
"And would you love me if the whole world despised me?"
"What matters the world to me? Would I still love you? I would love you
more fervently yet if all the world despised you, for then you would be
like me. They despise me too, and turn away contemptuously from me, and
yet I have done nothing bad."
"Would you love me, Rebecca, even if I had committed a crime?"
"What do men call crime? Do they not say that you commit a crime in loving
me? Would they not say, too, that the priest who blessed our union was a
criminal? Be whatever you may, do what you will, I shall love you still.
Your soul is my soul, and my heart is your heart. Release me, Gabriel,
"I will release you, Rebecca; in four days you shall be free, and we shall
journey away from here, and return to Italy, never to leave it again."
"To Italy!" rejoiced she--"to my home! Oh, my Gabriel, I shall not merely
love you, I shall worship you--you will be to me the Saviour, the Messiah,
in whom my people have hoped so long! I--"
"Now that is enough," cried Count Schwarzenberg, who had been silent
hitherto, because he felt well how much Rebecca's words forwarded his own
plans. "Now that is enough of refractoriness! Come, Gabriel Nietzel, and
you, Rebecca, step back, or I shall have your child taken away, and you
shall never see it again!"
"Go, Rebecca, go!" cried Gabriel Nietzel cheerfully. "You remain with me,
even if you go, and I shall still see and speak to you when I am far from
you. Four days only, and then we shall be reunited!"
"I am going, Gabriel! I shall spend all these four days praying for you--to
your and my God!"
"Sir Count!" cried Nietzel in cheerful tones--"Sir Count, let us now
return to your cabinet. I have something important to communicate to you."
He cast not another look up at the curtain; he had no longer any sense of
pain in her disappearance, but this was his one absorbing thought, that in
four days he would again embrace his Rebecca, and that it lay in the power
of his own hands to deserve her. With firm steps he followed the count,
who now again led him out of the hall and into his cabinet.
"Well, speak, Master Gabriel!" cried the count; "what have you to say to
Nietzel drew a paper from his breast pocket, and handed it to the count.
"See, your excellency, here is the sketch of the painting I am to make for
"Truly, a precious sketch," said Schwarzenberg, examining the paper
attentively. "That looks like a Holy Supper."
"It is no Holy Supper, but a very unholy dinner."
"In the middle of the table I see sitting a man and a youth. The man wears
a crown upon his head and the youth wears a princely coronet."
"It is the Elector and the Electoral Prince," explained Gabriel Nietzel.
"Yes, indeed, the portraits are theirs. And beside them sits the
Electress, and beside her I see myself, and quite gorgeously have you
dressed me, with a princely ermined mantle about my shoulders and a
prince's diadem upon my brow. But what is that which I hold in my hand and
offer to the Electress?"
"It is a lachrymatory, your excellency."
"And yet the Electress smiles, Sir Painter."
"She takes the lachrymatory for a golden vase, which your excellency is
presenting to her as a present."
"You are witty, it seems, Master Gabriel," said the count sharply. "But
that your portraits are good must be admitted, and your sketch is
altogether charming. Only you have sketched for me there a joyous
festival, and, if I remember rightly, I ordered of you a picture which
should represent the death of Julius Caesar, or some such murderous
occasion. But I see no dagger and no murderer in this sketch."
"Only look at that man standing behind the Electoral Prince."
"Ah, I see him now. Why, master, that is your own likeness!"
"Yes, your excellency, my own likeness. You grant me your permission,
then, to appear at the feast?"
"Why not? Paul Veronese, too, has introduced his own portrait among those
of his banqueters. What is your image there handing to the Electoral
Prince in that basket?"
"A piece of white bread, most gracious sir, nothing more."
"Ah, a piece of white bread! You have become, it seems, the young
Electoral Prince's lackey, have laid your character as artist upon the
shelf, and become body page to the gracious Prince?"
"It seems so, most gracious sir," replied Nietzel with solemn voice. "But
see here, the truth lies on this page."
And he handed the count a second sheet of paper.
"What do I see? Something seems to have disturbed the banquet."
"Yes, your excellency, very greatly disturbed it. Do you still see the man
who stood behind the Electoral Prince?"
"No, I see him nowhere."
"He has fled, your excellency. He is the murderer of the Electoral Prince,
who is borne out senseless."
"Of the Electoral Prince? Conrad the Third, you mean! For was it not the
murder of the last of the Hohenstaufens which you promised me?"
"Yes, your excellency, and I will perform my promise if the sketch pleases
"It pleases me very much, and it suits me perfectly," replied the count,
whose glance remained ever directed to the two sketches. "Yes, yes," he
continued slowly, "I understand, and the design has my approval, for it is
simple and natural. You have your plan complete in your head?"
"Quite complete, your excellency."
"Then it is not necessary to talk any more about it, or to preserve the
sketches," said the count, slowly tearing the two papers into little bits.
"You are right, count, it is not necessary to preserve the sketches, since
I soon expect to carry them out on a large scale. But we have something
else to talk about, your excellency."
Schwarzenberg looked in amazement at the painter, whose voice had now lost
its reverential expression, and was very firm and determined.
"We have only to speak upon such subjects as I may choose, master," he
"No, Sir Count," retorted Nietzel decidedly; "but we have to speak about
what follows the completion of my painting. We must speak of _that_, even
should it not please your excellency. On Sunday your banquet takes place;
on that day I should like to set off for Italy with my wife and child,
and leave Germany forever."
"Do so, Master Nietzel, I strongly advise you to do so."
"Will your excellency condescend to assist me thereto?"
"Joyfully, from the bottom of my heart, my dear Nietzel. You would travel
to Italy. First of all you want funds for your journey, I suppose. Here,
Master Nietzel, here I transmit to you a pocketbook containing twelve
hundred dollars--your pension, which I pay you in advance for two years."
"I thank your excellency," said Gabriel, taking the pocketbook. "The
principal thing, though, is, how am I to get at my wife and child? Am I to
come here to fetch them away?"
"Not so, Master Nietzel. I shall send Rebecca and the child to you at your
lodgings in Berlin."
"Before or after the banquet?"
"After the banquet, of course."
"But if you do not do so, your excellency. If you should forget your
promise to poor Gabriel Nietzel?"
"Ah! you mistrust me, do you, Mr. Gabriel Nietzel?"
"Do you not mistrust me, too, Sir Count? Have you not taken my Rebecca and
my child as pledges for my keeping my word? Have you not deprived me of
what is most precious to me in this world, not to be restored until I have
fulfilled my oath to you? But what pledge have I that you will keep your
word, and what means have I for forcing you to fulfill your oath to me?"
"You have my word as security--the word of a nobleman, who has never yet
forfeited his pledge," said Count Schwarzenberg solemnly. "I swear to you
that on the day of the banquet your Rebecca and your child shall be at
your lodgings in Berlin, and that you will find them there on your return
from the banquet. I swear this by the Holy Virgin Mary and by Jesus Christ
the only-begotten Son, and in affirmation of my solemn oath I lay my right
hand here upon this crucifix."
The count strode across to his escritoire, and laid his hand upon the
crucifix of alabaster and gold, which stood upon it. "I swear and vow," he
cried, "that next Sunday I shall send to Gabriel Nietzel's lodging his
Rebecca and her child, and that he shall find them there when he returns
from the banquet. Are you content now, Master Gabriel Nietzel?"
"I am content, Sir Count. Farewell! And God grant that we may never meet
again on earth!"
He greeted the count with a passing inclination of his head, and left the
apartment without waiting for his dismissal.
"And now," murmured Gabriel Nietzel to himself, as he stepped out upon the
street--"now for work, without hesitancy and without delay, for there is
no other way of escaping from that cruel tiger who has me in his clutches.
He is athirst for blood, and I must sacrifice to him the blood of another
man in order to save that of my wife and child! But, woe to him, woe, if
he does not keep his word, if he acts the part of traitor toward me! But I
will not think of that, I dare not think of it, for I have need of all my
presence of mind in order to prepare everything. First, I must speak to
the Electoral Prince; that is the most important thing."
He went back to Berlin, and repaired forthwith to the palace. The
Electoral Prince was at home, and the lackey who had announced the court
painter Gabriel Nietzel now reverentially opened for him the door of the
"Well, here you are, my dear Gabriel," cried the Electoral Prince affably.
"Welcome, to receive my thanks for the zeal and dispatch with which you
attended to the removal of my effects. Truly you merit praise, for I am
told that you arrived in Berlin before me. We had contrary winds, it is
true, and had to lie at anchor before Cuxhaven for fourteen days. Well,
say, master, how are you pleased with Berlin?"
"Very well, your highness," replied Nietzel gloomily, looking into the
pale, sad countenance of the Electoral Prince with a glance full of
"Why do you look so inquiringly at me, master?" asked the Prince restively.
"Pardon me, most gracious sir, I will not do so again," said Gabriel,
casting down his eyes. "I have something to say to your highness, and I
would fain gather the needed courage therefore from your countenance."
"Do so then, master, look at me and speak."
"Step into the middle of the room, gracious sir, and permit me to come
close to you; then I will speak, for I shall know then that no one can
The Electoral Prince did as Gabriel requested. The latter stepped close up
to his side. "Most gracious sir," said he, "have you confidence in me?"
"Yes, Gabriel Nietzel, I have confidence in you."
"Then hear what I have to tell you. Ask no questions, require no
intelligence and explanations. Hear my warning, and act accordingly. Count
Schwarzenberg plots against your life!"
"Do you believe that?" said the Electoral Prince, smiling.
"He has invited you to a feast, which is to take place on Sunday. At that
feast you are to be poisoned."
The Electoral Prince started, and a transient flush gleamed upon his
cheeks. "Whence know you that, Gabriel Nietzel?"
"I beseech you ask me no questions, but believe me. Will your highness do
so?--dare I speak further?"
"Well, I will believe you. Speak further, Master Gabriel."
"I told you thus much, that you were to be poisoned at Count Adam von
Schwarzenberg's banquet. The count's valet has been bribed by him; he will
have the honor of waiting upon you at the feast, and he will therefore
present to you all you eat or drink, even down to the bread. Do not accept
them from him, your highness, especially the bread."
"I shall at least eat nothing, Gabriel Nietzel."
"When he sees that, he will offer you some fruit or viand which will prove
hurtful to you. The count's valet must not stand behind your seat, that is
the principal thing; another must take his place, another, on whose
fidelity you may rely."
"Who is that other? Where is the man to be found in these parts on whose
fidelity I may rely?"
"You may rely upon me, Prince. I will stand behind your chair, I will wait
upon you at Count Schwarzenberg's feast."
"You, Gabriel Nietzel, you?" asked Frederick William, and his eyes were
fixed upon the painter with a long glance of inquiry. Gabriel Nietzel
sustained this glance, and succeeded in forcing a smile upon his lips.
"I will be your valet at the feast. I will stand behind your chair and
wait upon you."
"Impossible, Gabriel. How could we manage that without insulting the
"Very simply, your highness. Have the kindness to say that you brought me
with you, in order that I might make for you a painting of the banquet,
and to that end sketch the outlines, and that, to furnish a pretext for my
presence, you have allowed me to appear as your page."
"It is true, that will suit! You have weighed all excellently, Gabriel
Nietzel, and your plan is good."
"And you accept it, gracious sir, do you not, you accept it?"
Frederick William was silent, and his large, deep-blue eyes were again
fixed testingly and questioningly upon the painter's countenance. After a
long pause he slowly laid his hand upon Gabriel's shoulder, and his looks
"Gabriel Nietzel," he said solemnly, "I will have confidence in you, I
will assume that God sends you to me to save me; I will _not_ assume that
Count Schwarzenberg sends you to me to ruin me. You shall accompany me to
the feast and stand behind my chair as page."
Gabriel Nietzel only answered by the tears, which in clear streams gushed
from his eyes. "Oh, you weep," cried the Electoral Prince. "Now I see well
that you mean honestly, and that I can trust you, for your tears speak for
Just then the lackey opened the door of the antechamber and announced,
"The commandant of Kuestrin, Colonel von Burgsdorf, wishes to pay his
"Let him wait an instant; I will summon him directly."
"Most gracious sir," murmured Nietzel, when the door had again closed,
"dismiss me in the colonel's presence, and immediately, that the spies may
not have it to say that there has been to-day a meeting, of Count
Schwarzenberg's enemies here."
"Are there spies here too, Gabriel?"
"Everywhere, sir, each of your servants is bribed, and you must suspect
them. Dismiss me, sir, dismiss me."
The Electoral Prince went to the door and opened it.
"Colonel von Burgsdorf, come in!"
"Here I am, most gracious sir, here I am!" cried Burgsdorf's rough voice,
and with clashing sword and glittering corselet Conrad von Burgsdorf
entered the room. The Electoral Prince nodded to him, and then turned to
the painter, who humbly and with lowered head had crept away toward the
door. "Master Nietzel," he said, with a condescending wave of the hand,
"go now, and be careful to carry out my instructions. I will request my
mother to do me the kindness to sit to you every day for her portrait,
which you are to paint for me. Make all your preparations, and come early
to-morrow morning with the canvas stretched."
"Your highness's commands shall be punctually executed," said Gabriel
Nietzel, and, after reverentially bowing, he left the room.
"And now for you, my dear Burgsdorf!" cried the Electoral Prince,
advancing a few paces to meet the colonel, and kindly offering him his
hand. "You are heartily welcome, and let me hope that I, too, am welcome
to you and your friends."
"Your highness, you are more than welcome to us--you have been longed for
by us, and we thank God from the depths of our souls that he has finally
given you back to us. All had already abandoned hope of your return to us.
All really believed that you would forsake us in our wretchedness and
want, and would never more return to the unhappy Mark of Brandenburg. But
here you are at last, my dearest young sir, and blessed be your coming and
"I thank you, colonel, thank you with my whole heart for your good
wishes," said Frederick William kindly; "and trust me, my dear colonel, I
know how to treasure them, and will never forget you for these. You are
one of the faithful ones, on whom our house can count in evil as in good
days, and on whom an Elector of Brandenburg would never call in vain, if
he had need of him."
"Call upon us, most gracious sir," said the colonel briskly and
joyfully--"call all your faithful ones, and you shall see they will all
come, for they are only waiting for your summons."
The Electoral Prince smilingly shook his head. "I am not the Elector of
Brandenburg, and I have not the right to summon you."
"You shall and must be Elector of Brandenburg, and that you may be so, you
must gather your faithful ones around you."
"I do not understand you," said the Electoral Prince slowly. "Whether I
will ever be Elector of Brandenburg, God only can decide, for in his hands
lies my father's life as well as my own. May the day be far distant when I
enter upon the succession--may my venerated father for long years to come
rule his land in peace and tranquillity. I long not to grasp the reins of
government, for I know very well that I am yet much too young to guide
them with wisdom and prudence."
"You will not understand me, your highness," cried the colonel
impatiently, and his red swollen face glowed with a brighter hue. "But I
must still try to make you understand, for to that very end have I been
sent hither by your friends; they have chosen me as spokesman for them
all, and therefore I must speak, if your highness will grant me leave so
"Speak, my dear colonel, speak, and may God enlighten my heart, that I may
rightly understand you! Let us sit down, colonel, and now let us hear what
is the matter."
"This is the matter, your highness, the Mark of Brandenburg is lost to
you, if you do not seize it now with swift, determined hand. You do not
believe me, sir; you shake your head incredulously and smile. Ah! I see
plainly, that you have been suffered to remain in great darkness as
regards the situation of affairs here, and you know very little of our
sufferings and our distresses. You know not that poverty and want prevail
throughout the whole land; that the peasant, the burgher, the nobleman,
all classes of the people, in short, are equally oppressed; that trade and
commerce lie prostrate; and the aim of each one is only how he may prolong
a wretched existence from day to day."
"Nevertheless, my dear colonel, I know that. I saw enough solitary, ruined
villages, waste and empty towns, uncultivated and ravaged fields on my
journey hither to prove to me what the poor inhabitants of the Mark have
had to suffer in these evil days of war."
"Have had to suffer, says your highness?" cried Burgsdorf impatiently;
"they still suffer continuously, and their suffering will be without
cessation or end if your highness does not take pity upon the poor people,
upon us all."
"I?" asked Frederick William, astonished. "What then can I do?"
"You can do everything, my Prince, everything, and in the name of your
future country, in the name of your subjects, I beseech you to do so. The
Mark Brandenburg stands upon the brink of a precipice. Save it, Electoral
Prince. The religion, policy, and independence of Brandenburg are in
danger; take your sword in hand and save her. Speak three words, three
little insignificant words, and all the noblemen in the Mark will rally
exultingly about you, and the people will flock to you in crowds, and make
you so mighty and so strong that you need only to will and your will shall
"What three words are those, Sir Colonel von Burgsdorf?"
"Those three words, your highness, which the people shouted up at the
palace window yesterday, when you got home. The three words, 'Down with
"Down with _him_," repeated the Electoral Prince. "And who is this _him_?"
"It is Count Schwarzenberg, your highness--it is the minister who rules
here in the Mark as if it were his own property, and as if he were not
your father's Stadtholder, but the reigning Prince, who had obtained the
Mark as a fief from the Emperor of Germany, to whom alone he were
responsible. Look about you, Frederick William, look at these poor,
wretched apartments, in which you live--look at the decay of the princely
house, the embarrassments with which your father has to contend, and the
privations which your mother and sisters have to undergo. And then,
Prince, then look across at Broad Street, at Count Schwarzenberg's
palace. There all is glory and splendor, there are to be seen lackeys in
golden liveries, costly equipages, handsomely furnished halls. They
practice wanton luxury, they live amid pomp and pleasure, arrange
magnificent hunts and splendid entertainments, while the people cry out
for hunger. They make merry in Count Schwarzenberg's palace, and while the
burgher, whose last cent he has seized for the payment of taxes and
imposts, creeps about in rags, _he_ struts by in velvet clothes, decked
out with gold and precious stones, and laughingly boasts that half the
Mark of Brandenburg might be bought at the price of one of his court
suits. Most gracious Prince, yesterday the steward of your father, with
the Electoral consent, brought out the velvet caps which had been kept in
the Electoral wardrobe, took off the genuine silver lace with which they
were trimmed, and sold it to the Jews, in order to pay the servants their
month's wages, and the count's servants yesterday received new
liveries, so thickly set with gold lace that the scarlet cloth was hardly
distinguishable underneath. The Stadtholder in the Mark revels in
superfluity, while the Elector in the Mark almost suffers want, and
esteems himself happy if he can give one piece of land after another to
his minister as security for the payment of debt. Oh, it is enough to
drive one to despair, and make him tear his hair for rage and grief, when
he sees the state of things here, and must perceive that the Elector is
nothing and the Stadtholder everything. To his adherents he gives offices
and dignities, and those whom he knows to be attached to the interests of
the Electoral family he removes from court, and replaces by his favorites
and servants. Upon the Colonels von Kracht and von Rochow he has bestowed
good positions, making them commandants of Berlin and Spandow, with double
salaries, but me, whom he knows to be the faithful servant of the
Electoral family, he has banished from court and sent to Kuestrin with only
half as high a salary as the other two have. From the Electoral privy
council he has also removed all those gentlemen who were bold enough to
lift up their voices against him, and has introduced such men as say yes
to everything that he desires and asks. No longer does an honest, upright
word reach the Electoral ear, and while the whole people lament and cry
out against Schwarzenberg, fearing him as they do the devil himself, our
Elector fancies that his Stadtholder is as much beloved by the people of
the Mark Brandenburg as by the Emperor at Vienna. But it is just so;
Catholics and Imperialists will Schwarzenberg make us; ever he presses us
further and further from our comrades in the faith, the Swedes and Dutch;
ever he draws us closer to the Catholics; and if he could succeed in
making the Elector Catholic, removing all Evangelists and Reformers from
court, and putting Catholics in their places, then he would rejoice and
obtain a high reward from the Emperor and Pope."
"And you believe, Burgsdorf, that he will do such a thing, and esteem such
a thing possible?" asked the Electoral Prince, with a sly smile.
"I believe that he will, and we all believe so. And with the Stadtholder
to will is to do, for he carries through all that he undertakes. But we
will not suffer it, Prince, we will not be turned into Imperialists and
Catholics. We will hold to our Elector and our religion; we will not
suffer and submit to our Elector's being any longer in dependence upon
Emperor and empire, and nothing at all but a powerless tool in
Schwarzenberg's hands. We want a free Elector, who has courage and power
to defy the Emperor himself, and league himself with the Swedes against
him. For the Swedes are our rightful allies, not merely because the mother
of the little Queen Christina is sister to our Elector, but also because
we are neighbors, and of one religion and one faith. Oh, my gracious young
sir, do not allow Schwarzenberg to make us Catholics and Imperialists!
Free your country, your subjects, and yourself from this man, who weighs
upon us like a scourge from God!"
"But, Burgsdorf, just consider what you say there. I, who have but just
returned from a three years' absence, I, who am almost a stranger to these
combinations and circumstances, _I_ am to free you from this most mighty
and influential man, the Stadtholder in the Mark! I should like to know
how to go about it."
"Gracious sir, I will tell you," replied Burgsdorf, with smothered voice
and coming close up to the Prince. "Only say that you will place yourself
at our head; give me only a couple of words in your own handwriting to
give assurance to your friends and adherents that you will at their head
battle for your good rights and for the faith and law of the land. Do
this, and then just wait eight days."
"And what will happen after these eight days?"
"Then will happen that you shall see an army assembled about you, my
Prince, in eight days. We have all been long making our preparations in
secret, and putting everything in position, to be able to break forth as
soon as you should appear and place yourself at our head. Every nobleman
belonging to our party has procured arms and ammunition for the equipment
of his people, and a brave, well-appointed host will be ready to execute
your orders. You will take Schwarzenberg prisoner in his proud palace; you
will be able by persistency to drive the Elector to dismiss the hated
minister and his hated son from their offices and dignities, and to banish
them forever from the country. You will be able to force the Elector to
nominate you Schwarzenberg's successor, and then, having the power in your
own hands, it only depends upon yourself to break, with the Emperor, to
recognize the peace of Prague no longer, but to renew the alliance with
the Swedes, and united with them to battle against the encroachments of
the Emperor, and in behalf of religion!"
"Just see, colonel, you have your plan already cut and dried!" cried the
Prince. "If I should accede to it I would have nothing further to do than
to execute what you have previously determined and arranged, and I should
be nothing more than a tool in your hands. Now, I must confess to you that
such a part would not at all suit me, even if I were ready to fall in with
your plans. But I am not ready to do so, and am thoroughly indisposed to
accept your proposition."
"You are not inclined to do so?" asked the colonel, shocked. "Not even,"
he continued more softly, "when I tell you that the Electress knows our
plans and consents to them?"
"Not even then, colonel. However much I love my mother, yet in this matter
I can not suffer myself to be guided by her wishes. No, Colonel von
Burgsdorf, I am not minded to go into your plans; for have you well
considered what you require of me? You ask me to head a revolution, to
give you a deed of rebellion, and to call upon the noblemen of the country
to revolt against their rightful Sovereign. You ask me, as a rebel and
agitator, and yet at the same time only as your tool, to do force and
violence to my lord and father, and to force him to dismiss his minister,
to alter his system, and to make enemies of his friends and friends of his
enemies. Truly, you offer me a great advantage in prospective, and are
good enough to propose that I step into Count Schwarzenberg's place and
rule the country in the Elector's name, as he has done. But I am not blind
to my own shortcomings, and do not overestimate myself. I know very well
that I am as yet but an inexperienced young man, who has still a great
deal to learn, and is by no means in a position to take the place of so
distinguished and adroit a statesman as Count Schwarzenberg. I must yet go
to school to him, and learn from him statecraft and policy."
"Will you learn from him, gracious sir?" cried Burgsdorf passionately,
"would you go to school to him, to that Catholic, that Imperialist?"
"Tell me a better schoolmaster for my father's son?" asked the Electoral
Prince softly. "My father has bestowed full confidence upon him for these
twenty years past, he has adhered firmly and faithfully to him in evil as
well as in prosperous days, and therefore I conclude that the count is
worthy of this unshaken confidence, and must well deserve his master's
love. It would, therefore, be very disrespectful behavior on my part
toward my father, and put me in the light of exalting myself against him
in unchildlike disobedience, if I should make the attempt to remove Count
Schwarzenberg from his side by force. The Elector alone is reigning
Sovereign within his own dominions, and what he concludes must be good,
and it does not become us to censure or presume to know better."
"Your grace, then, will be nothing but an obedient and submissive son?"
asked Burgsdorf in a cutting tone.
"Nothing further, Burgsdorf," replied Frederick William quietly. "May my
father yet live to rule long years in peace; I am still young, I am
learning and waiting."
"You are learning and waiting," cried Burgsdorf, beside himself, "and
meanwhile your land is going wholly to ruin; the people are hungry and in
despair; the noblemen are reduced to beggary or have, in their
desperation, gone over to Schwarzenberg--that is to say, to the
Emperor--who pays a rich annuity to each one who adheres faithfully to
him. And when your grace has waited and learned enough, then will come the
day when Count Schwarzenberg will hunt you from your heritage, even as he
has hunted the Margrave of Jaegerndorf; then will the Emperor give the Mark
Brandenburg away, as he has done with Jaegerndorf, and his favorite,
Schwarzenberg, is here ready to receive the welcome donation. He has
already ruled the Mark Brandenburg twenty years in the Emperor's name, why
should he not rule the Mark as its independent Sovereign? Oh, gracious
sir, it makes me raving mad just to think of it, and I can not believe
that you are in earnest, that you actually thrust from you myself and
those loyal to you, and will not enter into our plans. My dear Prince, I
have known you all your life. I have carried you in my arms as a little
boy; I have borne you under my cloak when you went with your mother to
Kuestrin; I have staked upon you all the hopes of my life; and it would be
a bitter grief to me to be obliged to think that you will have nothing to
do with me and all your friends."
"And think you, man," asked the Electoral Prince, "that it would be no
grief to my father if I should step forward as his adversary? Think you
that it would make for him a good name in history should the son present
himself as his father's enemy? No, Burgsdorf; I repeat it to you, I am
learning and waiting."
"And I? I have waited twenty years, to learn in this hour that all my
waiting has been in vain. The Mark is lost, and you, Electoral Prince,
with it. I shall tell your mother, I shall tell your friends, that you are
lost to us. Farewell, sir, and, if you will, go to Count Schwarzenberg and
tell him that I am a traitor and conspirator. I shall go back to Kuestrin,
and if I were not ashamed, I could weep over myself and you. No, I am not
ashamed; look, sir, at least you have constrained me."
And the tears gushed from his eyes and fell down upon his grizzly, gray
beard. He clapped his hands before his face and sobbed aloud. The
Electoral Prince turned pale. He fixed a glance full of confidence and
love upon the colonel, and had already opened his lips for an answer,
which he would probably have afterward repented, when Burgsdorf suddenly
drew his hands from before his face and angrily shook his head.
"I am a fool!" he said furiously, "and it would serve me right, old baby
that I am, if you should laugh at me. Farewell!"
He made a formal military salute, turned abruptly and crossed the
apartment to the door. Now, when his hand was already upon the latch, the
Electoral Prince made a few steps forward. Colonel Burgsdorf turned about.
"Did you call me, sir?"
"No, colonel, farewell!"
The door closed, and Frederick William was alone. His large blue eyes were
directed toward heaven with a look of inexpressible grief.
"I have in this hour offered up a greater sacrifice than Abraham, when he
sacrificed his son to his God," he whispered. "Has God accepted my
sacrifice, will he in his mercy some day reward me for it?"
The city of Berlin was to-day in a state of unusual stir and excitement.
Everybody made haste to finish his noon-day meal, and nobody thought of
complaining especially that this repast was so sparingly provided and
served in such small portions, and that the dread specter of hunger was
ever stalking nearer to the inhabitants of the unhappy, much-plagued town.
They were to-day looking forward to a spectacle--one, moreover, for which
no money was to be paid, which could be had gratis, just by being upon the
street in right time and struggling to obtain a good position on the
cathedral square, before the palace, or much better, before Count
Schwarzenberg's palace. For to-day the count gave a great banquet in his
palace on Broad Street, and it was well worth the trouble of contending
for a place before the palace, and not even being frightened by a few
cuffs and blows. The whole fashionable world of Berlin, all the nobility
of the regions round about, were invited to this feast, and the whole
court was to appear there. And it was so rarely that the Electoral family
was ever to be seen by the town. They had passed almost a year in the
Mark, but in such quiet and retirement did they live that their presence
would hardly have been recognized if on Sunday in the cathedral church,
which stood in the center of the square between the palace and Broad
Street, their lofty personages had not been discernible behind the glass
panes of the Electoral gallery. But to-day they were not to be seen in the
seriousness of devotion, with their solemn, church-going faces, but in the
pomp and splendor of their exalted station, in the glitter of their
earthly greatness. And, above all things, they were to see the Electoral
Prince, the Prince who had but just returned home, the hope of the
downtrodden land, the future of the Mark Brandenburg!
How the good people hurried with joyful, eager faces along toward Broad
Street, with what hasty movements did they rush across the Spree Bridge! A
black, surging throng of men stood before the castle on the cathedral
square, a dense, motionless mass before Count Schwarzenberg's palace. Only
one passage was left free, broad enough to allow the carriage to drive
across the castle square to the palace, and on both sides of this stood
the halberdiers of the Stadtholder's bodyguard, threateningly presenting
their halberds toward those who ventured to step forward. The Stadtholder
in the Mark had his own bodyguard--fine, athletic fellows, of proud
bearing, in splendid uniforms, trimmed everywhere with genuine gold and
silver lace, while, as everybody knew, the members of the Electoral
bodyguard wore nothing but imitation lace upon their uniforms. The
Elector's bodyguard, indeed, were paid and clothed by citizens, and they,
on account of their want and distress, had refused to pay the last
bodyguard tax, while the Stadtholder's bodyguard consisted of members of
his household and was paid and clothed by himself. And Count Schwarzenberg
was very rich, and the citizens were very poor, but still the count had
never once practiced mildness and mercy, and relieved the poor cities of
their taxes and imposts, or given of his wealth to their poverty.
To-day, however, he gave a _fete_, a splendid _fete_, and however much at
other times they dreaded and hated him, his _fete_ they could still look
upon, and with longing eyes behold all its magnificence. It was, indeed,
glorious to look upon, and they saw, moreover, how much the Stadtholder
honored and esteemed the Elector, for never before had he displayed such
splendor, when he merely invited the high nobility. Above the grand door
of entrance was stretched a canopy of crimson cloth, edged with gold, the
golden pillars of the canopy reaching out even into the street. The four
stone steps leading from the front door were covered with fine carpeting,
which also stretched away to the street, to the spot where the guests were
to alight from their carriages. On both sides of the carpet stood serried
ranks of the Stadtholder's lackeys in their flashy gold-trimmed liveries.
They were headed by the count's two stewards, with golden wands in their
hands, broad gold bands about their shoulders, and monstrous
three-cornered hats upon their heads. It was very fine to look upon, and
not merely the merry urchins, who were swinging upon the iron railings of
the count's park, opposite the palace on the side of the cathedral square,
enjoyed the spectacle, but the respectable burgher, with his well-dressed
wife upon his arm, found his pleasure in it as well. The front doors were
wide open, and they could look into the gorgeous columned hall, decorated
with garlands and vases of fresh flowers. Yes, it was plainly to be seen
that the Stadtholder felt himself greatly honored by the high company he
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