The Youth of the Great Elector
Part 9 out of 10
"Think you so?" asked Waldow, shrugging his shoulders. "It seems to me
more likely that the steward has imitated the rats, who always forsake a
sinking ship, and has gone off. The palace has been ransacked and von
Wallenrodt was nowhere to be found. He has probably gone to the new
Stadtholder, thinking to benefit himself by betraying you."
"You slander my faithful servant," said the count. "I know him better, and
am confident that he will not betray me. Come, Waldow, accompany me to my
"I will now show you that you have judged my steward falsely," he
continued, when they had reached the cabinet.
"This apartment conceals a mystery, known only to my father, myself, and
Wallenrodt. Now, you shall become acquainted with it, and learn at the
same time that there is still good faith in the world."
He crossed the spacious apartment to the large mirror, which, reaching
down to the floor, filled up the whole space between the windows. He
pressed an ornament of the frame, and the mirror flew back, having become
a door, which opened and revealed a niche concealed in the wall. From this
niche stepped forth the steward, with a great roll of papers in his hand.
"Most gracious sir," he said quietly, handing the roll to the count, "here
are the papers of your writing desk."
"Thank you, my faithful Wallenrodt!" cried Adolphus Schwarzenberg,
offering him his hand. "I knew that I could count upon you, and, when the
writing desk was found empty, knew that you had understood my glance. But
now, before we advise as to what is further to be done, let me examine
these papers, for I do not exactly know whether they contain all that I
would wish to conceal from Burgsdorf and my other enemies. Step into that
window recess, friends, and let me look over these papers."
The two gentlemen retired into the deep window niche, and conversed
together in whispers, while Count Adolphus rummaged over the papers with
quick and nervous fingers. Ever quicker, ever more nervous became the
movements of his hand, ever darker grew his brow, ever more anxious his
countenance. As he laid aside the last sheet a sudden pallor overspread
his face, and for a moment he leaned back in the fauteuil, quite faint and
"Dearest sir!" cried the steward, hurrying toward him, "are not the papers
all in order?"
"It is just as I feared," said the count, sighing. "My whole
correspondence with my father, during my last sojourn at Regensburg,
besides copies of my letters to the Emperor and Marwitz, were in the
drawer of my father's writing table, and have been carried off with the
"And did these letters compromise you, count?" asked Herr von Waldow,
drawing nearer to him.
"With these letters in his hand, President von Goetze, the chairman of the
committee of investigation, can arraign me as guilty of high treason and
condemn me to death."
A long pause ensued. With gloomy countenances all three cast their eyes
upon the ground. Then the steward lifted up his head, with an expression
of firm resolve.
"You must flee, gracious sir," he cried earnestly.
"Flee?" repeated the count, shrugging his shoulders. "Ah, you have not
heard of what further happened after you withdrew to your place of
"The whole palace is surrounded by soldiers," completed Herr von Waldow.
"At each door stand two sentinels, and even at the park gate two guards
"You see plainly, Wallenrodt, that flight is impossible," said the count.
The steward smiled. "Through doors and windows you can not escape, in
truth. There is a third way, however."
"What sort of way, Wallenrodt?"
"The secret passage, count."
"I know of no secret passage."
"But I do, count. Your late revered father had this secret passage built
at the time the cities revolted and the Swedes were threatening Berlin. He
had fifty workmen brought from Vienna, who were kept concealed in the
palace, and worked every night upon this subterranean passage, and as soon
as it was completed he had the men sent back to Austria. It is not to be
supposed that you should know anything of this, count, for it happened at
least fifteen years ago, when you were but a lad. While the work lasted
the count resided at Spandow, taking all his household with him, that no
one might know anything about the secret passage. Only the old castellan
and I remained behind, to overlook the work. We were the only two besides
the Stadtholder who knew the secret. You must flee through the
subterranean passage, gracious sir."
"Whither does the secret passage lead?" asked the count.
"Winding along underground, it has its outlet in the little pavilion in
the center of the park. The key to the outer door hangs within the
passage, as does also the key to the garden gate. All is in good order,
for, fearing that the count's affairs might take a bad turn, I examined
the passage through its whole extent until I arrived at the pavilion. Your
grace can escape in that way unperceived."
"And you, my faithful friends, will accompany me," said the count,
extending his hands to the two gentlemen. "You were right just now,
Waldow, when you said we should conquer or die. It seems now as if we must
be ruined. Our enemies have gone to work with more zeal and determination
than ourselves. While we pondered, they acted; while we tarried, they
strode energetically forward. The young Elector has made good use of his
time, and like a spider has caught us in the net with which he had lightly
and secretly encircled us. All my foes, all the sworn adversaries of my
father, has he called out to battle against us. Envy, hatred, malice, are
the regiments which the young lord musters into the field, and by means of
these he has for the moment conquered us. But only for the moment. A day
of reckoning will come to the haughty young sir. He thinks himself free
and independent, but he shall learn that there is one higher than he to
whom he must bow, to whom he owes obedience. Yes, the Emperor Ferdinand
will avenge me upon this arrogant young man. He will cause his proud neck
to bend, and force his vassal to give me satisfaction, and to reinstate me
in all my offices and dignities, which he would unjustly withhold from me.
I shall go to the Emperor at Vienna, and--Ha, what a thought!" he
exclaimed, interrupting himself. Rushing across to his writing table,
whose empty drawers were stretched wide open, he tore one out and thrust
his arm into the vacant space.
"The secret compartment," he cried triumphantly. "Old Burgsdorf's keen
scent failed him this time. Here it is, safe and inviolate. Here!"
When he drew forth his hand it contained a small box, which he opened by
touching a spring. The lid flew open; the box contained nothing but a
dainty, perfumed note. Still the count esteemed it a precious possession.
He took the paper and waved it exultingly above his head.
"This is my salvation!" he cried. "With this paper in my hand I am armed
against all the villainy and malice of the Elector. Oh, my dear, noble
father, I must thank you for this security, thank you that I shall come
forth victor from this contest with my enemy. It was you who pointed out
to me the significance of this paper, who gave me the wise counsel to
preserve it for future use. Thank you, oh, my father! At this hour this
paper is the most precious inheritance which you have left me. I shall use
it in accordance with your views, and as actuated by your spirit.
"Now, my friends," he continued, "now am I ready for flight. Let us
consider what is to be done."
"Gracious sir, I have already considered," replied Wallenrodt warmly, "and
I hope you will approve my plan. You can not make use of the subterranean
passage by day, for, as I said before, it has its outlet in the center of
the park, and if you pass through the lower garden gate in safety, you
have still to go through the suburbs of Cologne. Every one would recognize
you, and who knows whether Colonel von Burgsdorf may not have placed
sentinels there too? You must, therefore, make your escape by night. I, on
the contrary, dressed as a simple burgher, will take advantage of the
subterranean passage now, and, watching my opportunity, when the street is
quiet will leave the park and go away."
"Where are you going, Wallenrodt?"
"To Spandow, gracious sir, to Colonel von Rochow. I want to inform him of
the course events have taken--to tell him that you are forced to leave
Berlin. When nightfall comes your grace will be pleased to go through the
subterranean passage in company with Herr von Waldow, emerge into the
park, and then proceed up the street. Without especial haste, for any
appearance of haste might excite remark, you will go to the Willow-bank
Gate. Outside I will await you with two saddled horses. These you will
mount, and ride at full gallop to Spandow, where Herr von Rochow will be
ready to receive your grace. From that place the count can depart when so
"Your plan is good and feasible," said the count. "I accept it. Hasten,
therefore, good friend, hasten to Colonel von Rochow with tidings of what
has befallen us here. Tell him that the time for hesitancy and delay has
passed, that the hour of action has come. He has hitherto manfully refused
to give in his oath to the Elector, and therefore the fortress of Spandow
belongs to the Emperor, the sworn lord of its commandant, rather than to
the Elector of Brandenburg. The walls of the Imperial fort will afford us
protection and security, and from that point we can begin our contest with
the enemy, who has so treacherously attacked us. Be off, my Wallenrodt, be
off, and may we meet to-night in freedom and joy!"
"Only forget not to arm yourself, gracious sir, and take care that no one
watches and pursues you."
"I shall precede the count with two loaded pistols," cried Herr von
Waldow. "I will shoot down whoever shall dare to oppose him, and open a
free path for him to the Willow-bank Gate, where you will be waiting for
"We will both go armed and defend ourselves bravely," said Count Adolphus
Schwarzenberg. "We would rather die than fall into the hands of our
enemies. Go now, Wallenrodt, for you have verily a long way before you.
The road to Spandow is long."
"In three hours I shall be there, honored sir. We shall then have ample
time to make our preparations for defense, and meet you here at twilight
with horses. Come now, gentlemen, that I may show you the approach to the
subterranean passage. It is in the little corridor next your late father's
How dreary and desolate was the day which Count Adolphus now passed in the
palace--how the hours lengthened into days, and the minutes into hours!
How glad were they when twilight at last drew near, what sighs of relief
they breathed when night at last set in!
A dark, silent night. The sky was obscured by clouds, not a star was to be
seen. A night well fitted for enveloping fugitives in her friendly mantle,
and concealing them beneath her gloomy shades. Away now, away! Night is
here! Freedom beckons! The spacious palace was to-day nothing but a close,
oppressive prison. Nothing did Count Adolphus hear but the walking to and
fro of the sentinels and the corporal's call to relieve guard. Nothing did
he see, when he went to the window, but soldiers slowly pacing their round
before the park railing.
Away from this prison, whose splendor and luxury seemed like sheer
mockery, away from this house teeming with bitter memories of past
grandeur and glory!
Night was here, the night of deliverance. Away, away!
They wrapped their cloaks about them, drew their hats low over their
foreheads, and entered the subterranean passage. Waldow lead the way, a
burning taper in one hand, a pistol in the other. Count Adolphus
Schwarzenberg followed him, a pistol in either hand, firmly determined to
shoot down whoever might dare to oppose his progress.
The passage was traversed, and safely the two emerged into the open air in
the park pavilion. Now forward quickly, down the dark alley to the lower
garden gate. The key was in his pocket, there was nothing to obstruct
One moment they paused within the half-opened gateway and listened.
Nothing moved in the street without. All life seemed already extinct, all
the inhabitants of the wretched houses had retired to rest. Not a light
glimmered through the windows. All was hushed and still. They pushed open
the gate and stepped out upon the street. They looked up and down; nowhere
did they see a sign of movement, nowhere a human form, nor anywhere hear a
rustling sound. Forward now, forward up the street, around the corner of
the park, across the cathedral square.
The night was quite dark, and the two fugitives looked ever ahead, not
once behind them. They did not see that another shadow followed their
black shadows, nor that a second shadow glided across the cathedral square
to the Electoral castle.
To that castle, too, were Count Schwarzenberg's eyes directed. There it
loomed up, veiled in mystery and gloom, its dim outlines barely
distinguishable from the mass of overhanging clouds in the background. In
the lower story, where was situated the guardroom, burned a bright light,
shining like a clear, yellow star, and irradiating the darkness of the
Count Adolphus saw it, and also saw the light suddenly eclipsed by a
shadow; then flame forth again. He saw the shadow, but did not suspect
that it bore any relationship to his person or movements. He only
continued to look toward the castle, and to think of the past, taking
farewell of his memories, farewell of the dreams of his youth! He thought
of the insult put upon him that dreadful night when he had been mocked and
deceived by her whom he loved, and he vowed vengeance for the tortures
endured by him that night!
"Forward, Waldow, forward!" He took his friend's arm, and they pressed on.
The shadow behind them advanced when they advanced and stopped when they
stood still. Through the pleasure garden the pair proceeded with hurried
steps, through the gate at the castle moat they entered upon the
Willow-bank suburb, then down the deserted little streets of wretched
huts. They reached the great Willow-bank meadow without the walls, passing
through a gate not far from the bridge over the Spree.
"Wallenrodt, are you here?" whispered Schwarzenberg.
"Yes, count, I am here."
The tramp of horse's hoofs, the voices of men speaking in whispers.
"Colonel von Rochow expects your grace. The whole fortress is at your
service. He will defend you to the last man, and would rather blow the
whole fortress into the air than surrender you to the enemy."
"Yes, better be blown up by gunpowder, than fall into an enemy's hands!"
cries the count, vaulting with glad heart into the saddle.
"Are you ready, my friends?"
"Yes, we are ready."
The count gave the word of command, "Forward!" and grasped tighter his
"Halt! halt!" called a loud voice, and the shadow which had crept behind
them now changed into the form of a tall and powerful man, who sprang
through the gate and seized the count's horse by the bridle.
"Back!" shouted Adolphus Schwarzenberg furiously.
"Halt! halt!" cried the other. "You shall not escape. In the name of
Colonel von Burgsdorf I arrest you, Count John Adolphus von
"Who are you, poor man, who are you who dares to oppose me?"
"I am the police master Brandt. I arrest you in the name of the Stadtholder
in the Mark!"
"Wretched traitor! You swore fidelity to my father, and have now become
the tool of his enemies. Hands off! It will cost you your life! Back!"
"No, I will not leave you, I arrest you. You must stay here!"
"Let us make an end of this, count," shouted von Waldow "The night is so
pitch-dark that we can not distinguish friend from foe, else I would have
shot him long ago."
"For the last time, hands off my horse, or I shall shoot you."
"For the last time. Yield peaceably, or I shall shoot you. Living or dead
I must keep you, I have--"
A flash, the report of a pistol, a death groan interrupted the police
master's words. The three horsemen bounded forward into the night. Forward
at breakneck speed, but for the sand, that dreadful sand. This is the
Rehberg, they know it by the sand in which the horses sink, from which
they extricate themselves only to sink again. Yet what matters it if they
do make rather slow progress? They will surely reach Spandow before
daybreak, and Colonel von Burgsdorf will be cheated out of his precious
What is that? What strange sound does the night wind bear to the three
riders? Simultaneously all three turn in their saddles and listen.
They hear it quite plainly. It is the noise made by trotting horses. It
comes on--it comes nearer.
"Wallenrodt, Waldow! We are pursued!"
"Yes, count, but we have the Rehberg almost behind us, and they must go
through it. We have a good start. They will not overtake us."
"Forward, my friends, forward!"
They put spurs to their horses, they press their knees into their flanks,
and the animals struggle faster through the sand. In spite of every
hindrance they have now reached firmer ground and bound bravely forward.
But the noise behind them has not ceased, not even become more remote.
They must have good steeds, those pursuers, for they seem to come nearer
"Friends, better die than fall into the hands of the enemy!" shouts the
count. "I tell you the very moment Burgsdorf touches me I shall shoot
myself. Greet my friends for me. Bid them farewell forever!"
"You will not shoot yourself, count, for the enemy will not overtake us.
Forward! Put spur to your horses. Heigh! Huzza! Forward!"
They rush through the darkness!
Clouds dark and threatening course swiftly through the sky, horsemen dark
and threatening course swiftly over the earth.
"Waldow! they come nearer! But we have still the start of them!"
"Only see, count! That dark mass there against the sky. That is our goal.
Just one quarter of an hour and we shall be safe in Spandow."
"One quarter of an hour! An eternity! Heigh! Huzza! On! on!"
"Halt!" is heard behind them. "Halt! in the name of the Elector, in the
name of the law! Halt! halt!"
"That is Burgsdorf's voice!" cries Count Schwarzenberg, and spurs his
horse with such violence that it rears and then shoots forward, swift as
an arrow from a bow. But the pursuers, too, dash forward, as if borne upon
the wings of the wind, and the distance between them constantly grows
less. Already they hear the horses pant; ever clearer, ever more distinct
become the passionate outcries of Colonel Burgsdorf.
He swears, he threatens, he rages! He orders the fugitives to halt, and
swears to shoot them if they do not.
What care they for threats or orders? Forward! forward! Behind them sounds
a shot--a second, then a third! The balls whistle past their ears, and
they laugh aloud, to prove to the enemy that they are still alive.
Before them flash lights, like golden stars, like bonfires of rejoicing.
"Count, those are the lights of Spandow! Just see those torches there! The
commandant is waiting for you at the entrance to the fort with his
"On! on!" shout the three, and they race onward at lightning speed. And at
lightning speed the pursuers follow. Nearer they come, ever nearer.
"I have them! I have caught them!" exults Burgsdorf, springing forward and
stretching out his hands toward the fugitives, for it seems to him as if
he can indeed lay his hand upon them. "Halt! halt! in the name of the
"Forward! forward! What care we for the Elector? What care we for
The lights increase in size and brilliancy. Now they distinguish
torches and the figures of men.
"Are you there, count?" calls down Colonel von Rochow from the wall.
"It is I, colonel!"
The gate is open, they gallop in!
Over the wooden bridge gallop the pursuers after them. Now they are at the
gate. But the gate slams to with thundering sound. The pursuers are left
"Undo the bolts, Colonel von Rochow! I command you, undo the bolts!"
"Who is it that dares to command me?" calls down Colonel von Rochow from
the fortification walls.
"I command you! I, the commandant in chief of all the fortresses in the
"I know no commandant in chief, and trouble myself about no such person. I
am commandant of Spandow, and have sworn to serve the Emperor, and him
"Colonel von Rochow, in the name of the Elector and in the name of the
Stadtholder in the Mark, I command you for the last time to open the gate!"
"The Elector is not my master to command me, and as to the Stadtholder in
the Mark, here he is at my side. Only Count Adolphus Schwarzenberg do I
recognize as such, and he forbids my opening the gate. Go back quietly to
Berlin, colonel, for the night is cold, and your ride will warm you."
"And I must pocket this insult," muttered old Burgsdorf, gnashing his
teeth. "I can do nothing but turn around and go back with shame!" Almost
tearfully he gave his men the order to face about and return to Berlin.
In the castle within, Count John Adolphus cordially offered his hand to
Commandant von Rochow.
"Colonel, you have saved my life by furnishing me a refuge. I would have
shot myself if Burgsdorf had overtaken me. I shall commend you to the
Emperor's Majesty for this friendly service."
"Well, here you are at last," exclaimed Elector Frederick William, holding
out his hand to Baron Leuchtmar von Kalkhun. "You have at last returned
from your difficult journey."
"Yes, gracious sir, you may well call it a difficult journey. Four long
months of endless debate, wrangling, and dispute with those arrogant
Swedish lords, who were ever ready to take but never to give. Such was my
experience day by day for four long months."
"Yes, you are right," said the Elector thoughtfully. "Four months have
indeed elapsed since you set out upon your journey and I undertook the
duties of ruler. My God! it seems to me as if many years had rolled by
since then, and as if I had become an old, old man! I do not believe I
have laughed once during these four months, or enjoyed one quarter of an
hour of pleasure or relaxation. Discord and discussion everywhere with
Emperor and empire, with the States, with Poland, Juliers and Cleves. They
are all my foes, and not one single hand is held out to me in friendship.
I have felt at times right lonely, Leuchtmar, and sorely sighed for you.
It could not be, though, and I have learned already to submit to
necessity. Necessity alone is the despotic mistress of all princes, and we
nothing but her humble vassals. It is a humiliating thought, but
nevertheless true. I must learn to endure mortifications, and to consider
them but the price which I pay for my future."
"It grieves me to perceive that your highness is somewhat downcast and
discouraged," sighed Leuchtmar, looking sadly at the Elector's pale, sober
countenance, upon which the last four months had indeed left the imprint
"Downcast? Yes," cried Frederick William; "for my affairs progress but
slowly, and to gain anything I am compelled on all sides to make
unpleasant concessions and to submit to irksome restraints. But
discouraged--no, Leuchtmar, I am not discouraged, and by God's help never
shall be! I know my purpose, which I shall pursue with immovable
steadfastness, and, although the results of these first four months of
government are barely discernible, I comfort myself that in as many years
I shall have accomplished much. It is strange, Leuchtmar, that you have
returned to-day, the very day which brings home my Polish ambassador with
the tidings that the King of Poland is ready solemnly to invest me with
the dukedom of Prussia, thanks to our money and our fair speeches. This
very day I also expect decisive news from Colonel von Burgsdorf at Berlin.
On the self-same day I sent you forth. You were like doves sent from a
storm-tossed ark to seek for land. Almost at the same time you return to
the ark, but I fear that none of you brings with him an olive branch."
"Yet, most noble sir, I do bring you a small olive leaf," replied
Leuchtmar, with a gentle smile. "I come to announce to your grace that I
have at last succeeded, after a four months' contest, in wringing from the
Swedish lords a few concessions, and concluding an armistice, which is to
be binding for two years."
"A two years' cessation of hostilities is equivalent to ten years of
refreshment, of reinvigoration!" cried the Elector with radiant looks.
"Tell me, Leuchtmar, what concessions did these hard-headed Swedes make at
the last moment?"
"Your highness, they have pledged themselves not to allow their soldiery
to enter the Mark, unless unavoidably compelled to march through on their
way elsewhere, and that then they shall be quartered and fed only under
the direction of an Electoral commissary; and that, moreover, separate
agreements shall be entered into with regard to the maintenance of the
Swedish garrisons of forts in Pomerania and the Mark." 
"Yes," murmured the Elector, with dejected mien, "so low are we reduced
that if they even acknowledge our natural rights, it strikes us in the
light of a concession, a grant, and we must esteem ourselves happy in
having obtained it! Ah! Leuchtmar, when will the time come when I can take
my revenge for these humiliations, the time when they will bow to _me_,
and when it will be for _me_ to concede and grant favors? Hush, ambitious
heart, be soft and still! Go on, tell me what further settlements you
concluded with the Swedes."
"Gracious sir, I have no other concessions to mention, except that
something has been done for the protection of our mutual traffic by sea
and land. But that is as much to the advantage of the Swedes as of
ourselves. The demands of the Swedes are truly far greater than their
"What do they demand?"
"They demand in advance that they be left in undisturbed possession of the
fortresses they are now masters of."
"I have not the power to take them by force of arms!" cried the Elector,
shrugging his shoulders. "Let them keep what I can not force from them!
"They demand, besides, that the Werben fortress be delivered up to them."
"I will not deliver it up to them!" cried the Elector; "but I will have it
destroyed, that it be not seized by the Imperialists. What else?"
"The Swedes further desire that the Kuestrin Pass be closed to imperial
"To that I willingly consent, for it is in accordance with my own
interests," said Frederick William, smiling. "By Kuestrin is the road to
Stettin, and it is important for us, too, that this way be closed to the
Imperialists. Methinks a time will come when it shall be closed to the
Swedes as well, and once closed, I shall not open it again. What else?"
"The Swedes crave the privilege of having a resident at Kuestrin, who shall
attend to carrying out this article."
"That I shall never consent to!" cried the Elector passionately. "No, that
can not be, for such a permission would involve degradation, and the
concessions which I am willing to make for the welfare of my torn and
bleeding land need not go to the extent of degradation. I must have an
armistice, that my subjects may recover from the effects of these bloody,
trying times, and gather strength for renewed existence. I must have an
armistice, in order to gain time for the re-establishment of law and
order. But there need be no armistice tending to dishonor me, and place me
under Swedish surveillance in the midst of my own land. No, no Swedish spy,
no resident at Kuestrin--that is the condition of my agreeing to the
armistice. All else I acquiesce in."
"And I hope to prevail upon the Swedish lords to recede from this claim
yet," said Leuchtmar. "Rest is very essential to them also just at this
time, for they have enough to do to contend with the Imperialists, and the
Danes are threatening them with war. They will not desire to be embroiled
with Brandenburg at the same time. I will guarantee the conclusion of the
armistice, and, if it meets your highness's approbation, will travel again
to Sweden to effect this alteration and then bring the articles to your
highness for your signature."
"So be it, dear Leuchtmar. Return to Stockholm. Strike the iron while it
is hot. Much I hope from this armistice. It will make the lords of Warsaw,
Regensburg, and Vienna more pliant and yielding, for it will show them
that the Elector of Brandenburg is no longer drifting helplessly about in
a leaky boat, but that he has succeeded at least in stopping one hole and
keeping himself above water! And now, friend Leuchtmar, how fared you in
your secret mission? Did you hand my letter to the young Queen?"
"Yes, your highness; I even had the opportunity of delivering it to her in
a private audience without witnesses."
"And did she accept it in a kind and friendly manner?"
"Gracious sir," replied Leuchtmar, smiling, "a queen of fourteen years of
age is very sensitive with regard to her dignity, and takes it very ill if
she is not treated with due reverence and extreme devotion."
"Was my missive wanting in these respects?" asked Frederick William.
"I beg your highness's pardon, but the young Queen seemed to be rather of
this opinion. She was visibly delighted when I handed her your letter, and
especially delighted that she received it secretly, without witnesses, and
not in the presence of Chancellor Oxenstiern, whose guardianship seems to
be very irksome and unpleasant to her. The young Queen blushed, sir, when
she took your letter, and I must confess that at this moment she looked
pretty and graceful enough to be the wife of my gracious master. But her
countenance soon became clouded, as she read your communication, whose
contents seemed to afford her little satisfaction."
"But she answered my letter, did she not, and you bring me her reply?"
"Oh, yes, most gracious sir, she answered it, and I have with me Queen
Christina's reply. But I must beforehand make your grace an apology for
"Well, let me see it, Leuchtmar. Give me the answer."
Leuchtmar drew a folded paper from his pocket, and handed it to the
Elector, who unfolded it. A number of torn bits of paper fell to the
"What is that, Leuchtmar?" asked the Elector in amazement.
"Your highness," replied Leuchtmar, "that is Queen Christina's answer."
The Elector picked up a few of the larger scraps of paper, and examined
them attentively. "It seems to me, Leuchtmar," he said, "that I recognize
specimens of my own penmanship. Yes, yes, it is my writing!"
"Yes, indeed, your highness, it is your own writing. It is your letter to
Queen Christina of Sweden."
"She sends it back to me torn?"
"She tore it with her own exalted hands, trampled it under her royal feet,
and literally wept for rage."
"My heavens! what have I done to enrage her little Majesty so?"
"In the first place, noble sir, you wrote to the Queen in German instead
of Latin, and she found that very wanting in respect, and thought you
might have given yourself the trouble to write to her in the language most
agreeable to her. In the second place, you addressed the young Queen
as 'Your highness,' when she is entitled to be called 'Most serene
highness.' She is certain of that, for Oxenstiern had told her that he
gained the title for her as an especial prerogative for her from your
father and the house of Brandenburg. And in the third place, the Queen was
annoyed that your writing was so cold and serious, and contained so few
love words. 'If the Elector had nothing more to say to me than is
contained in this letter,' cried the Queen, 'he need not have troubled
himself to send it privately. This is a political document, which might
have been handed by his envoy to the assembled States, and read aloud in
public. But, if I do run the risk of receiving and reading a letter
secretly, contrary to the high chancellor's wishes, let it at least be a
love letter. I merely gave you audience because I was curious to get a
love letter at last, and to know how such feelings are expressed. This is
no love letter, though, and to such a note I have no other answer than
this.' And then the Queen tore the letter into little bits and scattered
them on the floor. I gathered up the pieces, in which she aided me
assiduously, lest Chancellor Oxenstiern, whom she momentarily expected,
might notice something peculiar, and suspect that she had received a
secret missive. I asked her most serene highness if I should bring your
grace these torn bits of paper as her answer. She replied with a
bewitching smile that I must do so. Her cousin Frederick William might
thereby learn to write her a better letter, when she would give him a
better answer. This, gracious sir, is the story of the letter you
intrusted to me for Queen Christina of Sweden."
The Elector laughed aloud. "A charming story!" he cried, "for which I must
thank my young relative, for she has lighted my somber existence by a ray
of sunshine. It pleases me that my cousin is so forward, and thereby
candid. The little maid of fourteen sighs for a love letter, and hopes
that her cousin Frederick William, who sues for her hand, will write her
one, and is so innocent as to suppose that he woos her because he loves
her. Poor child, disappointed in her curiosity and her wish to know
herself beloved! Yes, yes, it is the perpetual longing of the young heart
to be loved, and when the first love letter is received, the foolish young
creature fancies itself the happiest being upon earth, and feels itself
transported into the blessedness of paradise. Alas! they know not that all
this is only an illusion, a sweet morning dream from which they will
speedily be roused by rude, ungentle hands. Leuchtmar, I can not gratify
the little Queen of Sweden in her wish; I can write her no love letter,
for I would be guilty of deceiving this young heart. No, I can utter no
tender protestations, while my heart is still bleeding from inflicted
wounds. But a cordial, friendly letter I will write to my dear cousin. I
will write to her in faultless Latin, and couch it in most reverential
terms. Who knows, perhaps I may yet win her heart, and she heal mine! I
will write the letter, and you shall secretly transmit it to Queen
Christina. I will so express it that it shall not seem to her fitted to be
read before the assembled States, even though it be no love letter. Go
now, Leuchtmar, and rest after the fatigues of your journey. But to-morrow
evening, when business is ended, come to me in my cabinet, and let us read
a couple of Horace's odes for my strength and encouragement, as we used to
do when I was still a free young man and not the Elector, the slave of
He offered the baron his hand, and affectionately conducted him to the
door himself. Just at this moment that door was quickly opened, and a page
"Your Electoral Highness," was his announcement, "the imperial envoy,
Count Martinitz, craves an audience for himself, a special messenger from
the Emperor, and his attendant."
"Admit his Majesty's envoys," replied Frederick William, as he again
crossed the room and seated himself in the armchair before his writing
X.--A SECRET AUDIENCE.
The three persons announced entered the Electoral cabinet. First came
Count Martinitz with important air, dressed in the richly embroidered
costume of a Spanish courtier, followed by an old man of venerable aspect
and the bearing of a scholar, clad in a suit of black velvet, and by a
young lord in a magnificent court dress. The Elector sprang up on
beholding the latter, and a flush of indignation suffused his
"Count Martinitz," he asked hastily, "whom do you bring to me?"
"Your highness," replied. Martinitz, with firm, composed voice--"your
highness, I beg to be allowed to present these two lords to you. This is
Dr. Gebhard, a very learned and wise man, the Emperor Ferdinand's cabinet
and privy counselor, sent by his Majesty to your highness, charged with a
confidential and secret errand. Permit me now to present to your highness,
this other gentleman."
"I know him!" cried the Elector, with flashing eyes and angry mien. "I am
only too well acquainted with Count Adolphus Schwarzenberg and all the
plots and intrigues concocted by him in Berlin, and his efforts to lead my
officers into insubordination and revolt. But when I ordered investigations
to be made into these matters, and the count should have justified his
actions, the boastful lord showed himself to be but a cowardly deserter!"
"Your highness!" exclaimed the count coming forward with long strides, and
touching the hilt of the dress-sword hanging at his side--"your highness,
I have come to justify myself against the calumnies of my enemies. Will
you be pleased to hear me patiently, and not impugn my honor as a
gentleman and a count of the empire before you have listened to my
"You would justify yourself! Do you dare to attempt this?" asked the
Elector indignantly. "Look, here on my table lies the paper which the
States of the Mark have addressed to me, and in which they accuse you. The
Emperor's Majesty has sent me a scholar, who can certainly read it aright,
if I perchance have made some mistake. Read, if you please, Dr. Gebhard,
read these lines, and hear what the States write to me!"
He handed the imperial legate the document and pointed out with his finger
the passage in point.
Dr. Gebhard read: "Count John Adolphus Schwarzenberg, however, eluded the
investigation by flight in the night-time, and despite a guard set. In an
unusual way and in utter contempt of your highness's received orders, he
"Now," cried the Elector passionately, "would you maintain, that my States
have reported to me what is not true?"
"It is true," said Count Schwarzenberg. "I saw myself forced to escape
unjust pursuit, and--"
"Forced by your bad conscience, sir," interrupted the Elector impatiently.
"You left it for others to draw out of the fire the chestnuts which you
had thrown in, and when you found out that I was not the timid, powerless
Prince you supposed me to be, who could be frightened at a contest with
you and your faction and awed by your glory and dignity; when you saw that
I would bring you to justice, you evaded the course of law and fled
precipitately from the judges."
"Because I knew that these judges were my enemies, and that he who was at
their head, President von Goetze, had been my father's implacable foe of
"That is to say, he had been of old an honest, true Brandenburger, not
merely having proved himself an incorruptible man, but never having
condescended to bribe others for the sake of obtaining honor, position,
or wealth for himself."
"Your highness," called out the count hastily, "would you defame my father
even in his grave?"
"Have I pronounced your father's name?" asked the Elector, with dignity.
"Is it not rather you who asperse your late father's fame by referring to
him what I said with regard to bribery?"
The count cast down his eyes and was silent. Frederick William now turned
by a slow movement of the head to Count Martinitz.
"Sir Count," he said gravely and ceremoniously, "I interrupted you in your
presentation. Continue it, and introduce this gentleman to me. I must know
in what capacity he dares return to my dominions and intrude upon my
"Your Electoral Highness, I have the honor of presenting to you the count
of the empire, Adolphus John von Schwarzenberg, imperial privy counselor
and chamberlain, also _attache_ and associate of the Emperor's ambassador
extraordinary, furnished with a safe conduct signed by the Emperor
"I well knew," cried the Elector, "that this gentleman had made sure of
his own safety before venturing near me. That was the reason of my
question. As imperial officer and chamberlain he is secure against my just
wrath, and his Majesty's safe conduct a glorious wall behind which to hide
himself. Let him profit by it; I shall not see him behind the wall, but
instead only a piece of white paper, on which his Imperial Majesty has
inscribed his name, and accordingly I shall respect this piece of paper,
which otherwise I would tear in twain."
"Your highness!" cried Count Schwarzenberg--"your highness, I--"
"Count von Martinitz," interposed the Elector haughtily, "I empower you to
say to the ambassador extraordinary of his Imperial Majesty, that I give
him leave to deliver the Emperor's message to me and to impart to me his
"Most respected lord and Elector," said Dr. Gebhard with solemnity, "his
Majesty the Emperor Ferdinand sends me to your highness in the assured
hope that in your justice and exalted wisdom your grace will be superior
to all personal enmities, and not visit upon the son faults, perhaps
unintentional, committed against you by the father."
"Of what father and son do you speak, sir?" asked the Elector.
"Of the father who for twenty years was the honored counselor and friend
of Elector George William, who, faithful even beyond the tomb, forsook the
earth no longer tenanted by his lord and Elector. Of the son who has
committed no crime except that of being his father's heir, and not
allowing his patrimony to be diminished and torn from him. For this son,
in the Emperor's name, I would plead with your Electoral Highness for
grace and favor, beseeching you not to deprive him of his rights, but to
restore to him what belongs to him."
"Tell me, Dr. Gebhard," asked the Elector, "what those rights are of which
I have deprived him, according to his Majesty's opinion, and what things I
have taken from him which belong to him?"
"Already in his father's lifetime Count John Adolphus Schwarzenberg was
elected his coadjutor in the Order of St. John, therefore on his father's
demise he had a right to the vacant dignity of grand master, and yet this
has not been accorded him by your highness. As his father's heir, Count
John Adolphus received all his father's property, and entered into
possession of it. Yet this your highness did not allow him uncontested,
and withheld what was his. Nay, your highness even instituted a criminal
process against the young count, his father's heir. This last proceeding
is especially distasteful and annoying to his Majesty; the Emperor wishes
above all things that your highness withdraw this criminal suit, referring
it to the imperial court at Vienna, and that you again receive Count John
into favor." 
"Truly his Imperial Majesty asks and requires a great deal of me," cried
Frederick William, with flashing eyes and cheeks flushed with anger. "More
than a prince dare give, who has to act not merely in subjection and
dependence, but as Sovereign of his people. It seems to me as if no one
had cause to interfere in this affair of Count Adolphus Schwarzenberg, for
it concerns the interior interests of my realm. Within the limits of my
own country I alone am lord and ruler, and only one lord there is, before
whom I bow, and whom I recognize as my superior--_the law_! Law is
properly supreme within the Brandenburg provinces, and shall and must
reign over high and low! But my favor, sir, my favor, can only flow
spontaneously from within, and can not be arbitrarily bestowed even at an
Emperor's behest. I have not withdrawn my favor from Count Adolphus
Schwarzenberg, for he never possessed it. Law and right alone must decide
for or against him. Many of my subjects have brought accusations against
him, and for these I am pledged to procure justice at the hands of the
courts of justice. What was done in my lands must be also judged in my
lands, else my subjects might be wounded in their sense of right; and to
assign this suit to the imperial court at Vienna would be in the highest
degree derogatory to the Electoral power and jurisdiction. I can not
therefore gratify his Imperial Majesty in this wish. As concerns his
right to the place of grand master, that appointment belongs not to me,
but to the members of the order. They, however, will not elect the young
count, and I can not compel them to do so. Lastly, as regards the estates
claimed by the heir of the Stadtholder in the Mark, his title to them is
wanting, and, moreover, there are no accounts to prove that the money for
which the estates were mortgaged was ever used by the Stadtholder for my
father's benefit. Besides, even if such contracts existed, they were
entered into without the consent of the States, and consequently by the
laws of the land were null and void. This is the reply I have to make to
the imperial envoy, of which I can alter and abate nothing, however I may
deplore any apparent disrespect to his Imperial Majesty's wishes. Return
to Vienna, Dr. Gebhard, return with your associate and _attache_, and
repeat to the Emperor what I have said to you. You are dismissed,
"Your Electoral Highness will pardon me for venturing to add one more
word," said Count Martinitz, "but I am empowered to do so by the imperial
order. The Emperor Ferdinand commissioned me in his own handwriting, in
case that your highness refused to accede to the demands made by Dr.
"Demands?" broke in the Elector. "I did not hear Dr. Gebhard make use of
any such term. Mention was made only of imperial wishes and requests. You
mean that in case I do not grant Dr. Gebhard's requests--Proceed, Count
"I am in that case commissioned to desire your highness in the Emperor's
name to grant a private audience to the _attache_ of the imperial embassy,
the Emperor's privy counselor and chamberlain, Count Adolphus von
Schwarzenberg, as he wishes to make an important and confidential
communication to your highness."
Frederick William's piercing eyes were fixed with a questioning expression
upon the count's face, whose eyes returned the look with a bold and steady
"You presume greatly upon the respect I owe the Emperor," said the Elector
after a pause. "I have wished to regard you hitherto merely as a piece of
paper hallowed by the Emperor's superscription. But now you voluntarily
step forth from behind the protecting paper, and present yourself to me as
a man, a self-dependent individual, who is responsible for his words and
actions. Consider well what you risk, sir, and take my advice: retreat,
while yet there is time! Ask me not to look upon you as you actually are,
but be content, inasmuch as in you I respect the Emperor's safe conduct.
Reflect once again, and then speak!"
"Your Electoral Highness," said the count after a pause, "the Emperor has
condescended to request a secret audience for me of your grace. I entreat
your highness to grant it to me."
"You desire it? Be it so, then!" cried the Elector. "You, gentlemen, Count
von Martinitz and Dr. Gebhard, are dismissed. Count Schwarzenberg may
remain. For the Emperor's sake I am ready to grant him the secret audience.
Take your leave, gentlemen! Your audience is at an end!"
The two gentlemen bowed low and withdrew. The Elector followed them with
his eyes until the door closed behind them. Then he slowly turned his head
toward Count Schwarzenberg.
"Speak now," he ordered coldly and severely. "Say what you have to say,
but weigh well each word, and take heed of rousing my wrath, for I tell
you the measure of my patience and forbearance is well-nigh exhausted!
What would you have of me? What do you want?"
"Justice, your highness, justice! Enter into no contest with me! Take not
away from me the estates given in pledge by the Elector George William to
my father, which have not yet been redeemed. Acknowledge me as the Grand
Master of the Knights of St. John, graciously nominate me Stadtholder
in the Mark, and I swear to you that I shall be your faithful and devoted
servant, your mediator with Emperor and empire! You see, your highness, I
ask for nothing but justice!"
"Justice!" repeated Frederick William, while with flashing eyes he
approached one step nearer the count. "Beware of reminding me that I have
not exercised justice toward you! Ask it not, for then I must needs summon
a guard and have you arrested! Then must I call a court-martial, have you
tried, and see you mount the scaffold!"
"The scaffold!" exclaimed the count, turning pale. "But then the Emperor
would call you to account for this deed of violence, and--"
"Deed of violence, you call it?" interposed the Elector. "You are
mistaken, sir; it would only be a merited punishment! You deserve this
punishment, not on account of anything done by your father, although in
sooth you bore a full share in his deeds, but on account of your own
"Crime, your highness?"
"Yes, count, crime! You are a conspirator, a rebel! You incited my
officers to revolt, entangled them in a conspiracy, and when I would have
brought you to judgment you fled like a cowardly woman."
"Your highness!" screamed the count, "I beseech you, weigh your words,
provoke me not too much! Otherwise I might forget the respect due you."
"And if you should venture, I have ample means of leading you back to the
proper bounds, of forcing you to respect me, to fall down in the dust, and
plead for pardon! Do you know what you are? Do you know what you were?"
"What I was I know," cried the count. "I was the favored lover of your
sister, Princess Charlotte Louise!"
"Ah! Now at last you drop your mask, now you show your real face. The face
of a slanderer, a liar! For you utter a falsehood. You calumniate the
virtue of a noble lady, and boast of a favor you never received."
"I speak the truth, your highness, and am in a condition to prove it.
Princess Charlotte Louise gave me her favor, and went further than was
seemly for a modest maiden. She volunteered to grant me a rendezvous
impelled by ardent love."
"That is not true."
"It is true, sir, and I can prove it! I have the writing with me, in which
your sister invites me to a rendezvous in the castle at Berlin. She wrote
it with her own hand, and signed it with her name. Until now, no one has
known the secret, and no one shall know it if we can agree."
"Yes, your highness, _we_! Your sister's letter is well worth what I ask.
I demand nothing but my rights. Leave me my estates, acknowledge me as
grand master, appoint me my father's successor, give me the hand of
Princess Charlotte Louise."
"My sister's hand to _you_?"
"To me, for I have a right to that hand. The Princess engaged herself to
me, and granted me favors."
"Wretched man, to boast of them!" interrupted the Elector.
"She appointed a meeting with me to take place by night," continued the
count quietly. "Your honor would be destroyed if any one knew of this. Let
me keep it intact! Give me your sister's hand! For I tell you if you do
not the world shall hear of this _faux pas_ on the part of the Princess. I
shall publicly expose the letter she wrote to me, and a laugh of scorn
will pursue both you and her through the whole of Germany! Give me your
"Were you the Emperor himself I would not give her to you. And if you were
in a position to defame my whole house, I would not give her to you! And
were my sister to fall at my feet weeping at my refusal, I would not give
her to you! Yes, and if I knew that my lands and wealth would be doubled
by this marriage, I would _never_ give my sister to you! I asked you just
now if you knew what you were and what you are. To the first question you
replied that you were my sister's lover. Now I will tell you what you are:
you are the son of a poisoner and a murderer!"
"Sir!" screamed the count, bounding forward in fury and with a sudden
movement drawing his dagger from its sheath--"sir, you assail my father in
his grave, I will defend him! You owe me satisfaction for this insult! It
is not the Elector who stands before me, but a man who has wounded my
honor, and I demand satisfaction. You dare not refuse it, or--"
"Or you will complete your father's work, will you? Will hire murderers to
do what you dare not attempt yourself? Oh, you may very probably find a
second Gabriel Nietzel, whom you may goad on to crime, profiting by his
agony and distress of mind to change a thoughtless deceiver into a
poisoner! Do not stare at me in such amazement, as if you understood not
my words! You know Gabriel Nietzel well, and your dagger would not have
fallen from your hand if your conscience had not struck it down!"
"I know nothing of Gabriel Nietzel!" cried the count, "I only know that
you have called my father a murderer and--"
"And, I did wrong in this, for certainly the murderous deed miscarried!
_I_ live! And _he_ was forced to die. Do you know of what your father
"Of grief, and the humiliations which you prepared for him!"
"No, he died of remorse. A stroke, they say, put an end to his life. Yes,
it was conscience that smote him to the earth. Gabriel Nietzel stood
before him and reminded him of his deeds, demanding of him his wife, whom
your father murdered because she saved my life!"
"Horrible!" muttered the count, with sunken head and downcast eyes.
"Yes, horrible!" repeated the Elector. "Gabriel Nietzel was the avenging
sword sent from on high for your father's punishment. He, the unhappy one,
himself confessed his crime to me, and I have forgiven him. I will forgive
your father also, for he stands before a higher tribunal, and _He_ who
tries the heart, will reward him according to his deeds. But I am your
judge, and your deeds accuse you before me! I could have you arrested and
tried, and, believe me, I would do so, despite the imperial safe conduct,
behind which you have ensconced yourself, but I honor in you the memory of
my father, who loved yours, and would not have the world discover how
shamefully the magnanimous heart of George William was deceived. Regarding
the property you claim from me, let the law decide; regarding the military
title you aspire to, let the knights of the order decide; but regarding
the accusation which you bring against my sister, and the offer you make
me on her account, the Princess alone is the proper person to consult. You
shall speak with her this very hour, for I would not have your vain heart
puffed up with the idea that the Princess loves you, and that it is only
my tyranny which separates you from her. No, you shall speak with the
Princess herself, and she shall decide the question between you. And that
you may not suppose that I have influenced my sister, you shall speak to
her before I communicate with her myself."
He took the handbell and rang; a page appeared. "Request her Electoral
Grace the Princess Charlotte Louise to have the kindness to come to me."
"Your Electoral Grace," said the page, "Colonel von Burgsdorf has just
come into the antechamber, and urgently insists upon my announcing him to
"Admit him and call the Princess. When the gracious young lady has entered
the antechamber, let me know. Admit the colonel."
"Here I am, your highness, here I am!" cried Conrad von Burgsdorf, coming
in with hasty steps. "I am just from Berlin, and bring my dearest lord
good news, and--But what is that?" interrupted he, fixing his lively gray
eyes upon Count Schwarzenberg, who, pale and visibly disconcerted, had
withdrawn into one of the window niches.
For one moment Burgsdorf stood still, as if bewildered by the unexpected
sight, then he sprang forward like a tiger, and laid his hands like iron
claws upon the count's shoulders.
"In the name of the Elector and the law, I arrest you Count Schwarzenberg!"
"Let him go, Burgsdorf," commanded Frederick William.
"No, gracious sir," cried Burgsdorf, "I can not, must not let him go. I
must hold fast to my prisoner until I have put him in a safe prison. If I
take my hands off him, he will surely find some mousehole to creep
through. I know the fine gentleman, and have had experience of his
mouselike nature. I thought I had him safe at Berlin, imprisoned in his
own palace, and sentinels stationed everywhere. A man could not have
escaped, but a mouse can find a hole to retire to almost anywhere. Master
Mousy here slipped off through an underground passage. Fortunately I had
stationed a couple of spies in front of the park, and one of them came to
inform me that they had seen two suspicious personages issue from the
park, while the other dogged their footsteps. I flew to horse, and,
thinking that the young count would make for Spandow, raced with my men to
the Spandow Gate. Exactly, they had just fled on before. We gave them
chase. Huzza! that was a hunt! Already I thought I had the fugitives
within my reach, and stretched out my hand to grasp them, when they
galloped into the fortress, the gate was shut, and I stood baffled on the
outside, and had my mortification increased by hearing Colonel Rochow's
mocks and jeers from the wall above. And now when I can take my revenge,
when I at last have my prisoner trapped and caught, now, your highness
commands me to let him go. No, your highness, it is impossible; for trust
me, as soon as I let him go he will find his way to some mousehole. I
arrest you in the name of the Elector and the law, Count John Adolphus von
"Burgsdorf!" cried the Elector in a commanding tone, "once more, I command
you to let him go, and come here. Obey without delay!"
The colonel muttered between his teeth a few wild words of wrath, but
released the count, and with bowed head and chagrined air slunk toward the
"You treat me like a well-trained pointer, your highness!" he growled.
"You whistle for me, and I drop the prey which you would not have me keep."
"You do yourself too much honor, old Burgsdorf," said the Elector,
smiling. "A well-trained pointer does not follow a false scent, and that
was what you were doing just now. Did you expect to find a fugitive in
your master's cabinet? You thought that this was Count John Adolphus
Schwarzenberg, whom I was compelled to arraign as a criminal, and who, in
his consciousness of guilt, took refuge from trial in flight. Look closely
at what is in the window niche and acknowledge that you were mistaken, and
that it is not Count Adolphus Schwarzenberg."
Colonel Burgsdorf, perfectly bewildered, gazed with wide-open eyes first
on the Elector and then on the count, who returned his stare with a
"Most gracious sir," he then cried, "my head is not clear enough to
discern your meaning, and I stick to it: that is Count Adolphus
Schwarzenberg, my escaped prisoner."
"And I repeat it, you are mistaken, your old eyes deceive you! Look once
more right sharply and closely, and you will perceive your error and
comprehend that this is not Count Adolphus Schwarzenberg, to whom I could
never have granted an audience in my cabinet. Only look closer and you
will see, old Burgsdorf, that there is nought in the window niche but a
great sheet of parchment, inscribed with manifold characters, furnished
with the seal of the empire, and signed by the Emperor Ferdinand's own
hand. I know that you do not read with ease, and therefore will tell you
what is marked on this parchment, and what it means. It means a safe
conduct, and the Emperor himself has written upon it that this parchment
must be held in honor and sacred from all attack."
"Ah!" cried the colonel--"ah! I begin to understand now."
"Well truly that is a fortunate circumstance," said the Elector, smiling.
"Yes, your highness," repeated Burgsdorf, "I begin to understand. Let me
examine the thing narrowly once again."
He covered his eyes with his hand, as if he were blinded by a ray of
light, and again stared at the window niche.
"Yes, indeed," he said slowly--"yes, I see it quite plainly and distinctly
now. Yes, that is no man, but a veritable piece of parchment, and I
recognize, too, the imperial seal and the Emperor's handwriting. Where
were my eyes that I did not see it from the first, and what a stupid fool
I was to suppose that I saw a man there! What misfortune would have ensued
if I had defaced the Emperor's handwriting or broken the seal, perhaps!"
"It would have been a wrong done to Imperial Majesty itself," smiled the
Elector, "and might have brought me under the ban of the empire, or
perhaps produced a war."
"Good heavens! a war about an ass's hide," exclaimed Burgsdorf, with an
expression of horror.
"Surely, your highness," shrieked the count, stepping forth from his place
of retirement, pale and trembling with passion, "you can not ask me any
longer to submit in silence to such gross insults."
"Gracious sir," asked Burgsdorf, "may the ass's hide speak? May a piece of
parchment, merely because hallowed by the Emperor's signature, venture to
leave its place and threaten?"
"Hush, Burgsdorf! And you, sir, step back into your recess, stay in the
place pointed out to you, and wait."
"Learn to wait!" cried Burgsdorf. "Oh, gracious sir, that is the very
window niche in which I was once forced to stand in order to learn to wait.
I thank you, gracious sir, for in this hour you give me my revenge. Now it
is for my enemy to learn; and I beseech Your Grace to give me leave to
open my budget from Berlin. The parchment must hear it and learn. Oh, I
know how it feels to have to listen in silence to have to learn to wait!"
"Colonel Conrad von Burgsdorf," said the Elector with majesty, "you are
here to bring me tidings from Berlin. Speak out and be assured that no one
will venture to interrupt you. In the first place, have you executed my
"Yes, gracious sir, according to the best of my abilities and the means at
"As their superior officer, have you required an oath of allegiance to me
from the commandants and garrisons of the forts?"
"I sent your orders everywhere, requiring the commandants to swear their
men into service in your name, and to come to Berlin that I might
administer the same oath to themselves."
"And have they done so? Have my officers and troops sworn to serve me
"A few commandants have done so, but Kracht, Rochow, and Goldacker have
refused, declaring that they would rather blow their fortresses up than
swear fealty to the Elector. Hereupon I forthwith had the commandant of
Berlin, Colonel von Kracht, arrested, and would have proceeded in like
manner against the Commandants von Rochow and von Goldacker, but the
traitors got wind of my intentions. Goldacker left Brandenburg with thirty
horse, and, report says, went over to the Imperialists. Colonel von
Rochow, however, in his fortress assumed a warlike attitude, and gave out
that he was ready to do battle with the enemy to the death. Meanwhile
Margrave Ernest conferred with him under a flag of truce, and the
committee of investigation at Berlin diligently prosecuted their labors,
and brought to light heinous offenses committed by the two colonels and
Count John Adolphus von Schwarzenberg."
"Do you know the particulars? The colonels were accused of cheating and
embezzlement, were they not?"
"Yes," said Burgsdorf with a little embarrassment, "the question regards
the payment of the troops enlisted, for which the colonels received money,
"And yet the men were not enlisted," said the Elector, with an
imperceptible smile. "Had they done nothing more than this, I would have
pardoned them; if they had shown themselves in other respects true and
faithful, and repented of their folly."
"But this they have by no means done!" cried Burgsdorf eagerly. "They have
rather shown themselves to be obstinate and untoward. Goldacker has been
extorting bonds in Fuerstenwald, plundering whole villages, and putting the
magistrates in chains, because they would not say that Goldacker gave the
press money to the young fellows of the village, although these had not
made their appearance. Colonel von Rochow put the clerk of his muster roll
in irons, and had him condemned to the gallows by a court-martial, because
the poor fellow would not bear false witness and swear that the colonel
had made payments to him. When the Stadtholder demanded the clerk's
release, Colonel von Rochow insolently refused to give him up, and now the
margrave ordered me to arrest him. But von Rochow did as his
accomplices--he fled and made his escape to the Imperialists."
"Let the Imperialists keep Goldacker and Rochow," said the Elector. "I
would have them know that I from this time forth cheerfully resign their
services, and yield them up with good grace to the Emperor and empire.
With these two, therefore, we have done. Tell me now, how the
Schwarzenberg affair stands. We gave orders that in due time the papers
found in the palace of the deceased count should be sealed and handed over
to the committee of investigation. Was this done, and has it perhaps been
made evident from the examination of the papers, that the son of the
Stadtholder was innocent of complicity in the intrigues of his father and
friends, and been falsely accused by us?"
"On the contrary, your highness, it was proved that Count John Adolphus
had conspired, not merely with the rebellious officers, but with other
persons not subjects of your highness. Among the papers of the old count
was found the young gentleman's secret correspondence. It was in cipher,
it is true, but there are very learned men on the committee of
investigation, and they discovered the key, and were able to read the
letters. Oh, most gracious sir, all your faithful servants were shamefully
slandered and calumniated in these letters. Your highness even was not
spared, and the young gentleman expressly wrote that he would do all he
possibly could to effect the downfall of the Elector Frederick William.
Of the States, he said that they were almost all friends of the Swedes and
foes of the Emperor, and, above all, he represented me, Conrad von
Burgsdorf, as a bitter enemy to the Emperor, and said that on that account
all orders came to me. But the States will complain to the Emperor that
the rebellious slanderer, Count Schwarzenberg, has blackened them so
abominably and accused them of high treason."
"They can do so," said the Elector--"they can call the slanderer to
account, and you can do so too, Burgsdorf, if it seems necessary to you."
"But it does not seem at all necessary to me, your highness," cried the
colonel. "I have only one master, yourself, and if I had injured your
grace I should have been guilty of high treason. Henceforth I shall be
nothing but the most devoted and diligent servant of my dear young lord
and Elector, and I care very little about Schwarzenberg's having aspersed
me to the Emperor if I am only blessed with your favor."
"I have recognized you as a true and faithful servant," said the Elector
kindly, "and I am no ingrate. You shall experience this hereafter, for I
shall find means to reward my old friend as he deserves!"
"Your highness, you have rewarded me already," cried Burgsdorf--"you have
called me your friend, my Elector, and I thank you out of a full heart."
The Elector nodded. "In time all the world shall learn that I honor and
esteem you as my friend," he said. "But now tell me, what progress has
been made in quieting the refractory soldiery in the Mark? Have you begun
that difficult task?"
"We have begun, your highness, and will also end, although at first there
was much insubordination and mutiny, and although the cart had been driven
so deep into the mire that we could not have drawn it out altogether
without great difficulty, even if there had been more of us."
The door of the antechamber opened, and the page made his appearance.
"In accordance with your highness's request, the Princess has entered the
"Beg the young lady to wait a moment. I will come directly to conduct her
grace into my cabinet."
"Burgsdorf," said the Elector, turning to the colonel, "go up now, and pay
your respects to my mother. You can tell her what is going on at Berlin.
Her grace will hear you gladly, for she takes great interest in the cities
of Berlin and Cologne."
"Very curious stories I can tell the Electress, since your highness
accords me that permission!" cried the colonel. "Many thrilling affairs
have happened, and--"
"Go now, my friend," said the Elector, pointing to the door through which
Burgsdorf had entered. Then he crossed over to the opposite end of the
apartment himself and opened the door of the inner room.
XI.--MEETING AND PARTING.
"Be kind enough to come in, dear sister," said the Elector, standing in
the doorway and smilingly greeting the Princess, who now entered the
"I have come at your bidding, Frederick," said the Princess, accepting her
brother's proffered hand, and looking up at him with a sweet, affectionate
In the window niche stood John Adolphus Schwarzenberg, and the fires of
passion and resentment burned in the glance which he fixed upon the
Princess, whom he now saw for the first time after a lapse of three years.
How much pain and mortification had he not suffered during these three
years on her account? The only change wrought in the Princess by the
flight of time was a more perfect development of beauty and of grace of
carriage. The count heaved a deep, painful sigh, and the rage of despair
took possession of his soul at the sight of that noble, tranquil
"She has not suffered," he said to himself. "She never loved me, and will
now despise me!"
"Forgive me, sister, for troubling you to come to me," said Frederick
William, nodding affectionately to the Princess. "I ought indeed to have
come to you, but I wished to speak with you on a matter strictly
confidential, which I did not wish our mother and sister to know anything
"Is it really a secret, then?" asked Charlotte Louise--"no bad secret, I
"It at least touches very grave matters," replied the Elector. "Look
yonder at that window niche."
The Princess turned quickly, and looked in the direction indicated. A low
scream escaped her lips, and she sank trembling upon a seat.
"Adolphus!" murmured her quivering lips.
This single utterance spoke more eloquently to both men than the most
elaborate arrangement of sentences could have done. It told them that
years of separation had not estranged the Princess from Count
Schwarzenberg; that her heart still called him by the familiar name
accorded him by love; that with the count, Charlotte Louise was not the
proud Princess, but only the humble, loving maiden. The Elector understood
this, and a cloud overshadowed his brow.
The count understood it, too, and his dark countenance brightened. With
uplifted head he rushed from the window niche to the Princess, and,
kneeling before her, seized her hand to press it to his lips. But this
touching of her hand seemed to restore to the Princess her strength and
self-possession. By a hasty movement she released her hand and rose.
"Brother," she said, "is it customary to greet princesses in this style?
Be pleased to tell me, for you know I have been but little in the world,
and am, therefore, but little conversant with its forms."
"No, Louise, it is not customary," replied Frederick William, breathing
more freely; "but Count Schwarzenberg seems to suppose, that as your
favored lover he need not regard the laws of ceremony."
"As my favored lover?" asked the Princess, a blush suddenly suffusing her
brow and neck, while her blue eyes, usually so soft, sparkled with
indignation. "Did I hear aright? Did you actually say that to _me_,
brother, to your sister? Did you call this or any other man my favored
"I only repeated the words made use of by Count John Adolphus von
Schwarzenberg in suing for your hand, sister. This gentleman affirms that
you have granted him more favor than was seemly in a modest maiden. And
when I doubted it he replied that he could prove it, for he possessed a
note, written with your own hand, in which you invited him to a
rendezvous by night."
"He said that!" cried the Princess. "He said that, and you did not kill
him on the spot?"
"I did not kill him," answered the Elector gravely and solemnly, "because
no one should die for the truth. And he maintains that he speaks the
truth: that by means of this letter of yours he can dishonor you and my
house in the eyes of the whole world. Say then, Louise, is it true; does
he actually possess such a letter?"
Charlotte Louise shuddered and tottered backward.
"Yes!" she breathed--"yes, he speaks the truth--he does possess such a
"No!" cried the count, "he did not speak the truth! Oh, forgive me,
Princess, forgive me this slander, which my lips uttered, uttered in the
delirium of pain, love, and despair! I lied, Princess, you never wrote to
me, never! I said that in order to force your brother to give me your
hand, because I love you, Princess, you know not how dearly! Ah! you
little imagine with what fervor of devotion my soul clung to you, and what
you did that time when you mocked and betrayed me, treating me like a
despised beggar! That hour wrought a change in my whole nature! The most
sacred blossoms of my love had been crushed by you, and I trampled them
under foot and strove to bury my despair in mirth and pleasure. I did not
succeed. The sacred old song of the buried love was forever making itself
heard in low, sweet strains. I would not listen, I tried to drown it. I
became a conspirator, a rebel, for I longed to take vengeance upon you and
your house. Fate was against me; my revenge constituting my punishment. I
must flee, I must leave as a fugitive the land in which you live. The
Emperor received me graciously, giving me rank and titles, and bestowing
upon me marks of favor and regard, thus opening to the ambitious heart a
career of fame, dignity, and honor. All was in vain, though. I felt too
late that love, not ambition, had urged me into the dangerous paths of
insurrection and revolt. I could not forget you. Like a radiant star, you
ever shone upon the midnight darkness of my soul. I must see you again, to
obtain from your own lips my sentence of pardon or condemnation. I
despised all danger, even the order of arrest issued against me, and
obtained the Emperor's leave to accompany his ambassador here. I came and
suffered the severest mortification that a man can suffer. I subjected
myself to your brother's scorn and contempt. Then at last my heart
rebelled, and when he scornfully refused your hand to me, I claimed it as
my right, by virtue of the love you once vowed to me. The Elector disputed
your love for me, and then, in the rage of my heart, I boasted of a favor
which I never received, boasted of having received from you a letter, and
an invitation to a rendezvous. Oh, forgive the madman who kneels here at
your feet and suffers the agony of death. He has no right to claim
anything, he only implores from you an act of grace!"
While the count thus spoke in passionate excitement, the Elector had
slowly retired, and, standing apart with folded arms, gazed upon the
couple with melancholy eyes. In the beginning the Princess had sunk upon a
chair, with bowed head and hanging arms, pale as a drooping lily. But the
glowing words which fell upon her ear seemed to find an echo, a painful
echo, in her heart. Slowly she raised her head, and breathlessly listened
to his words, while the color once more mounted to her cheek. When the
count stopped, she slowly rose and proudly and indignantly drew herself
"You speak falsely now, Count Schwarzenberg," she said, "for what you told
my brother was true. Yes, three years ago, in the childish folly of my
heart, I granted you a favor unseemly for a modest maiden. Yes, I wrote
you a note with my own hand, inviting you to a rendezvous in the castle at
nine o'clock in the evening. Brother, I confess this, although I know that
I am thereby forever forfeiting your esteem. But this man has accused me,
and I honor the past of my heart, while I acknowledge the fault of which
he accuses me. Yes, I have loved him, warmly, inexpressibly, and have wept
and lamented him in a manner little becoming a princess, but in my love I
was only a poor simple maiden, who wanted nothing in the whole world but
his heart. Well I know that I sinned grievously against my mother and the
laws of virtue and propriety in carrying on a clandestine love affair, in
allowing my heart to be deceived by his ardent protestations of love and
even in my delusion going so far as to grant him a rendezvous--nay, even
to ask for one."
"Did you really do that, sister?"
"I did, and have repented it for three long years. That I confess this,
that I reveal my secret, should prove to you that I now speak the truth.
And therefore you will believe me, Frederick William, when I affirm that
this is the only favor of which the count can boast. I have to blush
before you, but not before him."
"Not before me either, Louise," said the Elector. "I know love, and in my
own heart have battled with all its follies and illusions. I know what you
suffer, by remembering my own experiences. It is a bitter grief to be
obliged to admit that you have wasted the holiest feelings of your heart
upon an unworthy object."
"Yes indeed, it is a bitter grief," sighed the Princess.
"O Princess! spare yourself this grief!" cried the count, still kneeling
before her. "You have freely owned that you love me. Why, then, will you
turn away from me? Accept me as your husband, and I will love you, serve
you, obey you, ask nothing but the privilege of looking upon you, and
basking in your presence."
She gave him a long, cold look. "And if I decline your hand, you will
revenge yourself, will you not, by displaying my note to the Emperor and
the whole world, you will defame me and all my house? Was not that your
"I spoke in frenzy, in despair. But you shall see that I will ask nothing
from you for fear, but all for love. See, here is the note. I have
hitherto preserved it as my most precious jewel; my father bade me do so,
and told me that this paper might save me in the hour of greatest peril.
This hour is now at hand, but I will not have it save me. Here is the
note; I offer it to you. Take it, tear it up, and then decide!"
With outstretched hands he held out the paper, but she took it not, and
quickly stepped back.
"Keep the paper," she said. "Why should I ask whether you will turn it
into a weapon against me? I will accept no favor or advantage from you.
Only let it be known at the imperial court, to the whole world, that I
loved you; show this paper everywhere, and all will turn from you, all
women will despise you, and all men blush for the traitor to love!"
"No one shall despise me, no one shall turn, from me!" cried the count,
springing to his feet. With trembling hands he tore the paper into little
bits, and threw them on the floor.
"There lies the secret, Princess! Now I am entirely in your power! Now I
have no weapon of defense. Call Burgsdorf, your highness, have me
arrested, if it seems good to you, I renounce the Emperor's safe conduct,
as I just now renounced your sister's letter."
"We accept no act of generosity or renunciation from you," replied the
Elector with dignity. "The Emperor's safe conduct I shall respect, and as
I allowed you to speak quietly to my sister, although you misrepresented
much and put matters in a false light, so I will allow you to depart
unmolested. As regards the love letter, your excuse for demanding my
sister's hand, the fragments testify as strongly against you as the letter
itself. My sister alone has to reply to your offer."
"I have no answer to give this man, for he dare not ask anything more of
me," said the Princess proudly. "He who can betray the secrets of the
heart degrades himself. The man who boasts of a favor received is unworthy
of it, and every woman will despise him. Not merely now, in the hour of
danger, have you bethought yourself of my letter, Count Adolphus
Schwarzenberg, but you had spoken of it previously to your father. You
have turned a young girl's letter into a political bond, which, as a
cunning merchant, was to be redeemed and converted into money. Now you
have redeemed it; there lies the letter! I give you for it my contempt."
"I think you have now received my sister's answer," said the Elector, "and
we have nothing more to say to one another, for the courts must settle
other subjects of dispute between us. Go, Count Schwarzenberg, return home
to Vienna, for your mission is ended. You are dismissed."
The count answered not a word. One long glance of grief and rage he cast
upon the Princess, who stood loftily erect at her brother's side. Then,
with a slight bow of salutation, he turned and strode through the room.
Not a sound interrupted the solemn silence save the count's footsteps as
he advanced to the door. There he once more paused and turned back his
livid, wrathful countenance. The Princess still stood erect, calm, and
unmoved, beside the Elector. Schwarzenberg cast down his eyes and left the
room. The Princess heard the door shut, and a heavy sigh escaped her
breast. "He has gone," she murmured softly, "he has gone; I shall never
see him again."
She leaned her head upon her brother's shoulder and wept bitterly.
"You loved him very dearly, then?" asked the Elector gently, throwing his
arms around her neck.
"Yes," she whispered softly, "I loved him dearly, and I am afraid I love
him still, and will mourn for him forever. No one on earth has mortified
me so deeply as he, and yet I shall never love another as I have loved
"Poor child," said Frederick William sadly, "you love him still, although
you despise him!"
With folded arms he walked several times to and fro, while his sister
dropped into a chair, covered her face with her hands, and quietly wept.
The Elector stopped in front of her and gently drew her hands from before
"Sister," he said tenderly, "I will dry your tears, for I may do so, and
in this hour of most sacred confidence not the shadow of an untruth shall
lie between us. When you wrote that billet to the count three years ago he
did not come to the rendezvous, did he?"
"No!" cried the Princess; "he dared to let me expect him in vain, to
decline the interview which I had granted him. O Frederick! when I think
of this I could die for very shame, so much do I hate him who humiliated
me so deeply, so much do I despise myself for having incurred and merited
"Louise," said the Elector softly, "if that is your only reason for hating
him, then you can love him again, for this is probably the only fault of
which he is innocent. Lift up your head, sister, for I can relieve you
from this humiliation. It was Count Schwarzenberg's wish to keep the
appointment. He stood for two hours before a locked door seeking
admission. I, however, stood on the other side of the door, guarding it,
and did not depart until he had gone away in despair."
"You, brother?" asked the Princess, whose cheeks grew suddenly crimson.
"You knew about it? You prevented the interview?"
"I wanted to guard my sister against her own indiscretion; I wanted to
preserve her from error."
"You knew it and kept silence, magnanimously kept my secret from my
mother? Oh, and _he_ is innocent? He did not scorn and insult me? I can
think of him without anger, without--No, no; forgive me, brother, I--"
"Hear me, Louise," said he softly. "I will prove to you how much I have
your happiness at heart, and how gladly I would promote it. If in spite of
all that you have learned to-day, in spite of his mode of wooing, you
still love Count Schwarzenberg--so love him that for his sake you can
forever--mark well my words, _forever_--give up mother, brother and
sister, home, country, yea, religion itself, sundering all the ties which
bind you here--if you so love him that he is family, home, everything to
you, then tell me so, sister, and I will overcome my repugnance and have
the count recalled, will accept his offer, and bestow you upon him in
marriage. Only you must choose between him and us. In that hour, when I
join your hands, we have seen each other for the last time, and never will
your return home be possible. But if you really love him, go, for well I
know that love only finds its home in the heart of the beloved one.
Choose then, sister. Will you follow him? Speak, I shall not reproach
you--speak, and I will have him recalled!"
She flung her arms around his neck and gently laid her head upon his
breast. "No," she said softly--"no, do not call him back. He has betrayed
and desecrated love. My heart revolts from him and turns with deep
affection to you. Thank you, brother, for acquainting me with the truth
and taking that weight of humiliation from my soul. Now I shall be
comforted, now I can hold up my head again. I am not the rejected, but the
rejecter. Yes, brother, I have renounced love and happiness. The golden
morning dream is over, and I am awake! Let me weep, Frederick, my last
tears for a lost love!"
The Elector bent over her and imprinted a kiss upon her brow. "Weep,
sister, weep," he said softly. "And if it can in any degree console you,
know that I have wept and suffered as you do now."
[Illustration: Wladislaus IV, King of Poland]
XII.--THE INVESTITURE AT WARSAW.
At last all matters of dispute were settled, all difficulties smoothed
over. King Wladislaus of Poland had declared himself ready to receive the
oath of allegiance from his vassal the Elector of Brandenburg, and to
invest him with the duchy of Prussia. Hard conditions, truly, were those
imposed upon the young Elector, and heavy the sacrifices which the King
and, more pressingly yet, the members of the Polish Diet required. That
the Elector should pay a yearly tribute of thirty thousand florins,
besides a hundred thousand florins from the naval taxes, was a condition
to which he had agreed without a struggle; but much severer and more
humbling compliances he had to make.
They wished to make him feel that the King of Poland was still lord
paramount of Prussia, and that the Elector must give way to him. The
nobility of Prussia were therefore to have the right, in all civil and
difficult cases, to appeal from the decision of the Elector to that of the
King. On the other hand, the Elector was not, without the King's express
permission, to occupy a neutral position with regard to any enemy of
Poland; he was to receive the King's commissioners whenever it pleased the
latter to send them to inspect the fortresses of Memel and Pillau. But the
hardest thing was, that the Elector must pledge himself to protect and
exalt the Roman Catholic worship in Prussia with all his might, and to do
nothing for the further spread of the Reformed Church in Prussia. He was
to build up the decaying Catholic Church at Koenigsberg, and, besides that,
have a new one built. The Catholics were to be protected in the free
exercise of their worship, and guarded against every attack of the
Hard and degrading were these conditions, but the Elector had accepted
them. He had bowed his proud heart and constrained it to be humble. Tears
of indignation had stood in his eyes as they handed him the document on
which were inscribed all these conditions; his hand had trembled when he
took the pen, but still he had appended his signature, and none but
Burgsdorf had seen the tears which fell from Frederick William's eyes upon
his hand as he signed.
"Burgsdorf," he said, pointing to his signature, "do you know what I have
"No, your highness, that I do not. I am not stupid enough to give myself
much trouble deciphering the scratches of a pen. But I know and have read
what is written upon your face, sir."
"Well, and what stands written there, old friend?"
"Most gracious sir, it is written there that you suffer now, but will be
revenged hereafter. It says that you now in a submissive manner offer your
hand to the insolent, cursed Pole, but that on some future day you will
shake your fist in his face, and amply requite his haughty arrogance."
"Well done; you have read correctly," exclaimed the Elector, laughing.
"You have divined my most secret thoughts."
"And may a good God only deign to grant me this one favor, that I may live
long enough to see your thoughts put in action, gracious sir! May he
preserve me from gout and paralysis, that I too, may have a hand in the
deeds of that blessed day, and strike a few well-aimed blows."
"Well, it is to hoped that not many years will elapse ere the dawning of
that day," said the Elector. "I shall not know ease or rest until it is
here, and I can have my revenge. Let us think of this, old friend, and be
meekly patient and wear a placid mien on our way to Warsaw, to humble
ourselves. You know a man must sometimes swallow bitter medicine when he
is sick and faint, and the bitterest will appear sweet if he drinks it in
order to imbibe new life and health. My poor country is, indeed, sick unto
death, and therefore I go to Warsaw to swallow a bitter pill for the
health and salvation of my land. But we go on crutches, two hard
"I know the names of those crutches, your highness," said Burgsdorf. "One
crutch is called 'Imperial,' the other 'Polish.'"
"You have guessed correctly, old friend," answered the Elector. "But some
day we will throw aside the crutches on which we must now lean, and
Prussia shall be the sword which we shall unsheathe and draw against all
our foes. I must now submit to having a lord over me, but the time will
come when the Prussian black eagle will feel itself strong enough to do
battle against the white eagle of Poland, and soar aloft on bold, strong
wing. Once more I tell you, old friend, think of that, if we do go now to
Warsaw! You are to accompany me, and when you ride into Warsaw at the head
of my soldiers, as their colonel and chief, show a smiling visage to the
fair Polish women and enchant them by your grace."
"I will so enchant them, your highness," laughed Burgsdorf, "that for
rapture at sight of me they will not look at you, and not even make an
attempt to win your heart."
"My heart, Burgsdorf?" said the Elector. "I have no heart, at least no
personal one. My thoughts and feelings belong only to my country, my
ambition, and my future. I now go to Warsaw and bow my head in the dust,
that at a later period I may lift it up the more proudly and
And on the 7th of October, 1641, Elector Frederick William of Brandenburg
made his entry into Warsaw. At the head of his splendidly equipped
regiment rode old Conrad von Burgsdorf, his broad, bloated face flushed
crimson, and, as he stroked his long, light moustache, he bowed right and
left, saluting the fair ladies, who looked down upon the glittering
procession from windows hung with tapestry and decorated with flowers and
ribbons. But the fair ladies took but little notice of old Burgsdorf.
Their bright eyes were all turned to the handsome young nobleman, who,
quite alone, followed the regiment of soldiers. Behind him was seen a
brilliant array of gentlemen in handsome uniforms; but all this vanished
unnoticed. Only upon _him_, yon youth who rides his horse so proudly and
so gracefully, upon him alone were all eyes fixed. How finely his figure
was outlined in that closely fitted velvet coat, trimmed with golden
"Brandenburgs," and crossed by the golden shoulder belt from which hung
his German broadsword. How gracefully fell his long brown hair over his
shoulders, how boldly sat upon his head the cocked felt hat, with its
crest of black and white ostrich plumes! How fiery and penetrating the
glance of those dark-blue eyes, and how sweet and captivating the smile of
those full, fresh lips.
Oh, King's daughter, King's daughter, shield your heart, lest it glow with
love for the handsome stranger who now draws near, and whom they call the
young Elector of Brandenburg! He looks not at _you_, he thinks not of
_you_. But _you_--you look at him and think of him. They have told you
that they will wed you to him, that the little Elector will esteem it a
great honor to become the husband of a daughter of the King of Poland.
Why, she is a princess of imperial blood, for her mother is an archduchess
of Austria, a daughter of Emperor Ferdinand I! It will, indeed, be a great
honor to the little Elector, if they bestow upon him the hand of a king's
daughter, an emperor's grandchild, and happy will he be to be allowed to
receive it, and to become great by means of his great connections!
Look closely at him, Princess Hildegarde; look at him with your heart and
soul, rejoice in his youth, beauty, and proud bearing, for he is to be
your husband! Your father will do him the honor to receive him as his
son-in-law, and the Emperor will condescendingly admit him to his
relationship! See now he has approached quite near the throne which has
been erected upon the square fronting the palace. On the throne sits King
Wladislaus in the rich national costume. Beside him stands his brother,
Prince Casimir, while to the right and left on the steps of the throne
stand the magnates with their insignia of rank, the bishops and prelates.
Close behind the throne is the kingly palace, and there, upon a balcony
hung with gold brocade, stands the Queen; to the right and left of her the
two royal Princesses, both so lovely to look upon in their picturesque
Polish garb, their raven tresses surmounted by the Polish cap with its
Oh, King's daughter, King's daughter, you need not fear, you are so
charming, so attractive; surely you will win his heart, and he will woo
you not merely from political motives, but from love!
Does he see you, and is he looking up at you? No, he only looks up at the
King as he now stands at the foot of the throne, beside that magnificent
cushion studded with emeralds and pearls. His knights and bodyguard range
themselves to the right and left of the throne, and reserve a small open
space in the midst of the broad square, which is densely thronged by
masses of people behind the closed ranks of the soldiers. In this small
vacant space stands he, the young Elector of Brandenburg!
High is his head, radiant the glance which he now lifts higher than the
King's throne. Looks he at you, Princess Hildegarde, gazes he upon you,
fair maiden of a royal line?
No, his glance mounts higher; to heaven itself he raises both eye and
thought! He communes with God and the forefathers of his house, who once,
like him, stood at the foot of that throne. And he vows before God and his
ancestors that he will be the last Hohenzollern to submit to such
humiliation and bend the knee as vassal to the Polish King. He will free
his land and crown, and be the vassal of none but God alone!
So swore the Elector Frederick William as he stood at the foot of the
throne on which sat the Polish King, resplendent with his crown and
scepter, and this oath made his countenance beam with joy and his eyes
flame with energy and spirit.
Now is heard the flourish of trumpets and kettledrums, and the bell of
every tower in Warsaw rings, for the solemn act begins: the Duke of
Prussia is to swear allegiance to the King of Poland!
Three cannon thunder from the ramparts! The bells grow dumb, the trumpets
and drums are silent! A breathless stillness pervades that spacious
square. The people with dark, flashing eyes gaze curiously upon the
heretic, the unbeliever, who is to swear fealty to his Catholic Majesty.
The Polish deputies look threateningly upon the bold duke, who dared to
enter upon the government of Prussia before he had given his oath of
allegiance; the papal nuncio turns his head aside with sorrowful looks,
and can not bear to see a heretic, an apostate, invested with authority
over a Catholic country.
The King, however, smiles good-naturedly, and the ladies from the balcony
in the rear kindly incline their heads and blushingly greet the young
Elector, who, doffing his plumed hat, gracefully salutes them.
Three senators approach the Elector. One holds out to him the red feudal
banner, which the Elector grasps firmly in his right hand. The second
offers him the _Juramentum fidelitatis_ (oath of fidelity), on which the
young Prince is to lay his hands and swear. The third holds in his hand
the parchment on which is inscribed the feudal oath. The high chancellor
now descends from the steps of the throne and takes the parchment out of
the senator's hands. The Elector bends his knee upon the richly
embroidered cushion, a crimson glow flushes his cheeks, and deep in his
soul he repeats: "I shall be the last Hohenzollern to submit to such
humiliation and bow in the dust before another Prince. I shall make my
Prussia and Brandenburg great. I shall free them from Emperor and King,
and shall own no superior but God! To that end, O Lord, grant me thy
blessing, and hear the vow my heart utters while my lips are speaking
The King waves his golden scepter and the lord chancellor begins with
resonant voice to read off the oath of allegiance couched in the Latin
Loud and clearly the Elector speaks each word after him, loud and clearly
his lips pronounce words of which his heart knows nothing. To be a
submissive vassal, his lips swear--to fulfill faithfully and obediently
all the obligations due from him as Duke of Prussia to the King, as is
written in the oath of fealty subscribed by him. How full and strong is
his voice, sounding distinctly over all the square, and yet how sweet
and harmonious every tone!
Oh, King's daughter, King's daughter, shield your heart! Look not down
upon his lustrous eyes, heed not his voice, though it ring like music in
your ear! Beware of loving him, for you know not whether his heart
inclines toward you!
God be praised! The formula of the oath is ended. The Elector may rise
from his knees, and, as he does so, he says to himself: "Never again shall
this knee bend to man! Never again shall I endure what I have endured
But his countenance betrays nothing of the emotions of his soul, and with
a smile upon his lips he ascends the steps of the throne, and takes his
place upon a seat at the left hand of the King.
And again are heard the ringing of bells and nourishing of trumpets, as
they announce to the city of Warsaw, that the Elector Frederick William
has just sworn allegiance to the King of Poland. The solemnity is over,
and the King, the Elector, and the nobles of his realm, repair to the
palace to partake of a banquet which has been prepared there for them.
A sumptuous banquet! The tables glitter with gold and silver plate, around
which are ranged the nobles in their striking national costumes. The
Brandenburg officers are arrayed in gold-laced uniforms, and between them
sit the beautiful Polish ladies, richly adorned with flowers and sparkling
gems, themselves the fairest flowers and their eyes the most brilliant
gems. Between the King and Queen sits the young Elector, opposite him the
Oh, King's daughter, shield your heart. He talks with you, indeed, and
smiles upon you, and sweet words flutter like butterflies across!
Butterflies take speedy flight, sweet words are scattered to the wind!
Nothing remains of them but a painful memory! If it should be so with you,
The Elector is no longer the humble vassal with serious face and
melancholy mien; he is the young ruler, the hero of the future. His eyes
glisten, his lips smile, witticisms drop from his mouth, his countenance
beams with merriment and youthful joy. Not merely are the ladies delighted
with him, but the men also, and the royal pair are glad of heart, for well
pleased are they to present such a husband to their amiable daughter.
Not until late at night is the _fete_ concluded, and when the Elector goes
home to the Brandenburg Palace, all the nobility attend him with torches
in their hands--a long procession of five thousand torches! Like a golden
flood it streams through the streets of Warsaw, flashes in at all the
windows, and inscribes on every wall in shining characters, "The Elector
of Brandenburg, Duke of Prussia, has given the oath of vassalage to the
King of Poland!"
The _fete_ is over, but the next morning ushers in new festivities! To-day
the Elector gives a splendid entertainment to the royal family and the
chief nobility. At table the Queen sits on his right hand, on his left
Princess Hildegarde, the King's daughter.
The Elector is cheerful and unembarrassed in manner; she is thoughtful,
reserved, and silent. She is wont to be so lively and talkative in her
girlish innocence. The Elector, however, knows not that her manner is
changed. His heart is a stranger to her, and his glances say no more to
her than to all other pretty women! In the evening he dances with her
at the Queen's ball--that is to say, the Elector dances with the King's
daughter, but not the young man with the beautiful young girl.
Will he not propose? The Queen hints at the great honor which they destine
for him; the King says tenderly to him that he would esteem himself happy,
if he could call so noble a young Prince his son. But the Elector
understands neither the Queen nor the King, he is silent and does not
propose. He is so modest and diffident--perhaps he dare not. They must
wait awhile. If he has not declared himself on the last day of his visit,
they must take the initiative and woo him, since he will not woo.
On this last day it is the Princesses who give a ball to the Elector--a
splendid masquerade, for which they have been preparing three months,
arranging costumes and practicing dances. A half mask is to-day well
chosen for the Princess Hildegarde, for it conceals her agitated features,
her anxious countenance. She knows that to-day her fate is to be decided!
She knows that at the close of this _fete_ she is to be betrothed to the
Elector of Brandenburg.
Yes, since he will not woo, he must be wooed! The King's daughter, the
Emperor's grandchild, is exalted so high over the little Elector, the
powerless duke, that he actually can not venture to sue for her hand, but
must have his good fortune announced to him.
Count Gerhard von Doenhof is selected by the King to execute this delicate
commission, and doubts not that his proposition will be auspiciously
He requests of the Elector an interview in the little Chinese pavilion
near the conservatory, and with smiling, free, and cordial manner tells
him how much the Queen and King love him.
"And I reciprocate their feelings with all my heart," answers the
Elector. "These delightful days, like brilliant stars, will ever live in
my remembrance. Tell their Majesties so."
"Your highness should carry home with you a lasting memento of these
days," whispered the courtier.
"What mean you, Count Doenhof?"
"I believe that if you were to ask the hand of Princess Hildegarde,
their Majesties would cheerfully grant you their consent and bestow upon
you a royal bride."
Gravely the Elector shook his head. "No," he said solemnly--"no, Count
Doenhof, so long as I can not govern my land in peace, I dare seek no other
bride than my own good sword." 
And smilingly, as if he had heard nothing, as if nothing uncommon had
happened, the Elector returns to the conservatory.
The Princess Hildegarde also smiles, looks cheerful and happy, and dances
with all the cavaliers. But not with the Elector! He does not approach her
She seems not to perceive this, and maintains her cheerfulness, even when
at last he approaches the Princesses to take leave of them.
"Farewell, Sir Elector! May you have a prosperous journey home and be
happy!" So say her lips. What says her heart?
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