The Earl of Beaconsfield
Part 8 out of 11
the character of the Grand Duke of Reisenburg begins to be understood.
His Court has been, and still is, frequented by all the men of genius
in Germany, who are admitted without scruple, even if they be not noble.
But the astonishing thing is, that the Grand Duke is always surrounded
by every species of political and philosophical quack that you can
imagine. Discussions on a free press, on the reformation of the criminal
code, on the abolition of commercial duties, and such like interminable
topics, are perpetually resounding within the palace of this arbitrary
Prince; and the people, fired by the representations of the literary and
political journals with which Reisenburg abounds, and whose bold
speculations on all subjects elude the vigilance of the censor, by being
skilfully amalgamated with a lavish praise of the royal character, are
perpetually flattered with the speedy hope of becoming freemen.
Suddenly, when all are expecting the grant of a charter or the
institution of Chambers, Mr. Beckendorff rides up from his retreat to
the Residence, and the next day the whole crowd of philosophers are
swept from the royal presence, and the censorship of the press becomes
so severe, that for a moment you would fancy that Reisenburg, instead of
being, as it boasts itself, the modern Athens, had more right to the
title of the modern Boeotia. The people, who enjoy an impartial
administration of equal laws, who have flourished, and are flourishing,
under the wise and moderate rule of their new monarch, have in fact no
inclination to exert themselves for the attainment of constitutional
liberty in any other way than by their voices. Their barbarous apathy
astounds the philosophers; who, in despair, when the people tell them
that they are happy and contented, artfully remind them that their
happiness depends on the will of a single man; and that, though the
present character of the monarch may guarantee present felicity, still
they should think of their children, and not less exert themselves for
the insurance of the future. These representations, as constantly
reiterated as the present system will allow, have at length produced an
effect; and political causes of a peculiar nature, combining their
influence with these philosophical exertions, have of late frequently
frightened the Grand Duke, who, in despair, would perhaps grant a
constitution if Beckendorff would allow him. But the Minister is
conscious that the people would not be happier, and do not in fact
require one: he looks with a jealous and an evil eye on the charlatanism
of all kinds which is now so prevalent at Court: he knows, from the
characters of many of these philosophers and patriots, that their
private interest is generally the secret spring of their public virtue;
that if the Grand Duke, moved by their entreaties, or seduced by their
flattery, were to yield a little, he would soon be obliged to grant all
to their demands and their threats; and finally, Beckendorff has, of
late years, so completely interwoven the policy of Reisenburg with that
of Austria, that he feels that the rock on which he has determined to
found the greatness of his country must be quitted for ever if he yield
one jot to the caprice or the weakness of his monarch."
"But Beckendorff," said Vivian; "why can he not crush in the bud the
noxious plant which he so much dreads? Why does the press speak in the
least to the people? Why is the Grand Duke surrounded by any others
except pompous Grand Marshals and empty-headed Lord Chamberlains? I am
surprised at this indifference, this want of energy!"
"My dear sir, there are reasons for all things. Rest assured that
Beckendorff is not a man to act incautiously or weakly. The Grand
Duchess, the mother of the Crown Prince, has been long dead.
Beckendorff, who, as a man, has the greatest contempt for women; as a
statesman, looks to them as the most precious of political instruments;
it was his wish to have married the Grand Duke to the young Princess who
is now destined for his son, but for once in his life he failed in
influencing his pupil. The truth was, and it is to this cause that we
must trace the present disorganised state of the Court, and indeed of
the Duchy, that the Grand Duke had secretly married a lady to whom he
had long been attached. This lady was a Countess, and his subject; and,
as it was impossible by the laws of the kingdom that any one but a
member of the reigning family could be allowed to share the throne, his
Royal Highness had recourse to a plan which is not uncommon in this
country, and espoused the lady with his left hand. The ceremony, which
we call here a morganatic marriage, you have, probably, heard of before.
The favoured female is, to all intents and purposes, the wife of the
monarch, and shares everything except his throne. She presides at Court,
but neither she nor her children assume the style of majesty, although
in some instances the latter have been created princes, and acknowledged
as heirs apparent when there has been a default in the lineal royal
issue. The lady of whom we are speaking, according to the usual custom,
has assumed a name derivative from that of her royal husband; and as the
Grand Duke's name is Charles, she is styled Madame Carolina."
"And what kind of lady is Madame Carolina?" asked Vivian.
Philosophical! piquant! Parisian! a genius, according to her friends;
who, as in fact she is a Queen, are of course the whole world. Though a
German by family, she is a Frenchwoman by birth. Educated in the
spiritual saloons of the French metropolis, she has early imbibed superb
ideas of the perfectibility of man, and of the "science" of
conversation, on both which subjects you will not be long at Court ere
you hear her descant; demonstrating by the brilliancy of her ideas the
possibility of the one, and by the fluency of her language her
acquaintance with the other. She is much younger than her husband, and,
though not exactly a model for Phidias, a fascinating woman. Variety is
the talisman by which she commands all hearts and gained her monarch's.
She is only consistent in being delightful; but, though changeable, she
is not capricious. Each day displays a new accomplishment as regularly
as it does a new costume; but as the acquirement seems only valued by
its possessor as it may delight others, so the dress seems worn, not so
much to gratify her own vanity as to please her friends' tastes. Genius
is her idol; and with her genius is found in everything. She speaks in
equal ruptures of an opera dancer and an epic poet. Her ambition is to
converse on all subjects; and by a judicious management of a great mass
of miscellaneous reading, and by indefatigable exertions to render
herself mistress of the prominent points of the topics of the day, she
appears to converse on all subjects with ability. She takes the
liveliest interest in the progress of mind, in all quarters of the
globe; and imagines that she should, at the same time, immortalise
herself and benefit her species, could she only establish a Quarterly
Review in Ashantee and a scientific Gazette at Timbuctoo.
Notwithstanding her sudden elevation, no one has ever accused her of
arrogance, or pride, or ostentation. Her liberal principles and her
enlightened views are acknowledged by all. She advocates equality in her
circle of privileged nobles, and is enthusiastic on the rights of man in
a country where justice is a favour. Her boast is to be surrounded by
men of genius, and her delight to correspond with the most celebrated
persons of all countries. She is herself a literary character of no mean
celebrity. Few months have elapsed since enraptured Reisenburg hailed
from her glowing pen two neat octavos, bearing the title of 'Memoirs of
the Court of Charlemagne,' which give an interesting and accurate
picture of the age, and delight the modern public with vivid descriptions
of the cookery, costume, and conversation of the eighth century. You
smile, my friend, at Madame Carolina's production. Do not you agree with
me that it requires no mean talent to convey a picture of the bustle of
a levée during the middle ages? Conceive Sir Oliver looking in at his
club! and fancy the small talk of Roland during a morning visit! Yet
even the fame of this work is to be eclipsed by Madame's forthcoming
quarto of 'Haroun al Raschid and his Times.' This, it is whispered, is
to be a chef-d'oeuvre, enriched by a chronological arrangement, by a
celebrated oriental scholar, of all the anecdotes in the Arabian Nights
relating to the Caliph. It is, of course, the sun of Madame's patronage
that has hatched into noxious life the swarm of sciolists who now infest
the Court, and who are sapping the husband's political power while they
are establishing the wife's literary reputation. So much for Madame
Carolina! I need hardly add that during your short stay at Court you
will be delighted with her. If ever you know her as well as I do, you
will find her vain, superficial, heartless; her sentiment a system, her
enthusiasm exaggeration, and her genius merely a clever adoption of the
profundity of others."
"And Beckendorff and the lady are not friendly?" asked Vivian, who was
delighted with his communicative companion.
"Beckendorff's is a mind that such a woman cannot comprehend. He treats
her with contempt, and, if possible, views her with hatred, for he
considers that she has degraded the character of his pupil; while she,
on the contrary, wonders by what magic spell he exercises such influence
over the conduct of her husband. At first Beckendorff treated her and
her circle of illuminati with contemptuous silence; but in politics
nothing is contemptible. The Minister, knowing that the people were
prosperous and happy, cared little for projected constitutions, and less
for metaphysical abstractions; but some circumstances have lately
occurred which, I imagine, have convinced him that for once he has
miscalculated. After the arrangement of the German States, when the
Princes were first mediatised, an attempt was made, by means of a
threatening league, to obtain for these political victims a very ample
share of the power and patronage of the new State of Reisenburg. This
plan failed from the lukewarmness and indecision of our good friend of
Little Lilliput, who, between ourselves, was prevented from joining the
alliance by the intrigues of Beckendorff. Beckendorff secretly took
measures that the Prince should be promised that, in case of his keeping
backward, he should obtain more than would fall to his lot by leading
the van. The Prince of Little Lilliput and his peculiar friends
accordingly were quiet, and the attempt of the other chieftains failed.
It was then that his Highness found that he had been duped. Beckendorff
would not acknowledge the authority, and, of course, did not redeem the
pledge, of his agent. The effect that this affair produced upon the
Prince's mind you can conceive. Since then he has never frequented
Reisenburg, but constantly resided either at his former capital, now a
provincial town of the Grand Duchy, or at this castle; viewed, you may
suppose, with no very cordial feeling by his companions in misfortune.
But the thirst of revenge will inscribe the bitterest enemies in the
same muster-roll; and the Princes, incited by the bold carriage of
Madame Carolina's philosophical protégés, and induced to believe that
Beckendorff's power is on the wane, have again made overtures to our
friend, without whose powerful assistance they feel that they have but
little chance of success. Observe how much more men's conduct is
influenced by circumstances than principles! When these persons leagued
together before it was with the avowed intention of obtaining a share of
the power and patronage of the State: the great body of the people, of
course, did not sympathise in that which, after all, to them was a party
quarrel, and by the joint exertions of open force and secret intrigue
the Court triumphed. But now these same individuals come forward, not as
indignant Princes demanding a share of the envied tyranny, but as ardent
patriots advocating a people's rights. The public, though I believe that
in fact they will make no bodily exertion to acquire a constitutional
freedom the absence of which they can only abstractedly feel, have no
objection to attain that which they are assured will not injure their
situation, provided it be by the risk and exertions of others. So far,
therefore, as clamour can support the Princes, they have the people on
their side; and as upwards of three hundred thousand of the Grand Ducal
subjects are still living on their estates, and still consider
themselves as their serfs, they trust that some excesses from this great
body may incite the rest of the people to similar outrages. The natural
disposition of mankind to imitation, particularly when the act to be
imitated is popular, deserves attention. The Court is divided; for the
exertions of Madame and the bewitching influence of Fashion have turned
the heads even of greybeards: and to give you only one instance, his
Excellency the Grand Marshal, protégé of the House of Austria, and a
favourite of Metternich, the very person to whose interests, and as a
reward for whose services, our princely friend was sacrificed by the
Minister, has now himself become a pupil in the school of modern
philosophy, and drivels out, with equal ignorance and fervour,
enlightened notions on the most obscure subjects. In the midst of all
this confusion, the Grand Duke is timorous, dubious, and uncertain.
Beckendorff has a difficult game to play; he may fall at last. Such, my
dear sir, are the tremendous consequences of a weak Prince marrying a
"And the Crown Prince, Mr. Sievers, how does he conduct himself at this
interesting moment? or is his mind so completely engrossed by the
anticipation of his Imperial alliance that he has no thought for
anything but his approaching bride."
"The Crown Prince, my dear sir, is neither thinking of his bride nor of
anything else: he is a hunch-backed idiot. Of his deformity I have
myself been a witness; and though it is difficult to give an opinion of
the intellect of a being with whom you have never interchanged a
syllable, nevertheless his countenance does not contradict the common
creed. I say the common creed, Mr. Grey, for there are moments when the
Crown Prince of Reisenburg is spoken of by his future subjects in a very
different manner. Whenever any unpopular act is committed, or any
unpopular plan suggested by the Court or the Grand Duke, then whispers
are immediately afloat that a future Brutus must be looked for in their
Prince; then it is generally understood that his idiocy is only assumed;
and what woman does not detect, in the glimmerings of his lack-lustre
eye, the vivid sparks of suppressed genius! In a short time the cloud
blows over the Court, dissatisfaction disappears, and the moment that
the monarch is again popular the unfortunate Crown Prince again becomes
the uninfluential object of pity or derision. All immediately forget
that his idiocy is only assumed; and what woman ever ceases from
deploring the unhappy lot of the future wife of their impuissant Prince!
Such, my dear sir, is the way of mankind! At the first glance it would
appear, that in this world, monarchs, on the whole, have it pretty well
their own way; but reflection will soon enable us not to envy their
situations; and speaking as a father, which unfortunately I am not,
should I not view with disgust that lot in life which necessarily makes
my son my enemy? The Crown Prince of all countries is only a puppet in
the hands of the people, to be played against his own father."
The Prince returned home at a late hour, and immediately enquired for
Vivian. During dinner, which he hastily despatched, it did not escape
our hero's attention that his Highness was unusually silent, and,
"When we have finished our meal, my good friend," at length said the
Prince, "I very much wish to consult with you on a most important
business." Since the explanation of last night, the Prince, in private
conversation, had dropped his regal plural.
"I am ready at once," said Vivian.
"You will think it strange, Mr. Grey, when you become acquainted with
the nature of my communication; you will justly consider it most
strange, most singular, that I should choose for a confidant and a
counsellor in an important business a gentleman with whom I have been
acquainted so short a time as yourself. But, sir, I have well weighed,
at least I have endeavoured well to weigh, all the circumstances and
contingencies which such a confidence would involve; and the result of
my reflection is, that I will look to you as a friend and adviser,
feeling assured that, both from your situation and your disposition, no
temptation exists which can induce you to betray or to deceive me."
Though the Prince said this with an appearance of perfect sincerity, he
stopped and looked earnest in his guest's face, as if he would read his
secret thoughts, or were desirous of now giving him an opportunity of
"So far as the certainty of your confidence being respected," answered
Vivian, "I trust your Highness may communicate to me with the most
assured spirit. But while my ignorance of men and affairs in this
country will ensure you from any treachery on my part, I very much fear
that it will also preclude me from affording you any advantageous advice
"On that head," replied the Prince, "I am, of course, the best judge.
The friend whom I need is a man not ignorant of the world, with a cool
head and an impartial mind. Though young, you have said and told me
enough to prove that you are not unacquainted with mankind. Of your
courage I have already had a convincing proof. In the business in which
I require your assistance freedom from national prejudices will
materially increase the value of your advice; and, therefore, I am far
from being unwilling to consult a person ignorant, according to your own
phrase, of men and affairs in this country. Moreover, your education as
an Englishman has early led you to exercise your mind on political
subjects; and it is in a political business that I require your aid."
"Am I fated always to be the dry nurse of an embryo faction!" thought
Vivian; and he watched earnestly the countenance of the Prince. In a
moment he expected to be invited to become a counsellor of the leagued
Princes. Either the lamp was burning dim, or the blazing wood fire had
suddenly died away, or a mist was over Vivian's eyes; but for a moment
he almost imagined that he was sitting opposite his old friend the
Marquis of Carabas. The Prince's phrase had given rise to a thousand
agonising associations: in an instant Vivian had worked up his mind to a
pitch of nervous excitement.
"Political business?" said Vivian, in an agitated voice. "You could not
address a more unfortunate person. I have seen, Prince, too much of
politics ever to wish to meddle with them again."
"You are too quick, my good friend," continued his Highness. "I may wish
to consult you on political business, and yet have no intention of
engaging you in politics, which, indeed, is quite a ridiculous idea. But
I see that I was right in supposing that these subjects have engaged
"I have seen, in a short time, something of the political world,"
answered Vivian, who was almost ashamed of his previous emotion; "and I
thank Heaven daily that I have no chance of again having any
connection with it."
"Well, well! that as it may be. Nevertheless, your experience is only
another inducement to me to request your assistance. Do not fear that I
wish to embroil you in politics; but I hope you will not refuse,
although almost a stranger, to add to the great obligations which I am
already under to you, and give me the benefit of your opinion."
"Your Highness may speak with perfect unreserve, and reckon upon my
delivering my genuine sentiments."
"You have not forgotten, I venture to believe," said the Prince, "our
short conversation of last night!"
"It was of too interesting a nature easily to escape my memory."
"Before I can consult you on the subject which at present interests me,
it is necessary that I should make you a little acquainted with the
present state of public affairs here, and the characters of the
principal individuals who control them."
"So far as an account of the present state of political parties, the
history of the Grand Duke's career, and that of his Minister, Mr.
Beckendorff, and their reputed characters, will form part of your
Highness's narrative, by so much may its length be curtailed and your
trouble lessened; for I have at different times picked up, in casual
conversation, a great deal of information on these topics. Indeed, you
may address me, in this respect, as you would any German gentleman who,
not being himself personally interested in public life, is, of course,
not acquainted with its most secret details."
"I did not reckon on this," said the Prince, in a cheerful voice. "This
is a great advantage, and another reason that I should no longer
hesitate to develop to you a certain affair which now occupies my mind.
To be short," continued the Prince, "it is of the letter which I so
mysteriously received last night, and which, as you must have remarked,
very much agitated me; it is on this letter that I wish to consult you.
Bearing in mind the exact position, the avowed and public position, in
which I stand, as connected with the Court, and having a due
acquaintance, which you state you have, with the character of Mr.
Beckendorff, what think you of this letter?"
So saying, the Prince leant over the table, and handed to Vivian the
"TO HIS HIGHNESS THE PRINCE OF LITTLE LILLIPUT.
"I am commanded by his Royal Highness to inform your Highness that his
Royal Highness has considered the request which was signed by your
Highness and other noblemen, and presented by you to his Royal Highness
in a private interview. His Royal Highness commands me to state that
that request will receive his most attentive consideration. At the same
time, his Royal Highness also commands me to observe that, in bringing
about the completion of a result desired by all parties, it is difficult
to carry on the necessary communications merely by written documents;
and his Royal Highness has therefore commanded me to submit to your
Highness the advisability of taking some steps in order to further the
possibility of the occurrence of an oral interchange of the sentiments
of the respective parties. Being aware, from the position which your
Highness has thought proper at present to maintain, and from other
causes which are of too delicate a nature to be noticed in any other way
except by allusion, that your Highness may feel difficulty in personally
communicating with his Royal Highness without consulting the wishes and
opinions of the other Princes; a process to which, it must be evident to
your Highness, his Royal Highness feels it impossible to submit; and, at
the same time, desirous of forwarding the progress of those views which
his Royal Highness and your Highness may conjunctively consider
calculated to advance the well-being of the State, I have to submit to
your Highness the propriety of considering the propositions contained in
the enclosed paper; which, if your Highness keep unconnected with this
communication, the purport of this letter will be confined to
'1st. That an interview shall take place between your Highness and
myself, the object of which shall be the consideration of measures by
which, when adopted, the various interests now in agitation shall
respectively be regarded.
'2nd. That this interview shall be secret; your Highness be incognito.'
"If your Highness be disposed to accede to the first proposition, I beg
to submit to you that, from the nature of my residence, its situation,
and other causes, there will be no fear that any suspicion of the fact
of Mr. von Philipson acceding to the two propositions will gain
notoriety. This letter will be delivered into your own hands. If Mr. von
Philipson determine on acceding to these propositions, he is most
probably aware of the general locality in which my residence is
situated; and proper measures will be taken that, if Mr. von Philipson
honour me with a visit, he shall not be under the necessity of
attracting attention by inquiring the way to my house. It is wished that
the fact of the second proposition being acceded to should only be known
to Mr. von Philipson and myself, but if to be perfectly unattended be
considered as an insuperable objection, I consent to his being
accompanied by a single friend. I shall be alone.
"Well!" said the Prince, as Vivian finished the letter.
"The best person," said Vivian, "to decide upon your Highness consenting
to this interview is yourself."
"That is not the point on which I wish to have the benefit of your
opinion; for I have already consented. I rode over this morning to my
cousin, the Duke of Micromegas, and despatched from his residence a
trusty messenger to Beckendorff. I have agreed to meet him, and
to-morrow; but on the express terms that I should not be unattended. Now
then," continued the Prince, with great energy; "now then, will you be
"I!" said Vivian.
"Yes; you, my good friend! you. I should consider myself as safe if I
were sleeping in a burning house as I should be were I with Beckendorff
alone. Although this is not the first time that we have communicated, I
have never yet seen him; and I am fully aware that, if the approaching
interview were known to my friends, they would consider it high time
that my son reigned in my stead. But I am resolved to be firm, to be
inflexible. My course is plain. I am not to be again duped by him,
which," continued the Prince, much confused, "I will not conceal that I
have been once."
"But I!" said Vivian; "I; what good can I possibly do? It appears to me
that, if Beckendorff is to be dreaded as you describe, the presence or
the attendance of no friend can possibly save you from his crafty plans.
But surely, if any one attend you, why not be accompanied by a person
whom you have known long, and who knows you well; on whom you can
confidently rely, and who may be aware, from a thousand signs and
circumstances which will never attract my attention, at what particular
and pressing moments you may require prompt and energetic assistance.
Such is the companion you want; and surely such an one you may find in
Arnelm, Von Neuwied--"
"Arnelm! Von Neuwied!" said the Prince; "the best, hands at sounding a
bugle or spearing a boar in all Reisenburg! Excellent men, forsooth! to
guard their master from the diplomatic deceits of the wily Beckendorff!
Moreover, were they to have even the slightest suspicion of my intended
movement, they would commit rank treason out of pure loyalty, and lock
me up in my own cabinet! No, no! they will never do: I want a companion
of experience and knowledge of the world, with whom I may converse with
some prospect of finding my wavering firmness strengthened, or my misled
judgment rightly guided, or my puzzled brain cleared; modes of
assistance to which the worthy Jagd Junker is but little accustomed,
however quickly he might hasten to my side in a combat or the chase."
"If these, then, will not do, surely there is one man in this castle
who, although he may not be a match for Beckendorff, can be foiled by
few others. Mr. Sievers?" said Vivian, with an inquiring eye.
"Sievers!" exclaimed the Prince, with great eagerness; "the very man!
firm, experienced, and sharp-witted; well schooled in political
learning, in case I required his assistance in arranging the terms of
the intended Charter or the plan of the intended Chambers; for these, of
course, are the points on which Beckendorff wishes to consult. But one
thing I am determined on: I positively pledge myself to nothing while
under Beckendorff's roof. He doubtless anticipates, by my visit, to
grant the liberties of the people on his own terms: perhaps Mr.
Beckendorff, for once in his life, may be mistaken. I am not to be
deceived twice; and I am determined not to yield the point of the
Treasury being under the control of the Senate. That is the part of the
harness which galls; and to preserve themselves from this rather
inconvenient regulation, without question, my good friend Beckendorff
has hit upon this plan."
"Then Mr. Sievers will accompany you?" asked Vivian, calling the
Prince's attention to the point of consultation.
"The very man for it, my dear friend! but although Beckendorff, most
probably respecting my presence, and taking into consideration the
circumstances under which we meet, would refrain from consigning Sievers
to a dungeon; still, although the Minister invites this interview, and
although I have no single inducement to conciliate him, yet it would
scarcely be correct, scarcely dignified on my part, to prove, by the
presence of my companion, that I had for a length of time harboured an
individual who, by Beckendorff's own exertions, was banished from the
Grand Duchy. It would look too much like a bravado."
"Oh!" said Vivian; "is it so? And pray of what was Mr. Sievers guilty?"
"Of high treason against one who was not his sovereign."
"How is that?"
"Sievers, who is a man of considerable talents, was for a long time a
professor in one of our great Universities. The publication of many able
works procured him a reputation which induced Madame Carolina to use
every exertion to gain his attendance at Court; and a courtier in time
the professor became. At Reisenburg Mr. Sievers was the great authority
on all subjects: philosophical, literary, and political. In fact, he was
the fashion; and, at the head of the great literary journal which is
there published, he terrified admiring Germany with his profound and
piquant critiques. Unfortunately, like some men as good, he was unaware
that Reisenburg was not an independent state; and so, on the occasion of
Austria attacking Naples, Mr. Sievers took the opportunity of attacking
Austria. His article, eloquent, luminous, profound, revealed the dark
colours of the Austrian policy, as an artist's lamp brings out the murky
tints of a Spagnoletto. Every one admired Sievers' bitter sarcasms,
enlightened views, and indignant eloquence. Madame Carolina crowned him
with laurel in the midst of her coterie, and it is said that the Grand
Duke sent him a snuff-box. In a short time the article reached Vienna,
and in a still shorter time Mr. Beckendorff reached the Residence, and
insisted on the author being immediately given up to the Austrian
Government. Madame Carolina was in despair, the Grand Duke in doubt, and
Beckendorff threatened to resign if the order were not signed. A kind
friend, perhaps his Royal Highness himself, gave Sievers timely notice,
and by rapid flight he reached my castle, and demanded my hospitality.
He has lived here ever since, and has done me a thousand services, not
the least of which is the education which he has given my son, my
"And Beckendorff," asked Vivian; "has he always been aware that Sievers
was concealed here?"
"That I cannot answer: had he been, it is not improbable that he would
have winked at it; since it never has been his policy unnecessarily to
annoy a mediatised Prince, or without great occasion to let us feel that
our independence is gone; I will not, with such a son as I have, say,
"Mr. Sievers of course, then, cannot visit Beckendorff," said Vivian.
"That is clear," said the Prince; "and I therefore trust that now you
will no longer refuse my first request."
It was impossible for Vivian to deny the Prince any longer; and indeed
he had no objection (as his Highness could not be better attended) to
seize the singular and unexpected opportunity which now offered itself
of becoming acquainted with an individual respecting whom his curiosity
was much excited. It was a late hour ere the Prince and his friend
retired, having arranged everything for the morrow's journey, and
conversed on the probable subjects of the approaching interview at
On the following morning, before sunrise, the Prince's valet roused
Vivian from his slumbers. According to the appointment of the preceding
evening, Vivian repaired in due time to a certain spot in the park. The
Prince reached it at the same moment. A mounted groom, leading two
English horses of showy appearance, and each having a travelling case
strapped on the back of its saddle, awaited them. His Highness mounted
one of the steeds with skilful celerity, although Arnelm and Von Neuwied
were not there to do honour to his bridle and his stirrup.
"You must give me an impartial opinion of your courser, my dear friend,"
said the Prince to Vivian; "for if you deem it worthy of being
bestridden by you, my son requests that you will do him the honour of
accepting it. If so, call it Max; and provided it be as thoroughbred as
the donor, you need not change it for Bucephalus."
"Not unworthy of the son of Ammon!" said Vivian, as he touched the
spirited animal with the spur, and proved its fiery action on the
A man never feels so proud or so sanguine as when he is bounding on the
back of a fine horse. Cares fly with the first curvet, and the very
sight of a spur is enough to prevent one committing suicide.
When Vivian and his companion had proceeded about five miles, the Prince
pulled up, and giving a sealed letter to the groom, he desired him to
leave them. The Prince and Vivian amused themselves by endeavouring to
form some conception of the person, manners, and habits of the
remarkable man to whom they were on the point of paying so interesting
"I expect," said Vivian, "to be received with folded arms, and a brow
lowering with the overwhelming weight of a brain meditating for the
control of millions. His letter has prepared us for the mysterious, but
not very amusing, style of his conversation. He will be perpetually on
his guard not to commit himself; and although public business, and the
receipt of papers, by calling him away, will occasionally give us an
opportunity of being alone, still I regret that I did not put up in my
case some interesting volume, which would have allowed me to feel less
tedious those hours during which you will necessarily be employed with
him in private consultation."
After a ride of five hours, the horsemen arrived at a small village.
"Thus far I think I have well piloted you," said the Prince: "but I
confess my knowledge here ceases; and though I shall disobey the
diplomatic instructions of the great man, I must even ask some old woman
the way to Mr. Beckendorff's."
While they were hesitating as to whom they should address, an
equestrian, who had already passed them on the road, though at some
distance, came up, and inquired, in a voice which Vivian recognised as
that of the messenger who had brought Beckendorff's letter to
Turriparva, whether he had the honour of addressing Mr. von Philipson.
Neither of the gentlemen answered, for Vivian of course expected the
Prince to reply; and his Highness was, as yet, so unused to his
incognito, that he had actually forgotten his own name. But it was
evident that the demandant had questioned rather from system than by way
of security, and he waited patiently until the Prince had collected his
senses and assumed sufficient gravity of countenance to inform the
horseman that he was the person in question. "What, sir, is your
"I am instructed to ride on before you, sir, that you may not mistake
your way;" and without waiting for an answer the laconic messenger
turned his steed's head and trotted off.
The travellers soon left the high road and turned up a wild turf path,
not only inaccessible to carriages, but even requiring great attention
from horsemen. After much winding and some floundering, they arrived at
a light gate, which apparently opened into a shrubbery.
"I will take your horses here, gentlemen," said the guide; and getting
off his horse, he opened the gate. "Follow this path, and you can meet
with no difficulty." The Prince and Vivian accordingly dismounted, and
the guide immediately gave a loud shrill whistle.
The path ran, for a short way, through the shrubbery, which evidently
was a belt encircling the grounds. From this the Prince and Vivian
emerged upon a lawn, which formed on the farthest side a terrace, by
gradually sloping down to the margin of the river. It was enclosed on
the other side, and white pheasants were feeding in its centre.
Following the path which skirted the lawn, they arrived at a second
gate, which opened into a garden, in which no signs of the taste at
present existing in Germany for the English system of picturesque
pleasure-grounds were at all visible. The walk was bounded on both sides
by tall borders, or rather hedges, of box, cut into the shape of
battlements; the sameness of these turrets being occasionally varied by
the immovable form of some trusty warder, carved out of yew or laurel.
Raised terraces and arched walks, aloes and orange trees mounted on
sculptured pedestals, columns of cypress and pyramids of bay, whose dark
foliage strikingly contrasted with the marble statues, and the white
vases shining in the sun, rose in all directions in methodical
confusion. The sound of a fountain was not wanting, and large beds of
beautiful flowers abounded. Proceeding through a lofty berçeau,
occasional openings in whose curving walks allowed effective glimpses of
a bust or a statue, the companions at length came in sight of the house.
It was a long, uneven, low building, evidently of ancient architecture.
Numerous stacks of tall and fantastically-shaped chimneys rose over
three thick and heavy gables, which reached down farther than the middle
of the elevation, forming three compartments, one of them including a
large and modern bow window, over which clustered hi profusion the sweet
and glowing blossoms of the clematis and the pomegranate. Indeed, the
whole front of the house was so completely covered with a rich
scarlet-creeper, that it was difficult to ascertain of what materials it
was built. As Vivian was admiring a white peacock, which, attracted by
their approach, had taken the opportunity of unfurling its wheeling
train, a man came forward from the bow window.
In height he was about five feet eight, and of a spare but
well-proportioned figure. He had little hair, which was powdered, and
dressed in a manner to render more remarkable the elevation of his
conical and polished forehead. His long piercing black eyes were almost
closed, from the fullness of their upper lids. His cheek was sallow, his
nose aquiline, his mouth compressed. His ears, which were uncovered,
were so small that it would be wrong to pass them over unnoticed; as,
indeed, were his hands and feet, in form quite feminine. He was dressed
in a coat and waistcoat of black velvet, the latter part of his costume
reaching to his thighs; and in a button-hole of his coat was a large
bunch of tube-rose. The broad collar of his exquisitely plaited shirt,
though tied round with a wide black ribbon, did not conceal a neck which
agreed well with his beardless chin, and would not have misbecome a
woman. In England we should have called his breeches buckskin. They were
of a pale yellow leather, and suited his large and spur-armed cavalry
boots, which fitted closely to the legs they covered, reaching over the
knees of the wearer. A ribbon round his neck, tucked into his waistcoat
pocket, was attached to a small French watch. He swung in his right hand
the bow of a violin; and in the other, the little finger of which was
nearly hid by a large antique ring, he held a white handkerchief
strongly perfumed with violets. Notwithstanding the many feminine
characteristics which I have noticed, either from the expression of the
eyes or the formation of the mouth, the countenance of this individual
generally conveyed an impression of firmness and energy. This
description will not be considered ridiculously minute by those who have
never had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the person of so
celebrated a gentleman as MR. BECKENDORFF.
He advanced to the Prince with an air which seemed to proclaim that, as
his person could not be mistaken, the ceremony of introduction was
unnecessary. Bowing in a ceremonious and courtly manner to his Highness,
Mr. Beckendorff, in a weak but not unpleasing voice, said that he was
"honoured by the presence of Mr. von Philipson." The Prince answered his
salutation in a manner equally ceremonious and equally courtly; for
having no mean opinion of his own diplomatic abilities, his Highness
determined that neither by an excess of coldness nor cordiality on his
part should the Minister gather the slightest indication of the temper
in which he had attended the interview. You see that even the bow of a
diplomatist is a serious business!
"Mr. Beckendorff," said his Highness, "my letter doubtless informed you
that I should avail myself of your permission to be accompanied. Let me
have the honour of presenting to you my friend Mr. Grey, an English
As the Prince spoke, Beckendorff stood with his arms crossed behind
him, and his chin resting upon his chest, but his eyes at the same time
so raised as to look his Highness full in the face. Vivian was so struck
by his posture and the expression of his countenance, that he nearly
omitted to bow when he was presented. As his name was mentioned, the
Minister gave him a sharp, sidelong glance, and moving his head
slightly, invited his guests to enter the house. The gentlemen
accordingly complied with his request. Passing through the bow window,
they found themselves in a well-sized room, the sides of which were
covered with shelves filled with richly-bound books. There was nothing
in the room which gave the slightest indication that the master of the
library was any other than a private gentleman. Not a book, not a chair
was out of its place. A purple inkstand of Sèvre, and a highly-tooled
morocco portfolio of the same colour, reposed on a marqueterie table,
and that was all. No papers, no despatches, no red tape, and no red
boxes. Over an ancient chimney, lined with china tiles, on which were
represented grotesque figures, cows playing the harp, monkeys acting
monarchs, and tall figures all legs, flying with rapidity from pursuers
who were all head; over this chimney were suspended some curious pieces
of antique armour, among which an Italian dagger, with a chased and
jewelled hilt, was the most remarkable and the most precious.
"This," said Mr. Beckendorff, "is my library."
"What a splendid poignard!" said the Prince, who had no taste for books;
and he immediately walked up to the chimney-piece. Beckendorff followed
him, and taking down the admired weapon from its resting-place,
proceeded to lecture on its virtues, its antiquity, and its beauty.
Vivian seized this opportunity of taking a rapid glance at the contents
of the library. He anticipated interleaved copies of Machiavel, Vattel,
and Montesquieu; and the lightest works that he expected to meet with
were the lying memoirs of some intriguing cardinal or the deluding
apology of an exiled minister. To his surprise, he found that, without
an exception, the collection consisted of poetry and romance. Somewhat
surprised, Vivian looked with a curious eye on the unlettered backs of a
row of mighty folios on a corner shelf. "These," he thought, "at least
must be royal ordinances, and collected state papers." The sense of
propriety struggled for a moment with the passion of curiosity; but
nothing is more difficult for the man who loves books than to refrain
from examining a volume which he fancies may be unknown to him. From
the jewelled dagger Beckendorff had now got to an enamelled
breast-plate. Two to one he should not be observed; and so, with a
desperate pull, Vivian extracted a volume; it was a herbal! He tried
another; it was a collection of dried insects!
"And now," said Mr. Beckendorff, "I will show you my drawing-room."
He opened a door at the farther end of the library, and introduced them
to a room of a different character. The sun, which was shining brightly,
lent additional brilliancy to the rainbow-tinted birds of paradise, the
crimson maccaws, and the green parroquets that glistened on the Indian
paper, which covered not only the walls, but also the ceiling of the
room. Over the fireplace a black frame, projecting from the wall, and
mournfully contrasting with the general brilliant appearance of the
apartment, inclosed a picture of a beautiful female; and bending over
its frame, and indeed partly shadowing the countenance, was the withered
branch of a tree. A harpsichord and several cases of musical instruments
were placed in different parts of the room; and suspended by broad black
ribbons from the wall, on each side of the picture, were a guitar and a
tambourine. On a sofa of unusual size lay a Cremona; and as Mr.
Beckendorff passed the instrument he threw by its side the bow, which he
had hitherto carried in his hand.
"We may as well now take something," said Mr. Beckendorff, when his
guests had sufficiently admired the room; "my pictures are in my
dining-room; let us go there."
So saying, and armed this time not only with his bow but also with his
violin, he retraced his steps through the library, and crossing a small
passage which divided the house into two compartments, he opened the
door into his dining-room. The moment they entered the room their ears
were saluted, and indeed their senses ravished, by what appeared to be a
concert of a thousand birds; yet none of the winged choristers were to
be seen, and not even a single cage was visible. The room, which was
simply furnished, appeared at first rather gloomy; for, though lighted
by three windows, the silk blinds were all drawn.
"And now," said Mr. Beckendorff, raising the first blind, "you shall see
my pictures. At what do you estimate this Breughel?"
The window, which was of stained green glass, gave to the landscape an
effect similar to that generally produced by the artist mentioned. The
Prince, who was already puzzled by finding one who at the same time was
both his host and his enemy so different a character from what he had
conceived, and who, being by temper superstitious, considered that this
preliminary false opinion of his was rather a bad omen, did not express
any great admiration of the gallery of Mr. Beckendorff; but Vivian, who
had no ambitious hopes or fears to affect his temper, and who was amused
by the character with whom he had become so unexpectedly acquainted,
good-naturedly humoured the fantasies of the Minister, and said that he
preferred his picture to any Breughel he had ever seen.
"I see you have a fine taste," said Mr. Beckendorff, with a serious air,
but in a courteous tone; "you shall see my Claude!"
The rich yellow tint of the second window gave to the fanciful garden
all that was requisite to make it look Italian.
"Have you ever been in Italy, sir?" asked Beckendorff.
"I have not."
"You have, Mr. von Philipson?"
"Never south of Germany," answered the Prince, who was hungry, and eyed
with a rapacious glance the capital luncheon which he saw prepared
"Well, then, when either of you go, you will, of course, not miss the
Lago Maggiore. Gaze on Isola Bella at sunset, and you will not view so
fair a scene as this! And now, Mr. von Philipson," said Beckendorff, "do
me the favour of giving me your opinion of this Honthorst?"
His Highness would rather have given his opinion of the dish of game
which still smoked upon the table, but which he was mournfully convinced
would not smoke long. "But," thought he, "this is the last!" and so he
admired the effect produced by the flaming panes, to which Beckendorff
swore that no piece ever painted by Gerard Honthorst, for brilliancy of
colouring and boldness of outline, could be compared. "Besides,"
continued Beckendorff, "mine are all animated pictures. See that
cypress, waving from the breeze which is now stirring, and look! look at
this crimson peacock! look! Mr. von Philipson."
"I am looking, Mr. von--I beg pardon, Mr. Beckendorff," said the Prince,
with great dignity, making this slight mistake in the name, either from
being unused to converse with such low people as had not the nominal
mark of nobility, or to vent his spleen at being so unnecessarily kept
from the refreshment which he so much required.
"Mr. von Philipson," said Beckendorff, suddenly turning round, "all my
fruits and all my vegetables are from my own garden. Let us sit down and
The only substantial food at table was a great dish of game. The
vegetables and the fruits were numerous and superb; and there really
appeared to be a fair prospect of the Prince of Little Lilliput making
as good a luncheon as if the whole had been conducted under the auspices
of Master Rodolph himself, had it not been for the melody of the unseen
vocalists, which, probably excited by the sounds of the knives and
plates, too evidently increased every moment. But this inconvenience was
soon removed by Mr. Beckendorff rising and giving three loud knocks on
the door opposite to the one by which they had entered. Immediate
"Clara will change your plate, Mr. von Philipson," said Beckendorff.
Vivian eagerly looked up, not with the slightest idea that the entrance
of Clara would prove that the mysterious picture in the drawing-room was
a portrait, but, it must be confessed, with a little curiosity to view
the first specimen of the sex who lived under the roof of Mr.
Beckendorff. Clara was a hale old woman, with rather an acid expression
of countenance, prim in her appearance, and evidently precise in her
manners. She placed a bottle and two wine-glasses with long, thin stems
on the table; and having removed the game and changed the plates, she
"Pray what wine is this, Mr. Beckendorff?" eagerly asked the Prince.
"I really don't know. I never drink wine."
"Not know! I never tasted such Tokay in my life!"
"Probably," said Mr. Beckendorff; "I think it was a present from the
Emperor. I have never tasted it."
"My dear sir, take a glass!" said the Prince, his naturally jovial
temper having made him completely forget whom he was addressing, and the
business he had come upon.
"I never drink wine; I am glad you like it; I have no doubt Clara has
"No, no, no! we must be moderate," said the Prince, who, though a great
admirer of a good luncheon, had also a due respect for a good dinner,
and consequently had no idea, at this awkward hour in the day, of
preventing himself from properly appreciating the future banquet.
Moreover, his Highness, taking into consideration the manner in which
the game had been dressed, and the marks of refinement and good taste
which seemed to pervade every part of the establishment of Mr.
Beckendorff, did not imagine that he was much presuming when he
conjectured that there was a fair chance of his dinner being
The sudden arrival and appearance of some new and unexpected guests
through the mysterious portal on which Mr. Beckendorff by his three
knocks had previously produced such a tranquillising effect, and which
he had now himself opened, explained the character of the apartment,
which, from its unceasing melody, had so much excited the curiosity of
his guests. These new visitors were a crowd of piping bullfinches,
Virginia nightingales, trained canaries, Java sparrows, and Indian
lorys; which, freed from their cages of golden wire by their fond
master, had fled, as was their custom, from his superb aviary to pay
their respects and compliments at his daily levée.
"I am glad to see that you like birds, sir," said Beckendorff to Vivian;
for our hero, good-naturedly humouring the tastes of his host, was
impartially dividing the luxuries of a peach among a crowd of gaudy and
greedy little sparrows. "You shall see my favourites," continued
Beckendorff; and tapping rather loudly on the table, he held out the
forefinger of each hand. Two bullfinches recognised the signal, and
immediately hastened to their perch.
"My dear!" trilled out one little songster, and it raised its speaking
eyes to its delighted master.
"My love!" warbled the other, marking its affection by looks equally
As these monosyllables were repeated, Beckendorff, with sparkling eyes,
triumphantly looked round at Vivian, as if the frequent reiteration were
a proof of the sincerity of the affection of these singular friends.
At length, to the Prince's relief, Mr. Beckendorff's feathered friends,
having finished their dessert, were sent back to their cages, with a
strict injunction not to trouble their master at present with their
voices, an injunction which was obeyed to the letter; and when the door
was closed few persons could have been persuaded that the next room was
"I am proud of my peaches, Mr. von Philipson," said Beckendorff,
recommending the fruit to his guest's attention, then rising from the
table, he threw himself on the sofa, and began humming a tune in a low
voice. Presently he took up his Cremona, and, using the violin as a
guitar, accompanied himself in a beautiful air, but not in a more
audible tone. While Mr. Beckendorff was singing he seemed unconscious
that any person was in the room; and the Prince, who was not very fond
of music, certainly gave him no hint, either by his approbation or his
attention, that he was listened to. Vivian, however, like most unhappy
men, loved music; and actuated by this feeling, and the interest which
he began to take in the character of Mr. Beckendorff, he could not, when
that gentleman had finished his air, refrain from very sincerely
Beckendorff started and looked round, as if he were for the first moment
aware that any being had heard him.
"Encore!" said he, with a kind sneer: "who ever could sing or play the
same thing twice! Are you fond of music, sir?"
"Very much so, indeed. I fancied I recognised that air. You are an
admirer I imagine, of Mozart?"
"I never heard of him; I know nothing of those gentry. But if you really
like music, I will play you something worth listening to."
Mr. Beckendorff began a beautiful air very adagio, gradually increasing
the time in a kind of variation, till at last his execution became so
rapid that Vivian, surprised at the mere mechanical action, rose from
his chair in order better to examine the player's management and motion
of his bow. Exquisite as were the tones, enchanting as were the
originality of his variations and the perfect harmony of his
composition, it was nevertheless extremely difficult to resist smiling
at the contortions of his face and figure. Now, his body bending to the
strain, he was at one moment with his violin raised in the air, and the
next instant with the lower nut almost resting upon his foot. At length,
by well-proportioned degrees, the air died away into the original soft
cadence; and the player, becoming completely entranced in his own
performance, finished by sinking back on the sofa, with his bow and
violin raised over his head. Vivian would not disturb him by his
applause. An instant after, Mr. Beckendorff, throwing down the
instrument, rushed through an open window into the garden.
As soon as Beckendorff was out of sight, Vivian looked at the Prince;
and his Highness, elevating his eyebrows, screwing up his mouth, and
shrugging his shoulders, altogether presented a comical picture of a
"Well, my dear friend," said he, "this is rather different from what we
"Very different; but much more amusing."
"Humph!" said the Prince, slowly; "I do not think it exactly requires a
ghost to tell us that Mr. Beckendorff is not in the habit of going to
court. I do not know how he is accustomed to conduct himself when he is
honoured by a visit from the Grand Duke; but I am quite sure that, as
regards his treatment of myself, to say the least, the incognito is well
"Mr. von Philipson," said the gentleman of whom they were speaking,
putting his head in at the window, "you shall see my blue
passion-flower. We will take a walk round the garden."
The Prince gave Vivian a look which seemed to suppose they must go, and
accordingly they stepped into the garden.
"You do not see my garden in its glory," said Mr. Beckendorff, stopping
before the bow window of the library. "This spot is my strong point; had
you been here earlier in the year, you might have admired with me my
invaluable crescents of tulips; such colours! such brilliancy! so
defined! And last year I had three king-tulips; their elegantly-formed,
creamy cups I have never seen equalled. And then my double variegated
ranunculuses; my hyacinths of fifty bells, in every tint, single and
double; and my favourite stands of auriculas, so large and powdered that
the colour of the velvet leaves was scarcely discoverable! The blue
passion-flower is, however, now beautiful. You see that summer-house,
sir," continued he, turning to Vivian; "the top is my observatory. You
will sleep in that pavilion to-night, so you had better take notice how
the walk winds."
The passion-flower was trained against the summer-house in question.
"There," said Mr. Beckendorff; and he stood admiring with outstretched
arms; "the latter days of its beauty, for the autumn frosts will soon
stop its flower. Pray, Mr. von Philipson, are you a botanist?"
"Why," said the Prince, "I am a great admirer of flowers, but I cannot
exactly say that--"
"Ah! no botanist. The flower of this beautiful plant continues only one
day, but there is a constant succession from July to the end of the
autumn; and if this fine weather continue--Pray, sir, how is the wind?"
"I really cannot say," said the Prince; "but I think the wind is
"Do you know, sir?" continued Beckendorff to Vivian.
"I think, sir, that it is--"
"Westerly. Well! If this weather continue, the succession may still last
another month. You will be interested to know, Mr. von Philipson, that
the flower comes out at the same joint with the leaf, on a peduncle
nearly three inches long; round the centre of it are two radiating
crowns; look, look, sir! the inner inclining towards the centre column;
now examine this well, and I will be with you in a moment." So saying,
Mr. Beckendorff, running down the walk, jumped over the railing, and in
a moment was coursing across the lawn, towards the river, in a chase
after a dragon-fly.
Mr. Beckendorff was soon out of sight, and after lingering half-an-hour
in the vicinity of the blue passion-flower, the Prince proposed to
Vivian that they should quit the spot. "So far as I can observe,"
continued his Highness, "we might as well quit the house. No wonder that
Beckendorff's power is on the wane, for he appears to me to be growing
childish. Surely he could not always have been this frivolous creature!"
"I am really so astonished," said Vivian, "that it is quite out of my
power to assist your Highness in any supposition. But I should recommend
you not to be too hasty in your movements. Take care that staying here
does not affect the position which you have taken up, or retard the
progress of any measures on which you have determined, and you are safe.
What will it injure you if, with the chance of achieving the great and
patriotic purpose to which you have devoted your powers and energies,
you are subjected for a few hours to the caprices, or even rudeness, of
any man whatever? If Beckendorff be the character which the world gives
him credit to be, I do not think he can imagine that you are to be
deceived twice; and if he do imagine so, we are convinced that he will
be disappointed. If, as you have supposed, not only his power is on the
wane, but his intellect also, four-and-twenty hours will convince us of
the fact; for in less than that time your Highness will necessarily have
conversation of a more important nature with him. I recommend,
therefore, that we continue here to-day, although," added Vivian,
smiling, "I have to sleep in his observatory."
After walking in the gardens about an hour, the Prince and Vivian again
went into the house, imagining that Beckendorff might have returned by
another entrance; but he was not there. The Prince was much annoyed; and
Vivian, to amuse himself, had recourse to the library. After
re-examining the armour, looking at the garden through the painted
windows, conjecturing who might be the original of the mysterious
picture and what could be the meaning of the withered branch, the Prince
was fairly worn out. The precise dinner hour he did not know; and
notwithstanding repeated exertions, he had hitherto been unable to find
the blooming Clara. He could not flatter himself, however, that there
were less than two hours to kill before the great event took place; and
so, heartily wishing himself back again at Turriparva, he prevailed upon
Vivian to throw aside his book and take another walk.
This time they extended their distance, stretched out as far as the
river, and explored the adjoining woods; but of Mr. Beckendorff they saw
and heard nothing. At length they again returned: it was getting dusk.
They found the bow window of the library closed. They again entered the
dining-room, and, to their surprise, found no preparations for dinner.
This time the Prince was more fortunate in his exertions to procure an
interview with Madam Clara, for that lady almost immediately entered
"Pray, my good madam," inquired the Prince, "has your master returned?"
"Mr. Beckendorff is in the library, sir," said the old lady, pompously.
"Indeed! we do not dine in this room, then?"
"Dine, sir!" said the good dame, forgetting her pomposity in her
"Yes, dine," said the Prince.
"Mr. Beckendorff never takes anything after his noon meal."
"Am I to understand, then, that we are to have no dinner?" asked his
Highness, angry and agitated.
"Mr. Beckendorff never takes anything after his noon meal, sir; but I am
sure that if you and your friend are hungry, sir, I hope there is never
a want in this house."
"My good lady, I am hungry, very hungry, indeed; and if your master, I
mean Mr. von, that is Mr. Beckendorff, has such a bad appetite that he
can satisfy himself with picking, once a day, the breast of a pheasant;
why, if he expect his friends to be willing or even able to live on such
fare, the least that I can say is, that he is much mistaken; and so,
therefore, my good friend Grey, I think we had better order our horses
and be off."
"No occasion for that, I hope," said Mrs. Clara, rather alarmed at the
Prince's passion; "no want, I trust, ever here, sir; and I make no doubt
you will have dinner as soon as possible; and so, sir, I hope you will
not be hasty."
"Hasty! I have no wish to be hasty; but as for disarranging the whole
economy of the house, and getting up an extemporaneous meal for me, I
cannot think of it. Mr. Beckendorff may live as he likes, and if I stay
here I am contented to live as he does. I do not wish him to change his
habits for me, and I shall take care that, after today, there will be no
necessity for his doing so. However, absolute hunger can make no
compliments; and therefore I will thank you, my good madam, to let me
and my friend have the remains of that cold game, if they be still in
existence, on which we lunched, or, as you term it, took our noon meal,
this morning; and which, if it were your own cooking, Mrs. Clara, I
assure you, as I observed to my friend at the time, did you
The Prince, although his gentlemanlike feelings had, in spite of his
hunger, dictated a deprecation of Mrs. Clara's making a dinner merely
for himself, still thought that a seasonable and deserved compliment to
the lady might assist in bringing about a result which, notwithstanding
his politeness, he much desired; and that was the production of another
specimen of her culinary accomplishments. Having behaved, as he
considered, with moderation and dignified civility, he was, it must be
confessed, rather astounded when Mrs. Clara, duly acknowledging his
compliment by her curtsey, was sorry to inform him that she dared give
no refreshment in this house without Mr. Beckendorff's special order.
"Special order! Why! surely your master will not grudge me the cold leg
of a pheasant?"
"Mr. Beckendorff is not in the habit of grudging anything," answered the
housekeeper, with offended majesty.
"Then why should he object?" asked the Prince.
"Mr. Beckendorff is the best judge, sir, of the propriety of his own
"Well, well!" said Vivian, more interested for his friend than himself,
"there is no difficulty in asking Mr. Beckendorff?"
"None in the least, sir," answered the housekeeper, "when he is awake."
"Awake!" said the Prince, "why! is he asleep now?"
"Yes, sir, in the library."
"And how long will he be asleep?" asked the Prince, with eagerness.
"It is uncertain; he may be asleep for hours, he may wake in five
minutes; all I can do is to watch."
"But, surely in a case like the present, you can wake your master?"
"I could not wake Mr. Beckendorff, sir, if the house were on fire. No
one can enter the room when he is asleep."
"Then how can you possibly know when he is awake?"
"I shall hear his violin immediately, sir."
"Well, well! I suppose it must be so. I wish we were in Turriparva; that
is all I know. Men of my station have no business to be paying visits to
the sons of the Lord knows who! peasants, shopkeepers, and pedagogues!"
As a fire was blazing in the dining-room, which Mrs. Clara informed them
Mr. Beckendorff never omitted having every night in the year, the Prince
and his friend imagined that they were to remain there, and they
consequently did not attempt to disturb the slumbers of their host.
Resting his feet on the hobs, his Highness, for the fiftieth time,
declared that he wished he had never left Turriparva; and just when
Vivian was on the point of giving up in despair the hope of consoling
him, Mrs. Clara entered and proceeded to lay the cloth.
"Your master is awake, then?" asked the Prince, very quickly.
"Mr. Beckendorff has been long awake, sir! and dinner will be ready
His Highness' countenance brightened; and in a short time the supper
appearing, the Prince, again fascinated by Mrs. Clara's cookery and Mr.
Beckendorff's wine, forgot his chagrin, and regained his temper.
In about a couple of hours Mr. Beckendorff entered.
"I hope that Clara has given you wine you like, Mr. von Philipson?"
"The same bin, I will answer for that."
Mr. Beckendorff had his violin in his hand, but his dress was much
changed. His great boots being pulled off, exhibited the white silk
stockings which he invariably wore. His coat had given place to the
easier covering of a brocade dressing-gown. He drew a chair round the
fire, between the Prince and Vivian. It was a late hour, and the room
was only lighted by the glimmering coals, for the flames had long died
away. Mr. Beckendorff sat for some time without speaking, gazing
earnestly on the decaying embers. Indeed, before many minutes had
elapsed, complete silence prevailed; for both the endeavours of the
Prince and of Vivian to promote conversation had been unsuccessful. At
length the master of the house turned round to the Prince, and pointing
to a particular mass of coal, said, "I think, Mr. von Philipson, that is
the completest elephant I ever saw. We will ring the bell for some
coals, and then have a game of whist."
The Prince was so surprised by Mr. Beckendorff's remark that he was not
sufficiently struck by the strangeness of his proposition, and it was
only when he heard Vivian professing his ignorance of the game that it
occurred to him that to play at whist was hardly the object for which he
had travelled from Turriparva.
"An Englishman not know whist!" said Mr. Beckendorff:
"Ridiculous! You do know it. Let us play! Mr. von Philipson, I know, has
"But, my good sir," said the Prince, "although previous to conversation
I may have no objection to join in a little amusement, still it appears
to me that it has escaped your memory that whist is a game which
requires the co-operation of four persons."
"Not at all! I take dummy! I am not sure it is not the finest way of
playing the game."
The table was arranged, the lights brought, the cards produced, and the
Prince of Little Lilliput, greatly to his surprise, found himself
playing whist with Mr. Beckendorff. Nothing could be more dull. The
Minister would neither bet nor stake, and the immense interest which he
took in every card that was played ludicrously contrasted with the
rather sullen looks of the Prince and the very sleepy ones of Vivian.
Whenever Mr. Beckendorff played for dummy he always looked with the most
searching eye into the next adversary's face, as if he would read his
cards in his features. The first rubber lasted an hour and a half, three
long games, which Mr. Beckendorff, to his triumph, hardly won. In the
first game of the second rubber Vivian blundered; in the second he
revoked; and in the third, having neglected to play, and being loudly
called upon, and rated both by his partner and Mr. Beckendorff, he was
found to be asleep. Beckendorff threw down his hand with a loud dash,
which roused Vivian from his slumber. He apologised for his drowsiness;
but said that he was so sleepy that he must retire. The Prince, who
longed to be with Beckendorff alone, winked approbation of his
"Well!" said Beckendorff, "you spoiled the rubber. I shall ring for
Clara. Why you all are so fond of going to bed I cannot understand. I
have not been to bed these thirty years."
Vivian made his escape; and Beckendorff, pitying his degeneracy,
proposed to the Prince, in a tone which seemed to anticipate that the
offer would meet with instantaneous acceptation, double dummy. This,
however, was too much.
"No more cards, sir, I thank you," said the Prince; "if, however, you
have a mind for an hour's conversation, I am quite at your service."
"I am obliged to you; I never talk. Good night, Mr. von Philipson."
Mr. Beckendorff left the room. His Highness could contain himself no
longer. He rang the bell.
"Pray, Mrs. Clara," said he, "where are my horses?"
"Mr. Beckendorff will have no quadrupeds within a mile of the house,
"How do you mean? Let me see the man-servant."
"The household consists only of myself, sir."
"Why! where is my luggage, then?"
"That has been brought up, sir; it is in your room."
"I tell you I must have my horses."
"It is quite impossible to-night, sir. I think, sir, you had better
retire. Mr. Beckendorff may not be home again these six hours."
"What! is your master gone out?"
"Yes, sir, he is just gone out to take his ride."
"Why! where is his horse kept, then?"
"It is Owlface, sir."
"Owlface, indeed! What! is your master in the habit of riding out at
"Mr. Beckendorff rides out, sir, just when it happens to suit him."
"It is very odd I cannot ride out when it happens to suit me! However,
I will be off to-morrow; and so, if you please, show me my bed-room
"Your room is the library, sir."
"The library! Why, there is no bed in the library."
"We have no beds, sir; but the sofa is made up."
"No beds! Well! it is only for one night. You are all mad, and I am as
mad as you for coming here."
The morning sun peeping through the window of the little summer-house
roused its inmate at an early hour; and finding no signs of Mr.
Beckendorff and his guest having yet risen from their slumbers, Vivian
took the opportunity of strolling about the gardens and the grounds.
Directing his way along the margin of the river, he soon left the lawn
and entered some beautiful meadows, whose dewy verdure glistened in the
brightening beams of the early sun. Crossing these, and passing through
a gate, he found himself in a rural road, whose lofty hedge-rows, rich
with all the varieties of wild fruit and flower, and animated with the
cheering presence of the busy birds chirping from every bough and spray,
altogether presented a scene which reminded him of the soft beauties of
his own country. With some men, to remember is to be sad; and
unfortunately for Vivian Grey, there were few objects which with him did
not give rise to associations of a painful nature. The strange
occurrences of the last few days had recalled, if not revived, the
feelings of his boyhood. His early career flitted across his mind. He
would have stifled the remembrance with a sigh, but man Is the slave of
Memory. For a moment he mused over Power; but then he, shuddering,
shrank from the wearing anxiety, the consuming care, the eternal
vigilance, the constant contrivance, the agonising suspense, the
distracting vicissitudes of his past career. Alas! it is our nature to
sicken, from our birth, after some object of unattainable felicity, to
struggle through the freshest years of our life in an insane pursuit
after some indefinite good, which does not even exist! But sure and
quick is the dark hour which cools our doting frenzy in the frigid waves
of the ocean of oblivion! We dream of immortality until we die.
Ambition! at thy proud and fatal altar we whisper the secrets of our
mighty thoughts, and breathe the aspirations of our inexpressible
desires. A clouded flame licks up the offering of our ruined souls, and
the sacrifice vanishes in the sable smoke of Death.
But where are his thoughts wandering? Had he forgotten that day of
darkest despair? There had that happened to him which had happened to no
other man. He was roused from his reverie by the sound of a trotting
horse. He looked up, but the winding road prevented him at first from
seeing the steed which evidently was approaching. The sound came nearer
and nearer; and at length, turning a corner, Mr. Beckendorff came in
sight. He was mounted on a strong-built, rough, and ugly pony, with an
obstinate mane, which, defying the exertion's of the groom, fell in
equal divisions on both sides of its bottle neck, and a large white
face, which, combined with its blinking vision, had earned for it the
euphonious title of Owlface. Both master and steed must have travelled
hard and far, for both were covered with dust and mud from top to toe,
from mane to hoof. Mr. Beckendorff seemed surprised at meeting Vivian,
and pulled up his pony as he reached him.
"An early riser, I see, sir. Where is Mr. von Philipson?"
"I have not yet seen him, and imagined that both he and yourself had not
"Hum! how many hours is it to noon?" asked Mr. Beckendorff, who always
"More than four, I imagine."
"Pray do you prefer the country about here to Turriparva?"
"Both, I think, are beautiful."
"You live at Turriparva?" asked Mr. Beckendorff.
"As a guest," answered Vivian.
"Has it been a fine summer at Turriparva?"
"I believe everywhere."
"I am afraid Mr. von Philipson finds it rather dull here?"
"I am not aware of it."
"He seems a ve-ry--?" said Beckendorff, looking keenly in his
companion's face. But Vivian did not supply the desired phrase; and so
the Minister was forced to finish the sentence himself, "a very
gentlemanlike sort of man?" A low bow was the only response.
"I trust, sir, I may indulge the hope," continued Mr. Beckendorff, "that
you will honour me with your company another day."
"You are exceedingly obliging!"
"Mr. von Philipson is fond, I think, of a country life?" said
"Most men are."
"I suppose he has no innate objection to live occasionally in a city?"
"You probably have known him long?"
"Not long enough to wish our acquaintance at an end."
They proceeded in silence for some moments, and then Beckendorff again
turned round, and this time with a direct question.
"I wonder if Mr. Von Philipson can make it convenient to honour me with
his company another day. Can you tell me?"
"I think the best person to inform you of that would be his Highness
himself," said Vivian, using his friend's title purposely to show Mr.
Beckendorff how ridiculous he considered his present use of the
"You think so, sir, do you?" answered Beckendorff, sarcastically.
They had now arrived at the gate by which Vivian had reached the road.
"Your course, sir," said Mr. Beckendorff, "lies that way. I see, like
myself, you are no great talker. We shall meet at breakfast." So saying,
the Minister set spurs to his pony, and was soon out of sight.
When Vivian reached the house, he found the bow window of the library
thrown open, and as he approached he saw Mr. Beckendorff enter the room
and bow to the prince. His Highness had passed a good night in spite of
not sleeping in a bed, and he was at this moment commencing a delicious
breakfast. His ill-humour had consequently vanished. He had made up his
mind that Beckendorff was mad; and although he had given up all the
secret and flattering hopes which he had dared to entertain when the
interview was first arranged, he nevertheless did not regret his visit,
which on the whole had been amusing, and had made him acquainted with
the person and habits, and, as he believed, the intellectual powers of a
man with whom, most probably, he should soon be engaged in open
hostility. Vivian took his seat at the breakfast, table, and Beckendorff
stood conversing with them with his back to the fireplace, and
occasionally, during the pauses of conversation, pulling the strings of
his violin with his fingers. It did not escape Vivian's observation that
the Minister was particularly courteous and even attentive to the
Prince; and that he endeavoured by his quick and more communicative
answers, and occasionally by a stray observation, to encourage the good
humour visible on the cheerful countenance of his guest.
"Have you been long up, Mr. Beckendorff?" asked the Prince; for his host
had resumed his dressing-gown and slippers.
"I generally see the sun rise."
"And yet you retire late! out riding last night, I understand?"
"I never go to bed."
"Indeed!" said the Prince. "Well, for my part, without my regular rest I
am nothing. Have you breakfasted, Mr. Beckendorff?"
"Clara will bring my breakfast immediately."
The dame accordingly soon appeared, bearing a tray with a basin of
boiling water and one large thick biscuit. This Mr. Beckendorff, having
well soaked in the hot fluid, eagerly devoured; and then taking up his
violin, amused himself until his guests had finished their breakfast.
When Vivian had ended his meal he left the Prince and Beckendorff alone,
determined that his presence should not be the occasion of the Minister
any longer retarding the commencement of business. The Prince, who by a
private glance had been prepared for his departure, immediately took the
opportunity of asking Mr. Beckendorff, in a decisive tone, whether he
might flatter himself that he could command his present attention to a
subject of importance. Mr. Beckendorff said that he was always at Mr.
von Philipson's service; and drawing a chair opposite him, the Prince
and Mr. Beckendorff now sat on each side of the fireplace.
"Hem!" said the Prince, clearing his throat; and he looked at Mr.
Beckendorff, who sat with his heels close together, his toes out square,
his hands resting on his knees, which, as well as his elbows, were
turned out, his shoulders bent, his head reclined, and his
"Hem!" said the Prince of Little Lilliput. "In compliance, Mr.
Beckendorff, with your wish, developed in the communication received by
me on the--inst., I assented in my answer to the arrangement then
proposed; the object of which was, to use your own words, to facilitate
the occurrence of an oral interchange of the sentiments of various
parties interested in certain proceedings, by which interchange it was
anticipated that the mutual interests might be respectively considered
and finally arranged. Prior, Mr. Beckendorff, to either of us going into
any detail upon those points of probable discussion, which will, in all
likelihood, form the fundamental features of this interview, I wish to
recall your attention to the paper which I had the honour of presenting
to his Royal Highness, and which is alluded to in your communication of
the--lost. The principal heads of that document I have brought with me,
abridged in this paper."
Here the Prince handed to Mr. Beckendorff a MS. pamphlet, consisting of
several sheets closely written. The Minister bowed very graciously as he
took it from his Highness' hand, and then, without even looking at it,
laid it on the table.
"You, sir, I perceive," continued the Prince, "are acquainted with its
contents; and it will therefore be unnecessary for me at present to
expatiate upon their individual expediency, or to argue for their
particular adoption. And, sir, when we observe the progress of the human
mind, when we take into consideration the quick march of intellect, and
the wide expansion of enlightened views and liberal principles; when we
take a bird's-eye view of the history of man from the earliest ages to
the present moment, I feel that it would be folly in me to conceive for
an instant that the measures developed and recommended in that paper
will not finally receive the approbation of his Royal Highness. As to
the exact origin of slavery, Mr. Beckendorff, I confess that I am not,
at this moment, prepared distinctly to speak. That the Divine Author of
our religion was its decided enemy, I am informed, is clear. That the
slavery of ancient times was the origin of the feudal service of a more
modern period, is a point on which men of learning have not precisely
made up their minds. With regard to the exact state of the ancient
German people, Tacitus affords us a great deal of most interesting
information. Whether or not, certain passages which I have brought with
me marked in the Germania are incontestable evidences that our ancestors
enjoyed or understood the practice of a wise and well-regulated
representative system, is a point on which I shall be happy to receive
the opinion of so distinguished a statesman as Mr. Beckendorff. In
stepping forward, as I have felt it my duty to do, as the advocate of
popular rights and national privileges, I am desirous to prove that I
have not become the votary of innovation and the professor of
revolutionary doctrines. The passages of the Roman author in question,
and an ancient charter of the Emperor Charlemagne, are, I consider,
decisive and sufficient precedents for the measures which I have thought
proper to sanction by my approval, and to support by my influence. A
minister, Mr. Beckendorff, must take care that in the great race of
politics the minds of his countrymen do not leave his own behind them.
We must never forget the powers and capabilities of man. On this very
spot, perhaps, some centuries ago, savages clothed in skins were
committing cannibalism in a forest. We must not forget, I repeat, that
it is the business to those to whom Providence has allotted the
responsible possession of power and influence (that it is their duty,
our duty, Mr. Beckendorff), to become guardians of our weaker
fellow-creatures; that all power is a trust; that we are accountable for
its exercise; that from the people, and for the people, all springs, and
all must exist; and that, unless we conduct ourselves with the requisite
wisdom, prudence, and propriety, the whole system of society will be
disorganised; and this country, in particular, will fall a victim to
that system of corruption and misgovernment which has already occasioned
the destruction of the great kingdoms mentioned in the Bible, and many
other states besides, Greece, Rome, Carthage, &c."
Thus ended the peroration of an harangue consisting of an incoherent
arrangement of imperfectly-remembered facts and misunderstood
principles; all gleaned by his Highness from the enlightening articles
of the Reisenburg journals. Like Brutus, the Prince of Little Lilliput
paused for a reply.
"Mr. von Philipson," said his companion, when his Highness had finished,
"you speak like a man of sense." Having given this answer, Mr.
Beckendorff rose from his seat and walked straight out of the room.
The Prince at first took the answer for a compliment; but Mr.
Beckendorff not returning, he began to have a faint idea that he was
neglected. In this uncertainty he rang the bell for his friend Clara.
"Mrs. Clara! where is your master?"
"Just gone out, sir."
"How do you mean?"
"He has gone out with his gun, sir."
"You are quite sure he has--gone out?"
"Quite sure, sir. I took him his coat and boots myself."
"I am to understand, then, that your master has gone out?"
"Yes, sir; Mr. Beckendorff has gone out. He will be home for his noon
"That is enough! Grey!' called out the indignant Prince, darting into
"Well, my dear Prince," said Vivian, "what can possibly be the matter?"
"The matter! Insanity can be the only excuse; insanity can alone account
for his preposterous conduct. We have seen enough of him. The repetition
of absurdity is only wearisome. Pray assist me in getting our horses
"Certainly, if you wish it; but remember you brought me here as your
friend and counsellor. As I have accepted the trust, I cannot help being
sensible of the responsibility. Before, therefore, you finally resolve
upon departure, pray let me be fully acquainted with the circumstances
which have impelled you to this sudden resolution."
"Willingly, my good friend, could I only command my temper; and yet to
fall into a passion with a madman is almost a mark of madness. But his
manner and his conduct are so provoking and so puzzling, that I cannot
altogether repress my irritability. And that ridiculous incognito! Why I
sometimes begin to think that I really am Mr. von Philipson! An
incognito forsooth! for what? to deceive whom? His household apparently
only consists of two persons, one of whom has visited me in my own
castle; and the other is a cross old hag, who would not be able to
comprehend my rank if she were aware of it. But to the point! When you
left the room I was determined to be trifled with no longer, and I asked
him, in a firm voice and very marked manner, whether I might command his
immediate attention to important business. He professed to be at my
service. I opened the affair by taking a cursory, yet definite, review
of the principles in which my political conduct had originated, and on
which it was founded. I flattered myself that I had produced an
impression. Sometimes we are in a better cue for these expositions than
at others, and to-day I was really unusually felicitous. My memory never
deserted. I was at the same time luminous and profound; and while I was
guided by the philosophical spirit of the present day, I showed, by my
various reading, that I respected the experience of antiquity. In
short, I was satisfied with myself; and with the exception of one single
point about the origin of slavery, which unfortunately got entangled
with the feudal system, I could not have got on better had Sievers
himself been at my side. Nor did I spare Mr. Beckendorff; but, on the
contrary, I said a few things which, had he been in his senses, must, I
imagine, have gone home. Do you know I finished by drawing his own
character, and showing the inevitable effects of his ruinous policy: and
what do you think he did?"
"Left you in a passion?"
"Not at all. He seemed much struck by what I had said, and apparently
understood it. I have heard that in some species of insanity the patient
is perfectly able to comprehend everything addressed to him, though at
that point his sanity ceases, and he is unable to answer or to act. This
must be Beckendorff's case; for no sooner had I finished than he rose up
immediately, and, saying that I spoke like a man of sense, abruptly
quitted the room. The housekeeper says he will not be at home again till
that infernal ceremony takes place called the noon meal. Now, do you not
advise me to be off as soon as possible?"
"It will require some deliberation. Pray did you not speak to him last
"Ah! I forgot that I had not been able to speak to you since then. Well!
last night, what do you think he did? When you were gone, he had the
insolence to congratulate me on the opportunity then afforded of playing
double dummy; and when I declined his proposition, but said that if he
wished to have an hour's conversation I was at his service, he coolly
told me that he never talked, and bade me good night! Did you ever know
such a madman? He never goes to bed. I only had a sofa. How the deuce
did you sleep?"
"Well and safely, considering that I was in a summer-house without lock
"Well! I need not ask you now as to your opinion of our immediately
getting off. We shall have, however, some trouble about our horses, for
he will not allow a quadruped near the house, except some monster of an
animal that he rides himself; and, by St. Hubert! I cannot find out
where our steeds are. What shall we do?" But Vivian did not answer.
"What are you thinking of?" continued his Highness. "Why don't
"Your Highness must not go," said Vivian, shaking his head.
"Not go! Why so?"
"Depend upon it you are wrong about Beckendorff. That he is a humorist
there is no doubt; but it appears to me to be equally clear that his
queer habits and singular mode of life are not of late adoption. What,
he is now he must have been these ten, perhaps these twenty years,
perhaps more; of this there are a thousand proofs about us. As to the
overpowering cause which has made him the character he appears at
present, it is needless for us to inquire; probably some incident in his
private life in all likelihood connected with the mysterious picture.
Let us be satisfied with the effect. If the case be as I state it in his
private life and habits, Beckendorff must have been equally
incomprehensible and equally singular at the very time that, in his
public capacity, he was producing such brilliant results as at the
present moment. Now then, can we believe him to be insane? I anticipate
your objections. I know you will enlarge upon the evident absurdity of
his inviting his political opponent to his house for a grave
consultation on the most important affairs, and then treating him as he
has done you, when it must be clear to him that you cannot be again
duped, and when he must feel that, were he to amuse you for as many
weeks as he has days, your plans and your position would not be
injuriously affected. Be it so; probably a humorist like Beckendorff
cannot, even in the most critical moment, altogether restrain the bent
of his capricious inclinations. However, my dear Prince, I will lay no
stress upon this point. My opinion, indeed my conviction, is that
Beckendorff acts from design. I have considered his conduct well, and I
have observed all that you have seen, and more than you have seen, and
keenly; depend upon it that since you assented to the interview
Beckendorff has been obliged to shift his intended position for
negotiation; some of the machinery has gone wrong. Fearful, if he had
postponed your visit, you should imagine that he was only again amusing
you, and consequently would listen to no future overtures, he has
allowed you to attend a conference for which he is not prepared. That he
is making desperate exertions to bring the business to a point is my
firm opinion; and you would perhaps agree with me were you as convinced
as I am that, since we parted last night, our host has been to
Reisenburg and back again."
"To Reisenburg and back again!"
"Ay! I rose this morning at an early hour, and imagining that both you
and Beckendorff had not yet made your appearance, I escaped from the
grounds, intending to explore part of the surrounding country. In my
stroll I came to a narrow winding road, which I am convinced lies in the
direction towards Reisenburg; there, for some reason or other, I
loitered more than an hour, and very probably should have been too late
for breakfast had not I been recalled to myself by the approach of a
horseman. It was Beckendorff, covered with dust and mud; his horse had
been evidently hard ridden. I did not think much of it at the time,
because I supposed he might have been out for three or four hours and
hard worked, but I nevertheless was struck by his appearance; and when
you mentioned that he went out riding at a late hour last night, it
immediately occurred to me that had he come home at one or two o'clock
it was not very probable that he would have gone out again at four or
five. I have no doubt that my conjecture is correct; Beckendorff has
been to Reisenburg."
"You have placed this business in a new and important light," said the
Prince, his expiring hopes reviving; "what then do you advise me to do?"
"To be quiet. If your own view of the case be right, you can act as well
to-morrow or the next day as this moment; on the contrary, if mine be
the correct one, a moment may enable Beckendorff himself to bring
affairs to a crisis. In either case I should recommend you to be silent,
and in no manner to allude any more to the object of your visit. If you
speak you only give opportunities to Beckendorff of ascertaining your
opinions and your inclinations; and your silence, after such frequent
attempts on your side to promote discussion upon business, will soon be
discovered by him to be systematic. This will not decrease his opinion
of your sagacity and firmness. The first principle of negotiation is to
make your adversary respect you."
After long consultation the Prince determined to follow Vivian's advice;
and so firmly did he adhere to his purpose that when he met Mr.
Beckendorff at the noon meal, he asked him, with a very unembarrassed
voice and manner, "what sport he had had in the morning."
The noon meal again consisted of a single dish, as exquisitely dressed,
however, as the preceding one. It was a haunch of venison.
"This is my dinner, gentlemen," said Beckendorff; "let it be your
luncheon. I have ordered your dinner at sunset."
After having eaten a slice of the haunch, Mr. Beckendorff rose from the
table and said, "We will have our wine in the drawing-room, Mr. von
Philipson, and then you will not be disturbed by my birds."
He left the room.
To the drawing-room, therefore, his two guests soon adjourned; they
found him busily employed with his pencil. The Prince thought it must be
a chart, or a fortification at least, and was rather surprised when Mr.
Beckendorff asked him the magnitude of Mirac in Boötes; and the Prince
confessing his utter ignorance of the subject, the Minister threw aside
his unfinished planisphere and drew his chair to them at the table. It
was with satisfaction that his Highness perceived a bottle of his
favourite Tokay; and with no little astonishment he observed that to-day
there were three wine glasses placed before them. They were of peculiar
beauty, and almost worthy, for their elegant shapes and great antiquity,
of being included in the collection of the Grand Duke of Johannisberger.
After exhausting their bottle, in which they were assisted to the extent
of one glass by their host, who drank Mr. von Philipson's health with
cordiality, they assented to Mr. Beckendorff's proposition of visiting
To the Prince's great relief, dinner-time soon arrived; and having
employed a couple of hours on that meal very satisfactorily, he and
Vivian adjourned to the drawing-room, having previously pledged their
honour to each other that nothing should again induce them to play dummy
whist. Their resolutions and their promises were needless. Mr.
Beckendorff, who was sitting opposite the fire when they came into the
room, neither by word nor motion acknowledged that he was aware of their
entrance. Vivian found refuge in a book; and the Prince, after having
examined and re-examined the brilliant birds that figured on the
drawing-room paper, fell asleep upon the sofa. Mr. Beckendorff took down
the guitar, and accompanied himself in a low voice for some time; then
he suddenly ceased, and stretching out his legs, and supporting his
thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, he leant back in his chair and
remained motionless, with his eyes fixed upon the picture. Vivian, in
turn, gazed upon this singular being and the fair pictured form which
he seemed to idolise. Was he, too, unhappy? Had he, too, been bereft in
the hour of his proud and perfect joy? Had he, too, lost a virgin bride?
His agony overcame him, the book fell from his hand, and he sighed
aloud! Mr. Beckendorff started, and the Prince awoke. Vivian,
confounded, and unable to overpower his emotions, uttered some hasty
words, explanatory, apologetical, and contradictory, and retired. In his
walk to the summer-house a man passed him. In spite of a great cloak,
Vivian recognised him as their messenger and guide; and his ample mantle
did not conceal his riding boots and the spurs which glistened in the
It was an hour past midnight when the door of the summer-house softly
opened and Mr. Beckendorff entered. He started when he found Vivian
still undressed, and pacing up and down the little chamber. The young
man made an effort, when he witnessed an intruder, to compose a
countenance whose agitation could not be concealed.
"What, are you up again?" said Mr. Beckendorff. "Are you ill?"
"Would I were as well in mind as in body! I have not yet been to rest.
We cannot command our feelings at all moments, sir; and at this,
especially, I felt that I had a right to count upon being alone."
"I exceedingly regret that I have disturbed you," said Mr. Beckendorff,
in a kind voice, and in a manner which responded to the sympathy of his
tone. "I thought that you had been long asleep. There is a star which I
cannot exactly make out. I fancy it must be a comet, and so I ran to the
observatory; but let me not disturb you;" and Mr. Beckendorff
"You do not disturb me, sir. I cannot sleep: pray ascend."
"Never mind the star. But if you really have no inclination to sleep,
let us sit down and have a little conversation; or perhaps we had better
take a stroll. It is a warm night." As he spoke, Mr. Beckendorff gently
put his arm within Vivian's, and led him down the steps.
"Are you an astronomer, sir?" asked Beckendorff.
"I can tell the Great Bear from the Little Dog; but I confess that I
look upon the stars rather in a poetical than a scientific spirit."
"Hum! I confess I do not."
"There are moments," continued Vivian, "when I cannot refrain from
believing that these mysterious luminaries have more influence over our
fortunes than modern times are disposed to believe. I feel that I am
getting less sceptical, perhaps I should say more credulous, every day;
but sorrow makes us superstitious."
"I discard all such fantasies," said Mr. Beckendorff; "they only tend to
enervate our mental energies and paralyse all human exertion. It is the
belief in these, and a thousand other deceits I could mention, which
leach man that he is not the master of his own mind, but the ordained
victim or the chance sport of circumstances, that makes millions pass
through life unimpressive as shadows, and has gained for this existence
the stigma of a vanity which it does not deserve."
"I wish that I could think as you do," said Vivian; "but the experience
of my life forbids me. Within only these last two years my career has,
in so many instances, indicated that I am not the master of my own
conduct; that no longer able to resist the conviction which is hourly
impressed on me, I recognise in every contingency the preordination
of my fate."
"A delusion of the brain!" said Beckendorff, quickly. "Fate, Destiny,
Chance, particular and special Providence; idle words! Dismiss them all,
sir! A man's fate is his own temper; and according to that will be his
opinion as to the particular manner in which the course of events is
regulated. A consistent man believes in Destiny, a capricious man
"But, sir, what is a man's temper? It may be changed every hour. I
started in life with very different feelings from those which I profess
at this moment. With great deference to you, I imagine that you mistake
the effect for the cause; for surely temper is not the origin, but the
result of those circumstances of which we are all the creatures."
"Sir, I deny it. Man is not the creature of circumstances. Circumstances
are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful
than matter. I recognise no intervening influence between that of the
established course of nature and my own mind. Truth may be distorted,
may be stifled, be suppressed. The invention of cunning deceits may, and
in most instances does, prevent man from exercising his own powers. They
have made him responsible to a realm of shadows, and a suitor in a court
of shades. Re is ever dreading authority which does not exist, and
fearing the occurrence of penalties which there are none to enforce.
But the mind that dares to extricate itself from these vulgar
prejudices, that proves its loyalty to its Creator by devoting all its
adoration to His glory; such a spirit as this becomes a master-mind, and
that master-mind will invariably find that circumstances are
"Mr. Beckendorff, yours is a bold philosophy, of which I myself was once
a votary. How successful in my service you may judge by finding me a
"Sir! your present age is the age of error: your whole system is founded
on a fallacy: you believe that a man's temper can change. I deny it. If
you have ever seriously entertained the views which I profess; if, as
you lead me to suppose, you have dared to act upon them, and failed;
sooner or later, whatever may be your present conviction and your
present feelings, you will recur to your original wishes and your
original pursuits. With a mind experienced and matured, you may in all
probability be successful; and then I suppose, stretching your legs in
your easy-chair, you will at the same moment be convinced of your own
genius, and recognise your own Destiny!"
"With regard to myself, Mr. Beckendorff, I am convinced of the
erroneousness of your views. It is my opinion that no one who has dared
to think can look upon this world in any other than a mournful spirit.
Young as I am, nearly two years have elapsed since, disgusted with the
world of politics, I retired to a foreign solitude. At length, with
passions subdued, and, as I flatter myself, with a mind matured,
convinced of the vanity of all human affairs, I felt emboldened once
more partially to mingle with my species. Bitter as my lot had been, I
had discovered the origin of my misery in my own unbridled passions;
and, tranquil and subdued, I now trusted to pass through life as certain
of no fresh sorrows as I was of no fresh joys. And yet, sir, I am at
this moment sinking under the infliction of unparalleled misery; misery
which I feel I have a right to believe was undeserved. But why expatiate
to a stranger on sorrow which must be secret? I deliver myself up to my
"What is grief?" said Mr. Beckendorff; "if it be excited by the fear of
some contingency, instead of grieving, a man should exert his energies
and prevent its occurrence. If, on the contrary, it be caused by an
event, that which has been occasioned by anything human, by the
co-operation of human circumstances, can be, and invariably is, removed
by the same means. Grief is the agony of an instant; the indulgence of
Grief the blunder of a life. Mix in the world, and in a month's time you
will speak to me very differently. A young man, you meet with
disappointment; in spite of all your exalted notions of your own powers,
you immediately sink under it. If your belief of your powers were
sincere, you should have proved it by the manner in which you have
struggled against adversity, not merely by the mode in which you
laboured for advancement. The latter is but a very inferior merit. If,
in fact, you wish to succeed, success, I repeat, is at your command. You
talk to me of your experience; and do you think that my sentiments are
the crude opinions of an unpractised man? Sir! I am not fond of
conversing with any person, and therefore far from being inclined to
maintain an argument in a spirit of insincerity merely for the sake of a
victory of words. Mark what I say: it is truth. No Minister ever yet
fell but from his own inefficiency. If his downfall be occasioned, as it
generally is, by the intrigues of one of his own creatures, his downfall
is merited for having been the dupe of a tool which in all probability
he should never have employed. If he fall through the open attacks of
his political opponents, his downfall is equally deserved for having
occasioned by his impolicy the formation of a party, for having allowed
it to be formed, or for not having crushed it when formed. No conjecture
can possibly occur, however fearful, however tremendous it may appear,
from which a man, by his own energy, may not extricate himself, as a
mariner by the rattling of his cannon can dissipate the impending
It was on the third day of the visit to Mr. Beckendorff, just as that
gentleman was composing his mind after his noon meal with his favourite
Cremona, and in a moment of rapture raising his instrument high in the
air, that the door was suddenly dashed open, and Essper George rushed
into the room. The intruder, the moment that his eye caught Vivian, flew
to his master, and, seizing him by the arm, commenced and continued a
loud shout of exultation, accompanying his scream the whole time by a
kind of quick dance, which, though not quite as clamorous as the
Pyrrhic, nevertheless completely drowned the scientific harmony of Mr.
So astounded were the three gentlemen by this unexpected entrance, that
some moments elapsed ere either of them found words at his command. At
length the master of the house spoke.
"Mr. von Philipson, I beg the favour of being informed who this person
The Prince did not answer, but looked at Vivian in great distress; and
just as our hero was about to give Mr. Beckendorff the requisite
information, Essper George, taking up the parable himself, seized the
opportunity of explaining the mystery.
"Who am I? who are you? I am an honest man, and no traitor; and if all
were the same, why, then, there would be no rogues in Reisenburg. Who am
I? A man. There's an arm! there's a leg! Can you see through a wood by
twilight? If so, yours is a better eye than mine. Can you eat an
unskinned hare, or dine on the haunch of a bounding stag? If so, your
teeth are sharper than mine. Can you hear a robber's footstep when he's
kneeling before murder? or can you listen to the snow falling on
Midsummer's day? If so, your ears are finer than mine. Can you run with
a chamois? can you wrestle with a bear? can you swim with an otter? If
so, I'm your match. How many cities have you seen? how many knaves have
you gulled? Which is dearest, bread or justice? Why do men pay more for
the protection of life than life itself? Is cheatery a staple at
Constantinople, as it is at Vienna? and what's the difference between a
Baltic merchant and a Greek pirate? Tell me all this, and I will tell
you who went in mourning in the moon at the death of the last comet. Who
am I, indeed!"
The embarrassment of the Prince and Vivian while Essper George addressed
to Mr. Beckendorff these choice queries was indescribable. Once Vivian
tried to check him, but in vain. He did not repeat his attempt, for he
was sufficiently employed in restraining his own agitation and keeping
his own countenance; for in spite of the mortification and anger that
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