BERLIN AND SANS-SOUCI
FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS FRIENDS
An Historical Romance
AUTHOR OF JOSEPH II. AND HIS COURT, FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS COURT, MERCHANT OF BERLIN, ETC.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY MRS. CHAPMAN COLEMAN AND HER DAUGHTERS
CHAPTER I. The Alchemist's Incantation II. The Old Courtier III. The Morning Hours of a King IV. The Pardoned Courtier V. How the Princess Ulrica became Queen of Sweden VI. The Tempter VII. The First Interview VIII. Signora Barbarina IX. The King and Barbarina X. Eckhof XI. A Life Question XII. Superstition and Piety
I. The Two Sisters II. The Tempter III. The Wedding-Festival of the Princess Ulrica IV. Behind the Curtain V. A Shame-faced King VI. The First Rendezvous VII. On The Balcony VIII. The First Cloud IX. The Council of War X. The Cloister of Camens XI. The King and the Abbot XII. The Unknown Abbot XIII. The Levee of a Dancer XIV. The Studio XV. The Confession XVI. The Traitor XVII. The Silver-Ware XVIII. The First Flash of Lightning
I. The Actors in Halle II. The Student Lupinus III. The Disturbance in the Theatre IV. The Friends V. The Order of the King VI. The Battle of Sohr VII. After the Battle VIII. A Letter Pregnant with Fate IX. The Return to Berlin X. Job's Post XI. The Undeceived XII. Trenck's First Flight XIII. The Flight XIV. "I will" XV. The Last Struggle for Power XVI. The Disturbance in the Theatre XVII. Sans-Souci
I. The Promise II. Voltaire and his Royal Friend III. The Confidence-Table IV. The Confidential Dinner V. Rome Sauvee VI. A Woman's Heart VII. Madame von Cocceji VIII. Voltaire IX. A Day in the Life of Voltaire X. The Lovers XI. Barbarina XII. Intrigues XIII. The Last Struggle
BERLIN AND SANS-SOUCI
FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS FRIENDS.
THE ALCHEMIST'S INCANTATION.
It was a lovely May morning! The early rays of the sun had not withered the blossoms, or paled the fresh green of the garden of Charlottenburg, but quickened them into new life and beauty. The birds sang merrily in the groves. The wind, with light whispers, swept through the long avenues of laurel and orange trees, which surrounded the superb greenhouses and conservatories, and scattered far and wide throughout the garden clouds of intoxicating perfume.
The garden was quiet and solitary, and the closed shutters of the castle proved that not only the king, but the entire household, from the dignified and important chamberlain to the frisky garden-boy, still slept. Suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of hasty steps. A young man, in simple citizen costume, ran up the great avenue which led from the garden gate to the conservatory; then cautiously looking about him, he drew near to a window of the lower story in a wing of the castle. The window was closed and secured with inside shutters; a small piece of white paper was seen between the glass and the shutter. A passer-by might have supposed this was accidental, but the young burgher knew that this little piece of paper was a signal. His light stroke upon the window disturbed for a moment the deathlike silence around, but produced no other effect; he struck again, more loudly, and listened breathlessly. The shutters were slowly and cautiously opened from within, and behind the glass was seen the wan, sick face of Fredersdorf, the private secretary and favorite of the king. When he saw the young man, his features assumed a more animated expression, and a hopeful smile played upon his lip; hastily opening the window, he gave the youth his hand. "Good-morning, Joseph," said he; "I have not slept during the whole night, I was so impatient to receive news from you. Has he shown himself?"
Joseph bowed his head sadly. "He has not yet shown himself," he replied in a hollow voice; "all our efforts have been in vain; we have again sacrificed time, money, and strength. He has not yet appeared."
"Alas!" cried Fredersdorf, "who could believe it so difficult to move the devil to appear in person, when he makes his presence known daily and hourly through the deeds of men? I must and will see him! He MUST and SHALL make known this mystery. He shall teach me HOW and of WHAT to make gold."
"He will yield at last!" cried Joseph, solemnly.
"What do you say? Will we succeed? Is not all hope lost?"
"All is not lost: the astrologer heard this night, during his incantations, the voice of the devil, and saw for one moment the glare of his eye, though he could not see his person."
"He saw the glare of his eye!" repeated Fredersdorf joyfully. "Oh, we will yet compel him to show himself wholly. He must teach us to make gold. And what said the voice of the devil to our astrologer?"
"He said these words: 'Would you see my face and hear words of golden wisdom from my lips? so offer me, when next the moon is full and shimmers like liquid gold in the heavens, a black ram; and if you shed his blood for me, and if not one white hair can be discovered upon him, I will appear and be subject to you.'"
"Another month of waiting, of patience, and of torture," murmured Fredersdorf. "Four weeks to search for this black ram without a single white hair; it will be difficult to find!"
"Oh, the world is large; we will send our messengers in every quarter; we will find it. Those who truly seek, find at last what they covet. But we will require much gold, and we are suffering now, unhappily, for the want of it."
"We? whom do you mean by we?" asked Fredersdorf, with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders.
"I, in my own person, above all others, need gold. You can well understand, my brother, that a student as I am has no superfluous gold, even to pay his tailor's bills, much less to buy black rams. Captain Kleist, in whose house the assembly meets to-night, has already offered up far more valuable things than a score of black rams; he has sacrificed his health, his rest, and his domestic peace. His beautiful wife finds it strange, indeed, that he should seek the devil every night everywhere else than in her lovely presence."
"Yes, I understand that! The bewitching Madame Kleist must ever remain the vain-glorious and coquettish Louise von Schwerin; marriage has infused no water in her veins."
"No! but it has poured a river of wine in the blood of her husband, and in this turbid stream their love and happiness is drowned. Kleist is but a corpse, whom we must soon bury from our sight. The king has made separation and divorce easy; yes, easier than marriage. Is it not so, my brother? Ah, you blush; you find that your light-hearted brother has more observant eyes than you thought, and sees that which you intended to conceal. Yes, yes! I have indeed seen that you have been wounded by Cupid's arrow, and that your heart bleeds while our noble king refuses his consent to your marriage."
"Ah, let me once discover this holy mystery—once learn how to make gold, and I will have no favor to ask of any earthly monarch; I shall acknowledge no other sovereign than my own will."
"And to become the possessor of this secret, and your own master, you require nothing but a black ram. Create for us, then, my powerful and wealthy brother, a black ram, and the work is done!"
"Alas! to think," cried Fredersdorf, "that I cannot absent myself; that I must fold my hands and wait silently and quietly! What slavery is this! but you, you are not in bondage as I am. The whole world is before you; you can seek throughout the universe for this blood-offering demanded by the devil."
"Give us gold, brother, and we will seek; without gold, no black ram; without the black ram, no devil!"
Fredersdorf disappeared a moment and returned with a well-filled purse, which he handed to his brother. "There, take the gold; send your messengers in every quarter; go yourself and search. You must either find or create him. I swear to you, if you do not succeed, I will withdraw my protection from you; you will be only a poor student, and must maintain yourself by your studies."
"That would be a sad support, indeed," said the young man, smiling. "I am more than willing to choose another path in life. I would, indeed, prefer being an artist to being a philosopher."
"An artist!" cried Fredersdorf, contemptuously; "have you discovered in yourself an artist's vein?"
"Yes; or rather, Eckhof has awakened my sleeping talent."
"Eckhof—who is Eckhof?"
"How? you ask who is Eckhof? You know not, then, this great, this exalted artist, who arrived here some weeks since, and has entranced every one who has a German heart in his bosom, by his glorious acting? I saw him a few days since in Golsched's Cato. Ah! my brother, on that evening it was clear to me that I also was born for something greater than to sit in a lonely study, and seek in musty books for useless scraps of knowledge. No! I will not make the world still darker and mistier for myself with the dust of ancient books; I will illuminate my world by the noblest of all arts—I will become an actor!"
"Fantastic fool!" said his brother. "A GERMAN ACTOR! that is to say, a beggar and a vagabond! who wanders from city to city, and from village to village, with his stage finery, who is laughed at everywhere, even as the monkeys are laughed at when they make their somersets over the camels' backs; it might answer to be a dancer, or, at least, a French actor."
"It is true that the German stage is a castaway—a Cinderella— thrust aside, and clothed with sackcloth and ashes, while the spoiled and petted step-child is clothed in gold-embroidered robes. Alas! alas! it is a bitter thing that the French actors are summoned by the king to perform in the royal castle, while Schonemein, the director of the German theatre, must rent the Council-house for a large sum of money, and must pay a heavy tax for the permission to give to the German public a German stage. Wait patiently, brother, all this shall be changed, when the mystery of mysteries is discovered, when we have found the black ram! I bless the accident which gave me a knowledge of your secret, which forced you to receive me as a member in order to secure my silence. I shall be rich, powerful, and influential; I will build a superb theatre, and fill the German heart with wonder and rapture."
"Well, well, let us first understand the art of making gold, and we will make the whole world our theatre, and all mankind shall play before us! Hasten, therefore, brother, hasten! By the next full moon we will be the almighty rulers of the earth and all that is therein!"
"Always provided that we have found the black ram."
"We will find him! If necessary, we will give his weight in gold, and gold can do all things. Honor, love, power, position, and fame, can all be bought with gold! Let us, then, make haste to be rich. To be rich is to be independent, free, and gloriously happy. Go, my brother, go! and may you soon return crowned with success."
"I have still a few weighty questions to ask. In the first place, where shall I go?"
"To seek the black ram—it makes no difference where."
"Ah! it makes no difference! You do not seem to remember that the vacation is over, that the professors of the University of Halle have threatened to dismiss me if my attendance is so irregular. I must, therefore, return to Halle to-day, or—"
"Return to Halle to-day!" cried Fredersdorf, with horror. "That is impossible! You cannot return to Halle, unless you have already found what we need."
"And that not being the case, I shall not return to Halle; I shall be dismissed, and will cease to be a student. Do you consent, then, that I shall become an actor, and take the great Eckhof for my only professor?"
"Yes, I consent, provided the command of the alchemist is complied with."
"And how if the alchemist, notwithstanding the blood of the black ram, is unhappily not able to bring up the devil?"
At this question, a feverish crimson spot took possession of the wan cheek of Fredersdorf, which was instantly chased away by a more intense pallor. "If that is the result, I will either go mad or die," he murmured.
"And then will you see the devil face to face!" cried his brother, with a gay laugh. "But perhaps you might find a Eurydice to unlock the under world for you. Well, we shall see. Till then, farewell, brother, farewell." Nodding merrily to Fredersdorf, Joseph hurried away.
Fredersdorf watched his tall and graceful figure as it disappeared among the trees with a sad smile.
"He possesses something which is worth more than power or gold; he is young, healthy, full of hope and confidence. The world belongs to him, while I—"
The sound of footsteps called his attention again to the allee.
THE OLD COURTIER.
The figure of a man was seen approaching, but with steps less light and active than young Joseph's. As the stranger drew nearer, Fredersdorf's features expressed great surprise. When at last he drew up at the window, the secretary burst into a hearty laugh.
"Von Pollnitz! really and truly I do not deceive myself," cried Fredersdorf, clapping his hands together, and again and again uttering peals of laughter, in which Pollnitz heartily joined.
Then suddenly assuming a grave and dignified manner, Fredersdorf bowed lowly and reverentially. "Pardon, Baron Pollnitz, pardon," said he in a tone of mock humility, "that I have dared to welcome you in such an unseemly manner. I was indeed amazed to see you again; you had taken an eternal leave of the court, we had shed rivers of tears over your irreparable loss, and your unexpected presence completely overpowered me."
"Mock and jeer at me to your heart's content, dear Fredersdorf; I will joyfully and lustily unite in your laughter and your sport, as soon as I have recovered from the fearful jolting of the carriage which brought me here. Be pleased to open the window a little more, and place a chair on the outside, that I may climb in, like an ardent, eager lover. I have not patience to go round to the castle door."
Fredersdorf silently obeyed orders, and in a few moments Von Pollnitz was lying comfortably stretched out on a silk divan, in the secretary's room.
"Ask me no questions, Fredersdorf," said he, breathing loudly; "leave me awhile to enjoy undisturbed the comfort of your sofa, and do me the favor first to answer me a few questions, before I reply to yours."
"Demand, baron, and I will answer," said Fredersdorf, seating himself on a chair near the sofa.
"First of all, who is King of Prussia? You, or Jordan,—or General Kothenberg,—or Chazot,—or—speak, man, who is King of Prussia?"
"Frederick the Second, and he alone; and he so entirely, that even his ministers are nothing more than his secretaries, to write at his dictation; and his generals are only subordinate engineers to draw the plans of battle which he has already fully determined upon; his composers are only the copyists of his melodies and his musical conceptions; the architects are carpenters to build according to the plan which he has either drawn or chosen from amongst old Grecian models: in short, all who serve him are literally servants in this great state machine; they understand his will and obey it, nothing more."
"Hum! that is bad, very bad," said Pollnitz. "I have found, however, that there are two sorts of men, and you have mentioned in your catalogue but one species, who have fallen so completely under the hand of Frederick. You have said nothing of his cook, of his valet- de-chambre, and yet these are most important persons. You must know that in the presence of these powers, a king ceases to be a king, and indeed becomes an entirely commonplace mortal, who eats and drinks and clothes himself, and who must either conceal or adorn his bodily necessities and weaknesses like any other man."
Fredersdorf shook his head sadly. "It seems to me that Frederick the Second is beyond the pale of temptation; for even with his cook and his valet he is still a king; his cook may prepare him the most costly and luxurious viands, but unhappily they do not lead him into temptation; a bad dish makes him angry, but the richest and choicest food has no effect upon his humor; he is exactly the same before dinner as after, fasting or feasting, and the favor he refuses before the champagne, he never grants afterward."
"The devil! that is worse still," murmured Pollnitz. "And the valet- -with him also does the king remain king?"
"Yes, so entirely, that he scarcely allows his valet to touch him. He shaves, coifs, and dresses himself."
"My God! who, then, has any influence over him? To whom can I turn to obtain a favor for me?"
"To his dogs, dear baron; they are now the only influential dependants!"
"Do you mean truly the four-footed dogs?—or—"
"The four-footed, dearest baron! Frederick has more confidence in them than in any two-legged animal. You know the king always trusted much to the instincts of his dogs; he has now gone so far in this confidence, as to believe that the hounds have an instinctive aversion to all false, wicked, and evil-minded men. It is therefore very important to every new-comer to be well received by the hounds, as the king's reception is somewhat dependent upon theirs."
"Is Biche yet with the king?"
"Yes, still his greatest favorite."
"I am rejoiced to hear that! I was always in favor with the Signora Biche; it was her custom to smell my pocket, hoping to find chocolate. I beseech you, therefore, dearest friend, to give me some chocolate, with which I may touch and soften the heart of the noble signora, and thus induce the king to look upon me favorably.
"I will stick a half pound in each of your pockets, and if Biche still growls at you, it will be a proof that she is far more noble than men; in short, that she cannot be bribed. Have you finished with your questions? I think it is now my time to begin."
"Not so, my friend. My head is still entirely filled with questions, and they are twining and twisting about like the fishing-worms in a bag, by the help of which men hope to secure fish. Be pitiful and allow me to fasten a few more of these questions to my fishing-rod, and thus try to secure my future."
"Well, then, go on—ask further!"
"Does Frederick show no special interest in any prima donna of the opera, the ballet, or the theatre?"
"No, he cares for none of these things."
"Is his heart, then, entirely turned to stone?"
"Wholly and entirely."
"And the queen-mother, has she no influence?"
"My God! Baron Pollnitz, how long have you been away? You ask me as many questions as if you had fallen directly from the moon, and knew not even the outward appearance of the court."
"Dear friend, I have been a whole year away, that is to say, an eternity. The court is a very slippery place; and if a man does not accustom himself hourly to walk over this glassy parquet, he will surely fall.
"Also there is nothing so uncertain as a court life; that which is true to-day, is to-morrow considered incredible; that which was beautiful yesterday is thrust aside to-day, as hateful to look upon: that which we despise to-day is to-morrow sought after as a rare and precious gem.
"Oh, I have had my experiences. I remember, that while I was residing at the court of Saxony, I composed a poem in honor of the Countess Aurora of Konigsmark. This was by special command of the king; the poem was to be set to music by Hasse, and sung by the Italian singers on the birthday of Aurora. Well, the Countess Aurora was cast aside before my poem was finished, and the Countess Kozel had taken her place. I finished my poem, but Amelia, and not Aurora, was my heroine. Hasse composed the music, and no one who attended the concert, given in honor of the birthday of the Countess Kozel, had an idea that this festal cantata had been originally ordered for Aurora of Konigsmark!
"Once, while I was in Russia, I had an audience from the Empress Elizabeth. As I approached the castle, leaning on the arm of the Captain Ischerbatow, I observed the guard, who stood before the door, and presented arms. Well, eight weeks later, this common guard was a general and a prince, and Isoherbatow was compelled to bow before him!
"I saw in Venice a picture of the day of judgment by Tintoretto. In this picture both Paradise and Hell were portrayed. I saw in Paradise a lovely woman glowing with youth, beauty, and grace. She was reclining in a most enchanting attitude, upon a bed of roses, and surrounded by angels. Below, on the other half of the picture— that is to say, in Hell—I saw the same woman; she had no couch of roses, but was stretched upon a glowing gridiron; no smiling angels surrounded her, but a hideous, grinning devil tore her flesh with red-hot pincers.
"Pope Adrian had commanded Tintoretto to paint this picture, to make it a monument in honor of the lovely Cinnia, and to glorify her by all the power of art. Cinnia was a very dear friend of Adrian. He was not only a pope, but a man, and a man who took pleasure in all beautiful things. Cinnia was enchanting, and it was Tintoretto's first duty to paint her picture, and make her the principal object in Paradise. But look you! the Last Judgment by Tintoretto was a large painting, so large that to count even the heads upon it is laborious. The heads in each corner are counted separately, and then added together, It required some years, of course, to paint such a picture; and by the time Tintoretto had completed Paradise and commenced the lower regions, many sad changes had occurred. The fond heart of the seducing Cinnia had withdrawn itself from the pope and clung tenaciously to Prince Colonna. The Holy Father, as we have said before, notwithstanding he was pope, had some human weaknesses; he naturally hated the fair inconstant, and sought revenge. He recommended Tintoretto to bring the erring one once more before the public—this time, however, as a guilty and condemned shiner in hell.
"Dear Fredersdorf, I think always of this picture when I look at the favorites of princes and kings, and I amuse myself with their pride and arrogance. When I see them in their sunny paradise of power and influence, I say to myself, 'All's well for the fleeting present, I'll wait patiently; soon I shall see you roasting on the glowing gridiron of royal displeasure, and the envious devils of this world filled with rapture at your downfall, will tear your flesh to pieces.' Friend Fredersdorf, that is my answer to your question as to whether I have in one short year forgotten the quality of court life."
"And by Heaven, that is a profound answer, which shows at least that Baron Pollnitz has undergone no change during the last year, but is still the experienced man of the world and the wise cavalier!"
"But why do you not give me my title, Fredersdorf? Why do you not call me grand chamberlain?"
"Because you are no longer in the service of the king, but have received your dismissal."
"Alas! God grant that the Signora Biche is favorable to me; then will the king, as I hope, forget this dismissal. One question more. You say that the queen-mother has no influence; how is it with the wife of the king, Elizabeth Christine? Is she indeed the reigning sovereign?"
"When did you return to Berlin?"
"Now, to-night; and when I left the carriage, I hastened here."
"Well, that is some excuse for your question. If you have only just arrived, you could not possibly know of the important event which will take place at the court to-night. This evening the king will present his brother, Augustus William, to the court as Prince of Prussia, and his successor, I think that is a sufficient answer to your question. As to Queen Elizabeth Christine, she lives at Schonhausen, and might be called the widow of her husband. The king never addresses one word to her, not even on grand festal days, when etiquette compels him to take a seat by her at table."
"Now, one last question, dear friend. How is it with yourself? Are you influential? Does Frederick love you as warmly as he did a year ago? Do you hope to reach the goal of your ambition and become all- powerful?"
"I have ceased to be ambitious," sighed Fredersdorf. "I no longer thirst to be the king of a king. My only desire is to be independent of courts and kings—in short, to be my own master. Perhaps I may succeed in this; if not, be ruined, as many others have been. If I cannot tear my chains apart, I will perish under them! As for my influence over the king, it is sufficient to say, that for six months I have loved a woman to distraction, who returns my passion with ardor, and I cannot marry her because the king, notwithstanding my prayers and agony, will not consent."
"He is right," said Pollnitz, earnestly, as he stretched himself out comfortably on the sofa; "he is a fool who thinks of yielding up his manly freedom to any woman."
"You say that, baron? you, who gave up king and court, and went to Nurnberg, in order that you might marry!"
"Aha! how adroitly you have played the knife out of my hands, and have yourself become the questioner! Well. it is but just that you also should have your curiosity satisfied. Demand of me now and I will answer frankly."
"You are not married, baron?"
"Not in the least; and I have sworn that the goddess Fortuna alone shall be my beloved. I will have no mortal wife."
"The report, then, is untrue that you have again changed your religion, and become Protestant?"
"No, this time rumor has spoken the truth. The Nurnberger patrician would accept no hand offered by a Catholic; so I took off the glove of my Catholicism and drew on my Protestant one. My God! to a man of the world, his outside faith is nothing more than an article of the toilet. Do you not know that it is bon ton for princes when they visit strange courts to wear the orders and uniforms of their entertainers? So it is my rule of etiquette to adopt the religion which the circumstances in which I find myself seem to make suitable and profitable. My situation in Nurnberg demanded that I should become a Protestant, and I became one."
"And for all that the marriage did not take place?"
"No, it was broken off through the obstinacy of my bride, who refused to live in good fellowship and equality with me, and gave me only the use of her income, and no right in her property. Can you conceive of such folly? She imagined I would give myself in marriage, and make a baroness of an indifferently pretty burgher maiden; yes, a baroness of the realm, and expect no other compensation for it than a wife to bore me! She wished to wed my rank, and found it offensive that I should marry, not only her fair self, but her millions! The contest over this point broke off the contract, and I am glad of it. From my whole soul I regret and am ashamed of having ever thought of marriage. The king, therefore, has reason to be pleased with me."
"You are thinking, then, seriously of remaining at court?"
"Do you not find that natural, Fredersdorf? I have lived fifty years at this court, and accustomed myself to its stupidity, its nothingness, and its ceremony, as a man may accustom himself to a hard tent-bed, and find it at last more luxurious than a couch of eider-down. Besides, I have just lost a million in Nurnberg, and I must find a compensation; the means at least to close my life worthily as a cavalier. I must, therefore, again bow my free neck, and enter service. You must aid me, and this day obtain for me an audience of the king. I hope your influence will reach that far. The rest must be my own affair."
"We will see what can be done. I have joyful news for the king to- day. Perhaps it will make him gay and complaisant, and he will grant you an audience."
"And this news which you have for him?"
"The Barbarina has arrived!"
"What! the celebrated dancer?"
"The same. We have seized and forcibly carried her off from the republic of Venice and from Lord McKenzie; and Baron Swartz has brought her as prisoner to Berlin!"
Pollnitz half raised himself from the sofa, and, seizing the arm of the private secretary, he looked him joyfully in the face. "I have conceived a plan," said he, "a heavenly plan! My friend, the sun of power and splendor is rising for us, and your ambition, which has been weary and ready to die, will now revive, and raise its head proudly on high! That which I have long sought for is at last found. The king is too young, too ardent, too much the genius and poet, to be completely unimpassioned. Even Achilles was not impenetrable in the heel, and Frederick has also his mortal part. Do you know, Fredersdorf, who will discover the weak point, and send an arrow there?"
"Well, I will tell you: the Signora Barbarina. Ah, you smile! you shake your unbelieving head. You are no good psychologist. Do you not know that we desire most earnestly that which seems difficult, if not impossible to attain, and prize most highly that which we have won with danger and difficulty? Judge, also, how precious a treasure the Barbarina must be to Frederick. For her sake he has for months carried on a diplomatic contest with Venice, and at last he has literally torn her away from my Lord Stuart McKenzie."
"That is true," said Fredersdorf, thoughtfully; "for ten days the king has waited with a rare impatience for the arrival of this beautiful dancer, and he commanded that, as soon as she reached Berlin, it should be announced to him."
"I tell you the king will adore the Signora Barbarina," said Pollnitz, as he once more stretched himself upon the sofa pillows. "I shall visit her to-day, and make the necessary arrangements. Now I am content. I see land, a small island of glorious promise, which will receive me, the poor shipwrecked mariner, and give me shelter and protection. I will make myself the indispensable counsellor of Barbarina; I will teach her how she can melt the stony heart of Frederick, and make him her willing slave."
"Dreams, dreams!" said Fredersdorf, shrugging his shoulders.
"Dreams which I will make realities as soon as you obtain me an audience with the king."
"Well, we will see what can be done, and whether—but listen, the king is awake, and has opened his window. He is playing upon the flute, which is his morning custom. His morning music is always the barometer of his mood, and I can generally judge what kind of royal weather we will have, whether bright or stormy. Come with me to the window and listen awhile."
"Agreed," said Pollnitz, and he sprang with youthful elasticity from the divan and joined Fredersdorf at the window. They listened almost breathlessly to the sweet tones which seemed to whisper to them from the upper windows; then mingling and melting with the perfume of the orange-blossoms and the glorious and life-giving morning air, they forced their sweet and subtle essence into the room with the cunning and hardened old courtiers.
Fredersdorf and Pollnitz listened as a sly bat listens to the merry whistling of an innocent bird, and watches the propitious moment to spring upon her prey. It was an adagio which the king played upon his flute, and he was indeed a master in the art. Slightly trembling, as if in eternal melancholy, sobbing and pleading, soon bursting out in rapturous and joyful strains of harmony, again sighing and weeping, these melting tones fell like costly pearls upon the summer air. The birds in the odorous bushes, the wind which rustled in the trees, the light waves of the river, which with soft murmurs prattled upon the shore, all Nature seemed for the moment to hold her breath and listen to this enchanting melody. Even Fredersdorf felt the power and influence of this music as he had done in earlier days. The old love for his king filled his heart, and his eyes were misty with tears.
As the music ceased, Fredersdorf exclaimed involuntarily: "He is, after all, the noblest and greatest of men. It is useless to be angry with him. I am forced against my will to worship him."
"Now," said Pollnitz, whose face had not for one moment lost its expression of cold attention and sly cunning, "how says the barometer? May we promise ourselves a clear and sunny day?"
"Yes, Frederick is in one of his soft and yielding moods. It is probable he has been some hours awake and has written to some of his friends—perhaps to Voltaire, or Algarotti; this makes him always bright and clear."
"You think I shall obtain my audience?"
"I think you will."
"Then, dear friend, I have only to say that I hope you will give me the chocolate for that noble and soul-searching hound, the Signora Biche."
THE MORNING HOURS OF A KING.
King Frederick had finished the adagio, and stood leaning against the window gazing into the garden; his eyes, usually so fierce and commanding, were softened by melancholy, and a sad smile played upon his lips. The touching air which he had played found its echo within, and held his soul a prisoner to troubled thoughts. Suddenly he seemed to rouse himself by a great effort to the realities of life, and, hastily ringing the bell, he commanded Jordan, the director of the poor and the almshouse, to be summoned to him.
A few moments later, Jordan, who had been for some days a guest at the castle of Charlottenburg, entered the king's room. Frederick advanced to meet him, and extended both hands affectionately. "Good- morning, Jordan," said he, gazing into the wan, thin face of his friend, with the most earnest sympathy. "I hope you had a refreshing night."
"I have had a charming night, for I was dreaming of your majesty," he replied, with a soft smile.
Frederick sighed, released his hands, and stepped back a few paces. "Your majesty?" repeated he. "Why do you lay so cold a hand upon that heart which beats so warmly for you? To what purpose is this etiquette? Are we not alone? and can we not accord to our souls a sweet interchange of thought and feeling without ceremony? Do we not understand and love each other? Forget, then, for awhile, dear Jordan, all these worldly distinctions. You see I am still in my morning-dress. I do not, like the poor kings upon the stage, wear my crown and sceptre in bed, or with my night-dress."
Jordan gazed lovingly and admiringly upon his great friend. "You need no crown upon your brow to show to the world that you are a king by the grace of God. The majesty of greatness is written upon your face, my king."
"That," said Frederick with light irony, "is because we princes and kings are acknowledged to be the exact image of the Creator, the everlasting Father. As for you, and all the rest of the race, you dare not presume to compare yourselves with us. Probably you are made in the image of the second and third persons of the Trinity, while we carry upon our withered and wearisome faces the quintessence of the Godhead."
"Alas! alas, sire, if our pious priest heard you, what a stumbling- block would he consider you!"
The king smiled. "Do you know, Jordan," said he gravely, "I believe God raised me up for this special mission, to be a rock of offence to these proud and worldly priests, and to trample under foot their fooleries and their arrogance? I look upon that as the most important part of my mission upon earth, and I am convinced that I am appointed to humble this proud church, the vain and arrogant work of hypocritical priests, and to establish in its place the pure worship of God."
"Yes, yes," said Jordan, shrugging his shoulders; "if the mass of men had the clear intellect of a Frederick! if their eyes were like those of my royal eagle, to whom it is given to gaze steadfastly at the sun without being dazzled. Alas! sire, the most of our race resemble you so little! They are all like the solemn night-owls, who draw a double curtain over their eyes, lest the light should blind them. The church serves as this double eyelid for the night-owls among men, or, rather, the churches, for the cunning and covetousness of those priests has not been satisfied with one church, but has established many."
"Yes," said the king angrily; "they have sown dragons' teeth, from which bloodthirsty warriors have sprung, who wander up and down, and in mad ambition tear all mankind, and themselves included, to pieces. Listen, Jordan, we have fallen upon a subject which, as you know, has interested and occupied me much of late, and it is precisely upon these points that I have sought your counsel to-day. Be seated, then, and hear what I have to say to you. You know that the pietists and priests charge me with being a heretic, because I do not think as they think, and believe as they believe. Which of them, think you, Jordan, has the true faith? What is truth, and what is wisdom? Each sect believes itself—and itself alone—the possessor of both. That is reason enough, it appears to me, for doubting them all."
"In the same land?"
"Yes, in various places in the same city, we are taught entirely different and opposing doctrines in the name of religion. On one hand, we are threatened with everlasting fire in the company of the devil and his angels, if we believe that the Almighty is bodily present in the elements offered at the sacrament of the Lord's supper. On the other hand, we are taught, with equal assurance, that the same terrible punishment will be awarded us unless we believe that God is literally, and not symbolically, present in the bread and wine. The simple statement of the doctrines of the different churches in the world would fill an endless number of folios. Each religion condemns all others, as leading to perdition; they cannot therefore all be true, for truth does not contradict itself. If any one of these were the true faith, would not God have made it clear, and without question, to our eyes? God, who is truth, cannot be dark or doubtful! If these differences in religion related only to outward forms and ceremonies, we would let them pass as agreeable and innocent changes, even as we adopt contentedly the changes in style and fashion of our clothing. The doctrines of faith, as taught in England, cannot be made to harmonize with those fulminated at Rome. He to whom it would be given to reconcile all opposing doctrines, and to unite all hearts in one pure and simple faith would indeed give peace to the world, and be a Messiah and a Saviour."
"Yes, he would accomplish what God himself, as it appears, has not thought proper to do; his first great act must be to institute and carry out a terrible massacre, in which every priest of every existing religion must be pursued to the death."
"And that is precisely my mission," said the king. "I will institute a massacre, not bodily and bloodily, but soul-piercing and purifying. I say to you, Jordan, God dwells not in the churches of these imperious priests, who choose to call themselves the servants of God. God was with Moses on Mount Sinai, and with Zoroaster in the wilderness; he was by Dante's side as he wrote his 'Divina Commedia,' and he piloted the ships of Columbus as he went out bravely to seek a new world! God is everywhere, and that mankind should reverence and believe in and worship him, is proved by their bearing his image and their high calling."
Jordan seized the hand of the king and pressed it enthusiastically to his lips. "And the world says that you do not believe in God," he exclaimed; "they class you with the unbelievers, and dare to preach against you, and slander you from the pulpit."
"Yes, as I do not adopt their dogmas, I am, to them, a heretic," said the king laughing; "and when they preach against me, it proves that they fear me, and look upon me as a powerful enemy. The enemy of the priests I will be as long as I live, that is to say, of those arrogant and imperious men who are wise in their own eyes, and despise all who do not agree with them! I will destroy the foundations of all these different churches, with their different dogmas. I will utterly extinguish them by a universal church, in which every man shall worship God after his own fashion. The worship of God should be the only object of every church! All these different doctrines, which they cast in each other's teeth, and for love of which they close their doors against each other, shall be given up. I will open all their churches, and the fresh, pure air of God shall purify the musty buildings. I will build a temple, a great illimitable temple, a second Pantheon, a church which shall unite all churches within itself, in which it shall be granted to every man to have his own altar, and adopt his own religious exercises. All desire to worship God; every man shall do so according to his conscience! Look you, Jordan, how pathetically they discourse of brotherly love, and they tear each other to pieces! Let me only build my Pantheon, and then will all men, in truth, become brothers. The Jew and the so-called heathen, the Mohammedan and the Persian, the Calvinist and the Catholic, the Lutheran and the Reformer—they will all gather into my Pantheon, to worship God; all their forms and dogmas will simultaneously fall to the ground. They will believe simply in one God, and the churches of all these different sects will soon stand empty and in ruins." [Footnote: Thiebault, in his "Souvenirs de Vingt Ans," tells of Frederick's plan for a Pantheon.]
While the king spoke, his countenance was illumined; a noble enthusiasm fired his large clear eyes, and his cheeks glowed as if from the awakening breath of some new internal light.
Jordan's glance expressed unspeakable love, but at the same time he looked so sad, so pained, that Frederick felt chilled and restrained.
"How, Jordan! you are not of my opinion?" said he, with surprise. "Our souls, which have been always heretofore in union, are now apart. You do not approve of my Pantheon?"
"It is too exalted, sire, to be realized. Mankind require a form of religion, in order not to lose all personal control."
"No, you mistake. They require only God, only love for this exalted and lofty Being, whom we call God. The only proof by which we can know that we can sincerely love God, lies in a steadfast and strong purpose to obey Him. According to this, we need no other religion than our reason, the good gift of God. So soon as we know that He has spoken, we should be silent and submissive. Our inward worship of God should consist in this, that we acknowledge Him and confess our sins; our outward worship in the performance of all our duties, according to our reason, the exalted nature of God, and our entire dependence upon Him."
"It is to be regretted, sire, that this world is not sufficiently enlightened to comprehend you. I am afraid that your majesty will bring about exactly the opposite of that which you design. All these religious sects which, as you say, are so entirely antagonistic, would by this forced union feel themselves humiliated and trampled upon; their hatred toward each other would be daily augmented; their antipathies would find new food; and their religious zeal, which is always exclusive, would burn with fiercer fury. Not only the priests, but kings and princes, would look upon the carrying out of your plan with horror. And shall not this daring step bring terror into the cabinets of kings? A monarch, who has just drawn the eyes of all politicians upon himself, now proposes to take charge of the consciences of his subjects, and bow them to his will! Alas, how would envy, with all her poisonous serpents, fasten upon the triumphal car of a king who, by the great things he has already achieved, had given assurance of yet greater results, and now stoops to tyrannize over and oppress the weak and good, and cast them among the ruins of their temples of worship to weep and lament in despair! No, my king, this idea of a Pantheon, a universal house of worship, can never be realized. It was a great and sublime thought, but not a wise one; too great, too enlarged and liberal to be appreciated by this pitiable world. Your majesty will forgive me for having spoken the honest truth. I was forced to speak. Like my king, I love the one only and true God, and God is truth."
"You have done well, Jordan," said the king, after a long pause, during which he raised his eyes thoughtfully toward heaven. "Yes, you have done well, and I believe you are right in your objections to my Pantheon. I offer up to you, therefore, my favorite idea. For your dear sake, my Pantheon shall become a ruin. Let this be a proof of the strong love I bear you, Jordan. I will not contend with the priests in my church, but I will pursue them without faltering into their own; and I say to you, this will be a long and stiff-necked war, which will last while my life endures. I will not have my people blinded and stupefied by priests. I will suffer no other king in Prussia. I alone will be king. These proud priests may decide, in silence and humility, to teach their churches and intercede for them; but let them once attempt to play the role of small popes, and to exalt themselves as the only possessors of the key to heaven, then they shall find in me an adversary who will prove to them that the key is false with which they shut up the Holiest of Holies, and is but used by them as a means to rob the people of their worldly goods. Light and truth shall be the device of my whole land. This will I seek after, and by this will I govern Prussia. I will have no blinded subjects, no superstitious, conscience-stricken, trembling, priest-ridden slaves. My people shall learn to think; thought shall be free as the wanton air in Prussia; no censor or police shall limit her boundary. The thoughts of men should be like the life- giving and beautifying sun, all-nourishing and all-enlightening; calling into existence and fructifying, not only the rich, and rare, and lovely, but also the noxious and poisonous plant and the creeping worm. These have also the right of life: if left to themselves, they soon die of their own insignificance or nothingness—die under the contempt of all the good and great."
"I fear," said Jordan, "that Frederick the Great is the only man whose mind is so liberal and so unprejudiced. Believe me, my king, there is no living sovereign in Europe who dares guarantee to his subjects free thought and free speech."
"I will try so to act as to leave nothing to fear from the largest liberty of thought or speech," said the king, quietly. "Men may think and say of me what they will—that troubles me not; I will amuse myself with their slanders and accusations of heresy; as for their applause—well, that is a cheap merchandise, which I must share with every expert magician and every popular comedian. The applause of my own conscience, and of my friends—thy applause, my Jordan—is alone of value for me. Then," said he, earnestly, almost solemnly, "above all things, I covet fame. My name shall not pass away like a soft tone or a sweet melody. I will write it in golden letters on the tablet of history; it shall glitter like a star in the firmament; when centuries have passed away, my people shall remember me, and shall say, 'Frederick the Second made Prussia great, and enlarged her borders; he was a father who loved his people more than he did himself, and cheerfully sacrificed his own rest and comfort in their service, he was a teacher who spoke to them by word of mouth, and gave liberty to their souls.' Oh, Jordan, you must stand by me and help me to reach this great goal for which I thirst. Remain with me, dear friend, remain ever by my side, and with thy love, thy constancy, thy truth, and thy sincerity, help me to establish what is good, and to punish the evil; to acknowledge and promote what is noble and expose the unworthy to shame and confusion. Oh, Jordan! God has perhaps called me to be a great king; remain by me, and help me to be a good and simple-minded man."
He threw himself with impetuosity on Jordan's breast, and clasped him passionately in his arms. Jordan returned the king's embrace, and silently raised his moist eyes to heaven. A prayer to "Our Father" spoke in that eloquent eye, a heart-felt, glowing prayer for this man now resting upon his bosom, and who for him was not the all-powerful and commanding sovereign, but the noble, loving, and beloved friend, this poet and philosopher, before whose mighty genius his whole soul bowed in wonder and admiration; but suddenly, in this moment of deep and pious emotion, a cold, an icy chill, seemed to shiver and play like the breath of death over his features, and the hot blood, like liquid metal, rushed madly through his veins; he gave a light, short cough; with a quick, abrupt movement, he released himself from the arms of the king. Withdrawing a few steps, he turned away, and pressed his handkerchief to his lips.
"Jordan, you suffer, you are sick," said the king, anxiously.
Jordan turned again to him; his face was calm, and even gay; his eyes beamed with that strange, mysterious, and touching fire of consumption which hides the shadow of death under the rosy lip and glowing cheek; and, less cruel than all other maladies, leaves to the soul its freshness, and to the heart its power to love and hope.
"Not so, sire," said Jordan, "I do not suffer. How can I be otherwise than well and happy in your presence?" As he said this he tried to thrust his handkerchief in his pocket.
The king looked earnestly at this handkerchief. "Jordan, why did you press that handkerchief so hastily to your lips?"
Jordan forced a smile. "Well," said he, "I was obliged, as your majesty no doubt saw, to cough, and I wished to make this disagreeable music as soft as possible."
"That was not the reason," said Frederick; and, stepping hastily forward, he seized the handkerchief. "Blood! it is drenched in blood," said he, in a tone so full of anguish, that it was evident he recognized and feared this fatal signal.
"Well, yes, it is blood; your majesty sees I am blood-thirsty! Unhappily, I do not shed the blood of your enemies, but my own, which I would gladly give, drop by drop, if I could thereby save my king one hour's suffering or care."
"And yet you, Jordan, are now the cause of my bitterest grief. You are ill, and you conceal it from me. You suffer, and force yourself to seem gay, and hide your danger from me, in place of turning to my physicians and demanding their counsel and aid."
"Frederick the Wise once said to me, 'Physicians are but quacks and charlatans, and a man gives himself up to a tedious suicide who swallows their prescriptions.'"
"No, it was not 'Frederick the Wise,' but 'Frederick the Fool,' who uttered that folly. When the sun is shining, Frederick has no fear of ghosts; but at the turn of midnight, he will breathe a silent 'Father in heaven,' to be protected from them. We have no use for confidence in physicians when we are healthy; when we are ill we need them, and then we begin to hold them in consideration. You are ill, your breast suffers. I entreat you, Jordan, to call upon my physician, and to follow his advice promptly and systematically. I demand this as a proof of your friendship."
"I will obey your majesty, immediately," said Jordan, who now found himself completely overcome by the weakness which follows loss of blood; trembling, and almost sinking, he leaned upon the table. Frederick perceived this, and rolling forward his own arm-chair, with loving and tender care, he placed Jordan within it. He called his servant, and ordered him to roll the chair to Jordan's room, and go instantly for the physician Ellertt.
"It will be all in vain, and I shall lose him," murmured the king. "Yes, I will lose him, as I have lost Suhm, and as I shall soon lose my Caesarius, the good Kaiserling. Alas! why did God give me so warm a heart for friendship, and then deprive me of my friends?"
Folding his arms, he stepped to the window and gazed thoughtfully and sadly into the garden below, but he saw not its bloom and beauty; his eyes were turned inward, and he saw only the grave of his friend. Suddenly rousing and conquering himself, he shook off the weary spirit of melancholy, and sought comfort in his flute, the faithful companion of all his sufferings and struggles.
THE PARDONED COURTIER.
Frederick commenced again to play, but this time it was not an adagio, but a joyous and triumphant allegro, with which he sought to dispel the melancholy and quench the tears flowing in his troubled heart. He walked backward and forward in his room, and from time to time stood before the sofa upon which his graceful greyhound, Biche, was quietly resting. Every minute the king passed her sofa, Biche raised her beautiful head and greeted her royal friend with an intelligent and friendly glance and a gentle wagging of her tail, and this salutation was returned each time by Frederick before he passed on. Finally, and still playing the flute, the king pressed his foot upon a silver button in the floor of his room, and rang a bell which hung in Fredersdorf's room, immediately under his own.
A few minutes later the secretary entered, but stood quietly at the door till the king had finished his allegro and laid aside his flute.
"Good-morning," said the king, and he looked up at his favorite with so sharp and piercing a glance that Fredersdorf involuntarily trembled, and cast his eyes to the ground. "You must have been long wide awake, you answer the bell so quickly."
"Yes, your majesty, I have been long awake. I am happy, for I have good news to bring you."
"Well, what is it?" said the king smiling. "Has my god-mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, voluntarily surrendered to the Emperor Charles VII.? Have France and England become reconciled? or—and that seems to me the most probable—has my private secretary mastered the mystery of gold-making, after which he has so long striven, and for which he so willingly offers up the most costly and solemn sacrifices?" The king laid so peculiar an expression upon the word SACRIFICE that Fredersdorf wondered if he had not listened to his conversation with Joseph, and learned the strange sacrifice which they now proposed to offer up to the devil's shrine.
"Well, tell your news quickly," said the king. "You see that I am torturing myself with the most wild and incredible suppositions."
"Sire, the Barbarina reached Berlin last night."
"Truly," said the king, indifferently, "so we have at last ravished her from Venice, and Lord Stuart McKenzie."
"Not exactly so, your highness. Lord Stuart McKenzie arrived in Berlin this morning."
Frederick frowned. "This is also, as it appears, a case of true love, and may end in a silly marriage. I am not pleased when men or women in my service entertain serious thoughts of love or marriage; it occupies their thoughts and interferes with the performance of their duty."
"Your majesty judges severely," murmured Fredersdorf, who knew full well that this remark was intended for his special benefit.
"Well, this is not only my opinion, but I act in consonance with it. I allow myself no relaxation. Have I ever had a love-affair? Perhaps, Fredersdorf, you believe my blood to be frozen like ice in my veins; that I have a heart of stone; in short, that I ceased to be a man when I became a king."
"Not so; but I believe your majesty is too great and too exalted to find any one worthy of your love."
"Folly, folly, sheer folly, Fredersdorf! When a man loves, he does not weigh himself in the scales and find out how many pounds of worth he has; he only loves, and forgets all other earthly things. Now, for myself, I dare not forget that I am a king, and that my time and strength belong to my people. My heart is too tender, and for this reason I fly from love. So should you also flee, you also dare not forget that your life is consecrated to your king. The Signora Barbarina shall not forget that she is in my service; dancing, and not loving, must now occupy her thoughts and actions. I will allow her flirtations and amours, but a true love I absolutely forbid. How can she go through with her ballets, her pirouettes, and entrechats gayly and gracefully if a passionate love sits enthroned within her heart? I have promised the English ambassador, who is the cousin of this Lord Stuart McKenzie, that I will separate these lovers. At this moment the friendship of England is of much importance to me, and I shall certainly keep my promise. Write immediately to the director of police that I command him not only to banish Lord McKenzie from Berlin, but to send him under guard to Hamburg, and there place him upon an English ship bound for England. In twelve hours he must leave Berlin. [Footnote: This order was obeyed. Lord McKenzie, the tender lover of the beautiful Barbarina, who had followed her from Venice to Berlin, was, immediately on his arrival, banished from Prussia by the special command of the king, and taken to Hamburg; from thence he addressed some passionate letters to his beautiful beloved, which she, of course, never received, and which are preserved in the royal archives at Berlin. (See Schneider's "History of Operas.")] Is that your only news, Fredersdorf?"
"No, sire," said he, stealing a glance toward the door, which at this moment was lightly opened. "I have another novelty to announce, but I do not know whether it will be acceptable to your majesty. Baron von Pollnitz—"
"Has sent us the announcement of his marriage?"
"No, sire, he is not married."
At this moment, the Signora Biche began to bay light notes of welcome, and raised herself up from her comfortable position on the sofa. The king did not remark her, however; he was wholly occupied with Fredersdorf.
"How! do you say he is not married?"
"No, he has not married," said a plaintive voice from behind the door, "and he prays your majesty, of your great grace, to allow him to dedicate his whole life to his royal master, forgetting all other men and women." The king turned and saw his former master of ceremonies kneeling before the door, and his clasped hands stretched out imploringly before him.
Frederick gave a hearty peal of laughter, while Biche, raising herself with a joyful bark, sprang toward the kneeling penitent, and capered playfully about him; she appeared indeed to be licking the hand in which the sagacious baron held loosely a large piece of her favorite chocolate. At first, the king laughed heartily; then, as he remarked how tenderly Biche licked the hand of the baron, he shook his head thoughtfully. "I have had a false confidence in the true instinct of my little Biche; she seems, indeed, to welcome Pollnitz joyfully; while a sharp bite in his calf is the only reception which his wicked and faithless heart deserves."
"Happily, sire, my heart is not lodged in my calves," said Pollnitz. "The wise Biche knows that the heart of Pollnitz is always in the same place, and that love to my king and master has alone brought me back to Berlin."
"Nonsense! A Pollnitz can feel no other love than that which he cherishes for his own worthy person, and the purses of all others. Let him explain now, quickly and without circumlocution, if he really wishes my pardon, why, after going to Nurnberg to marry a bag of gold, containing a few millions, he has now returned to Berlin."
"Sire, without circumlocution, the bag of gold would not open for me, and would not scatter its treasures according to my necessities and desires."
"Ah! I comprehend. The beautiful Nurnberger had heard of your rare talent for scattering gold, and thought it wiser to lose a baron of the realm than to lose her millions."
"Yes, that's about it, sire."
"I begin to have a great respect for the wisdom of this woman," said Frederick, laughing. "I think she has a more reliable instinct than my poor Biche, who, I see, still licks your hands."
"Oh, Biche knows me better than any man," said Pollnitz, tenderly patting the greyhound. "Biche knows that my heart is filled with but one love—love to my king and master. She knows that I have returned to lay myself as she does, in all humility and self-abandonment, at the feet of my royal Frederick, to receive either kicks or favors, as he may see fit to bestow them; to be equally grateful for the bones he may throw to me in his pity, as for the costly viands he may grant in the magnanimity of his great soul."
"You are an absolute and unqualified fool," said the king, laughing, "and if it was not against my conscience, and unworthy of human nature, to engage a man as a perpetual buffoon, I would promote you to the office of court fool. You might, at least, serve as an example to my cavaliers, by teaching them what they ought to avoid."
"I have merited this cruel contempt, this painful punishment from my royal master," said Pollnitz. "I submit silently. I will not, for a moment, seek to justify myself."
"You do well in that. You can make no defence. You left my service faithlessly and heartlessly, with the hope of marrying a fortune. The marriage failed, and you come back with falsehood in your heart and on your lips, chattering about your love for my royal house. You are not ashamed to liken yourself to a hound, and to howl even as they do, in order that I may take you back into favor. Do not suppose, for one moment, that I am deceived by these professions—if you could have done better for yourself elsewhere, you would not have returned to Berlin; that not being the case, you creep back, and vow that love alone has constrained you. Look you, Pollnitz, I know you, I know you fully. You can never deceive me; and, most assuredly, I would not receive you again into my service, if I did not look upon you as an old inventory of my house, an inheritance from my grandfather Frederick. I receive you, therefore, out of consideration for the dead kings in whose service you were, and who amused themselves with your follies; for their sakes I cannot allow you to hunger. Think not that I will prepare you a bed of down, and give you gold to waste in idleness. You must work for your living, even as we all do. I grant you a pension, but you will perform your old duty, as grand master of ceremonies. You understand such nonsense better than I do. You were educated in a good school, and studied etiquette from the foundation stone, under Prussia's first king; and that you may not say we have overlooked your great worth, I will lay yet another burden upon your shoulders, and make you 'master of the wardrobe.' It shall not be said of us, that nonsense and folly are neglected at our court; even these shall have their tribute. You shall therefore be called 'Master of the Robes,' but I counsel you, yes, I warn you, never to interfere with my coats and shirts. You shall have no opportunity to make a gold-embroidered monkey of me. Etiquette requires that I must have a master of the robes, but I warn you to interest yourself in all other things rather than in my toilet."
"All that your majesty condescends to say, is written in letters of flame upon my heart."
"I would rather suppose upon your knees; they must indeed burn from this long penance. I have read you a lecture, a la facon of a village schoolmaster. You can rise, the lecture is over."
Pollnitz rose from his knees, and, straightening himself, advanced before the king, and made one of those low, artistic bows, which he understood to perfection. "When does your majesty wish that I should enter upon my duties?"
"To-day—at this moment. Count Tessin, a special ambassador from Sweden, has just arrived. I wish to give him a courtly reception. You will make the necessary arrangements. Enter at once upon the discharge of your functions."
"I suppose, sire, that my salary also commences so soon as I begin the discharge of my duties?"
"I said nothing about a salary. I promised you a pension; and, not wishing to maintain you in absolute idleness, I lay upon you these absurd and trifling duties."
"Shall I not, then, receive two pensions, if I discharge the two functions?" said Pollnitz, in a low voice.
"You are an out-and-out scoundrel," said Frederick, "but I know all your tricks. I shall not follow my father's example, who once asked you how much it required to maintain worthily a cavalier of rank, and you assured him that a hundred thousand thalers was not sufficient. I grant you a pension of two thousand thalers, and I tell you it must suffice to support you creditably. Woe to you, when you commence again your former most contemptible and miserable life! woe to you, when you again forget to distinguish between your own money and the money of others! I assure you that I will never again pay one of your debts. And in order that credulous men may not be so silly as to lend you money, I will make my wishes known by a printed order, and impose a tax of fifty thalers upon every man silly and bold enough to lend you money. Are you content with this, and will you enter my service upon these terms?"
"Yes, on any conditions which your majesty shall please to lay upon me. But when, in spite of this open declaration of your majesty, crazy people will still insist upon lending me money, you will admit, sire, in short, that it is not my debt, and I cannot be called upon for payment."
"I will take such precautions that no one will be foolish enough to lend you money. I will have it publicly announced that he who lends you money shall have no claim upon you, so that to lend you gold is to give you gold, and truly in such a way as to spare you even the trouble of thanks. I will have this trumpted through every street. Are you still content?"
"Oh, sire, you show me in this the greatest earthly kindness; you make me completely irresponsible. Woe to the fools and lunatics who are mad enough to lend me money! From this time onward, I shall never know a weary or listless moment. I shall have always the cheering and inspiring occupation of winning the hearts of trusting and weak-minded dunces, and, by adroit sleight-of-hand, transferring the gold from their pockets to my own."
"You are incorrigible," said the king. "I doubt if all mankind are made after the image of God. I think many of the race resemble the devil, and I look upon you, Pollnitz, as a tolerably successful portrait of his satanic majesty. I don't suppose you will be much discomposed by this opinion. I imagine you look upon God and the devil in very much the same light."
"Oh, not so, your majesty; I am far too religious to fall into such errors."
"Yes, you are too religious; or, rather you have to many religions. To which, for example, do you now profess to belong?"
"Sire, I have become a Protestant."
"So long as I believed in the possibility of marrying several millions—yes, from conviction. These millions would have made me happy, and surely I might allow myself to become a Protestant in order to be happy."
"Once for all, how many times have you changed your religion?" said the king, thoughtfully.
"Oh, not very often, sire! I am forever zealously seeking after the true faith, and so long as I do not find that religion which makes me content with such things as I have, I am forced to change in justice to myself. In my childhood I was baptized and brought up a Lutheran, and I had nothing against it, and remained in that communion till I went to Rome; there I saw the Holy Father, the Pope, perform mass, and the solemn ceremony roused my devotional feelings to such a height that I became a Catholic immediately. This was, however, no change of religion. Up to this time I had not acted for myself; so the Catholic may be justly called my first faith."
"Yes, yes! that was about the time you stole your dying bride's diamonds and fled from France."
"Oh, your majesty, that is a wicked invention of my enemies, and utterly unfounded. If I had really stolen and sold those magnificent brilliants—worth half a million—from my dying love, it would have been sufficient to assure me a luxurious life, and I should not have found it imperative to become a Catholic."
"Ah, you confess, then, that you did not become a Catholic from conviction, but in order to obtain the favor of the cardinals and the Pope?"
"Nothing escapes the quick eye of your majesty, so I will not dare to defend myself. I came back to Berlin then, a Catholic, and the ever-blessed king received me graciously. He was a noble and a pious man, and my soul was seized with a glowing desire to imitate him. I saw, indeed, how little I had advanced on the path to glory by becoming a Catholic! I made a bold resolve and entered the Reformed Church."
"And by this adroit move you obtained your object: you became the favorite of my father the king. As he, unhappily, can show you no further favor, it is no longer prudent to be a reformer, so you are again a Lutheran—from conviction!"
"Oh, all the world knows the great, exalted, and unprejudiced mind of our young king," said Pollnitz. "It is to him a matter of supreme indifference what religious sect a man belongs to, so he adopts that faith which makes him a brave, reliable, and serviceable subject of his king and his fatherland."
Frederick cast a dark and contemptuous glance at him. "You are a miserable mocker and despiser of all holy things; you belong to that large class who, not from convictions of reason, but from worldly- mindedness and licentiousness, do not believe in the Christian religion. Such men can never be honest; they have, perhaps, from their childhood been preached to, not to do evil from fear of hell- fire; and so soon as they cease to believe in hell-fire, they give themselves up to vice without remorse. You are one of these most miserable wretches; and I say to you, that you will at last suffer the torments of the damned. I know there is a hell-fire, but it can only be found in a man's conscience! Now go and enter at once upon your duties; in two hours I will receive Count Tessin in the palace at Berlin."
Pollnitz made the three customary bows and left the room. The king gazed after him contemptuously. "He is a finished scoundrel!" Then turning to Fredersdorf, who at that moment entered the room, he said, "I believe Pollnitz would sell his mother if he was in want of money. You have brought me back a charming fellow; I rejoice that there are no more of the race; Pollnitz has at least the fame of being alone in his style. Is there any one else who asks an audience?"
"Yes, sire, the antechamber is full, and every man declares that his complaint can only be made personally to your majesty. It will require much time to listen to all these men, and would be, besides, a bad example. If your majesty receives fifty men to-day, a hundred will demand audience to-morrow; they must therefore be put aside; I have advised them all to make their wishes known in writing."
"Well, I think every man knows that is the common mode of proceeding; as these people have not adopted it, it is evident they prefer speaking to me. There are many things which can be better said than written. A king has no right to close his ear to his subjects. A ruler should not resemble a framed and curtained picture of a god, only on rare and solemn occasions to be stared and wondered at; he must be to his people what the domestic altar and the household god was to the Romans, to which they drew near at all hours with consecrated hearts and pious memories. Here they made known all their cares, their sorrows, and their joys; here they found comfort and peace. I will never withdraw myself from my subjects; no, I will be the household god of my people, and will lend a willing ear to all their prayers and complaints. Turn no man away, Fredersdorf; I will announce it publicly, that every man has the right to appeal to me personally."
"My king is great and good," said Fredersdorf, sadly; "every man but myself can offer his petition to your majesty and hope for grace; the king's ear is closed only to me; to my entreaties he will not listen."
"Fredersdorf, you complain that I will not give my consent to your marriage. What would you? I love you too well to give you up; but when you take a wife you will be forever lost to me. A man cannot serve two masters, and I will not divide your heart with this Mademoiselle Daum; you must give it to me entire! Do not call me cruel, Fredersdorf; believe that I love you and cannot give you up."
"Oh, sire, I shall only truly belong to you in love and gratitude, when you permit me to be happy and wed the maiden I so fondly love."
"I will have no married private secretary, nor will I have a married secretary of state," said the king, with a dark frown. "Say not another word, Fredersdorf; put these thoughts away from you! My God, there are so many other things on which you could have set your heart! why must it be ever on a woman?"
"Because I love her passionately, your majesty."
"Ah, bah! do you not love other things with which you can console yourself? You are a scholar and an alchemist. Well, then, read Horace; exercise yourself in the art of making gold, and forget this Mademoiselle Daum, who, be it said, in confidence between us, has no other fascination than that she is rich. As to her wealth, that can have but little charm for YOU, who, without doubt, will soon have control of all the treasures of the world. By God's help, or the devil's, you will very soon, I suppose, discover the secret of making gold."
"He has, indeed, heard my conversation with Joseph," said Fredersdorf to himself, and ashamed and confused, he cast his eyes down before the laughing glance of the king.
"Read your Horace diligently," said Frederick—"you know he is also my favorite author; you shall learn one of his beautiful songs by heart, and repeat it to me."
The king walked up and down the room, and cast, from time to time, a piercing glance at Fredersdorf. He then repeated from Horace these two lines:
"'Torment not your heart With the rich offering of a bleeding lamb.'"
"I see well," said Fredersdorf, completely confused, "I see well that your majesty knows—"
"That it is high time," said the king, interrupting him, "to go to Berlin; you do well to remind me of it. Order my carriage—I will be off at once."
HOW THE PRINCESS ULRICA BECAME QUEEN OF SWEDEN.
Princess Ulrica, the eldest of the two unmarried sisters of the king, paced her room with passionate steps. The king had just made the queen-mother a visit, and had commanded that his two sisters should be present at the interview.
Frederick was gay and talkative. He told them that the Signora Barbarina had arrived, and would appear that evening at the castle theatre. He invited his mother and the two princesses to be present. He requested them to make tasteful and becoming toilets, and to be bright and amiable at the ball and supper after the theatre. The king implored them both to be gay: the one, in order to show that she was neither angry nor jealous; the other, that she was proud and happy.
The curiosity of the two young girls was much excited, and they urged the king to explain his mysterious words. He informed them that Count Tessin, the Swedish ambassador, would be present at the ball; that he was sent to Berlin to select a wife for the prince royal of Sweden, or, rather, to receive one; the choice, it appeared, had been already made, as the count had asked the king if he might make proposals for the hand of the Princess Amelia, or if she were already promised in marriage. The king replied that Amelia was bound by no contract, and that proposals from Sweden would be graciously received.
"Be, therefore, lovely and attractive," said the king, placing his hand caressingly upon the rosy cheek of his little sister; "prove to the count that the intellectual brow of my sweet sister is fitted to wear a crown worthily."
The queen-mother glanced toward the window into which the Princess Ulrica had hastily withdrawn.
"And will your majesty really consent that the youngest of my daughters shall be first married?"
The king followed the glance of his mother, and saw the frowning brow and trembling lip of his sister. Frederick feared to increase the mortification of Ulrica, and seemed, therefore, not to observe her withdrawal.
"I think," said he, "your majesty was not older than Amelia when you married my father; and if the crown prince of Sweden wishes to marry Amelia, I see no reason why we should refuse him. Happily, we are not Jews, and our laws do not forbid the younger sister to marry first. To refuse the prince the hand of Amelia, or to offer him the hand of Ulrica, would indicate that we feared the latter might remain unsought. I think my lovely and talented sister does not deserve to be placed in such a mortifying position, and that her hand will be eagerly sought by other royal wooers."
"And, for myself, I am not at all anxious to marry," said Ulrica, throwing her head back proudly, and casting a half-contemptuous, half-pitiful look at Amelia. "I have no wish to marry. Truly, I have not seen many happy examples of wedded life in our family. All my sisters are unhappy, and I see no reason why I should tread the same thorny path."
The king smiled. "I see the little Ulrica shares my aversion to wedded life, but we cannot expect, dearest, that all the world should be equally wise. We will, therefore, allow our foolish sister Amelia to wed, and run away from us. This marriage will cost her anxiety and sorrow; she must not only place her little feet in the land of reindeers, bears, and eternal snows, but she must also be baptized and adopt a new religion. Let us thank God, then, that the prince has had the caprice to pass you by and choose Amelia, who, I can see, is resolved to be married. We will, therefore, leave the foolish child to her fate."
It was Frederick's intention, by these light jests, to comfort his sister Ulrica, and give her time to collect herself. He did not remark that his words had a most painful effect upon his younger sister, and that she became deadly pale as he said she must change her faith in order to become princess royal of Sweden.
The proud queen-mother had also received this announcement angrily. "I think, sire," said she, "that the daughter of William the Second, and the sister of the King of Prussia, might be allowed to remain true to the faith of her fathers."
"Madame," said the king, bowing reverentially, "the question is not, I am sorry to say, as to Amelia's father or brother; she will be the mother of sons, who, according to the law of the land, must be brought up in the religion of their father. You see, then, that if this marriage takes place, one of the two contracting parties must yield; and, it appears to me, that is the calling and the duty of the woman."
"Oh, yes," said the queen bitterly, "you have been educated in too good a school, and are too thoroughly a Hohenzollern, not to believe in the complete self-renunciation of women. At this court, women have only to obey."
"Nevertheless, the women do rule over us; and even when we appear to command, we are submissive and obedient," said the king, as he kissed his mother's hand and withdrew.
The three ladies also retired to their own rooms immediately. Each one was too much occupied with her own thoughts to bear the presence of another.
And now, being alone, the Princess Ulrica found it no longer necessary to retain the smiles which she had so long and with such mighty effort forced to play upon her lips; every pulse was beating with glowing rage, and she gave free course to her scorn.
Her younger sister, this little maiden of eighteen years, was to be married, to wed a future king; while she, the eldest, now two-and- twenty, remained unchosen! And it was not her own disinclination nor the will of the king which led to this shameful result; no! the Swedish ambassador came not to seek her hand, but that of her sister! She, the elder, was scorned—set aside. The king might truthfully say there was no law of the land which forbade the marriage of the younger sister before the elder; but there was a law of custom and of propriety, and this law was trampled upon.
As Ulrica thought over these things, she rose from her seat with one wild spring. On entering the room she had completely overcome, and, with trembling knees, she had fallen upon the divan. She stood now, however, like a tigress prepared for attack, and looking for the enemy she was resolved to slay. The raging, stormy blood of the Hohenzollerns was aroused. The energy and pride of her mother glowed with feverish pulses in her bosom. She would have been happy to find an enemy opposed to her, the waves of passion rushing through her veins might have been assuaged; but she was alone, entirely alone, and had no other enemy to overcome than herself. She must, then, declare war against her own evil heart. With wild steps she rushed to the glass, and scrutinizingly and fiercely examined her own image. Her eye was cold, searching, and stern. Yes, she would prove herself; she would know if it were any thing in her own outward appearance which led the Swedish ambassador to choose her sister rather than herself.
"It is true, Amelia is more beautiful, in the common acceptation of the word; her eyes are larger, her cheek rosier, her smile more fresh and youthful, and her small but graceful figure is at the same time childlike and voluptuous. She would make an enchanting shepherdess, but is not fitted to be a queen. She has no majesty, no presence. She has not by nature that imposing gravity, which is the gift of Providence, and cannot be acquired, and without which the queen is sometimes forgotten in the woman. Amelia can never attain that eternal calm, that exalted composure, which checks all approach to familiarity, and which, by an almost imperceptible pressure of the hand and a light smile, bestows more happiness and a more liberal reward than the most impassioned tenderness and the warmest caresses of a commonplace woman. No, Amelia could never make a complete queen, she can only be a beautiful woman; while I—I know that I am less lovely, but I feel that I am born to rule. I have the grace and figure of a queen—yes, I have the soul of a queen! I would understand how to be imposing, and, at the same time, to obtain the love of my people, not from any weak thirst for love, but from a queenly ambition. But I am set aside, and Amelia will be a queen; my fate will be that of my elder sisters, I shall wed a poor margrave, or paltry duke, and may indeed thank God if I am not an old maiden princess, with a small pension."
She stamped wildly upon the floor, and paced the room with hasty steps. Suddenly she grew calmer, her brow, which had been overshadowed by dark clouds, cleared, and a faint smile played upon those lips which a moment before had been compressed by passion.
"After all," she said, "the formal demand for the hand of Amelia has not yet been made; perhaps the ambassador has mistaken my name for that of Amelia, and as he has made no direct proposition, I am convinced he wishes to make some observations before deciding. Now, if the result of this examination should prove to him that Amelia is not fitted to be the wife of his prince, and if Amelia herself—I thought I saw that she turned pale as the king spoke of abandoning her faith; and when she left the room, despair and misery were written upon that face which should have glowed with pride and triumph. Ah, I see land!" said Ulrica, breathing freely and sinking comfortably upon the divan, "I am no longer hopelessly shipwrecked; I have found a plank, which may perhaps save me. Let me consider calmly,"—and, as if Fate itself were playing into her hand, the door opened and Amelia entered.
One glance was sufficient to show Ulrica that she was not deceived, and that this important event had brought no joy to poor Amelia. The lovely eyes of the princess were red with weeping; and the soft lips, so generally and gladly given to gay chat and merry laughter, were now expressive of silent anguish. Ulrica saw all this, and laid her plans accordingly. In place of receiving Amelia coldly and repulsively, which but a few moments before she would have done, she sprang to meet her with every sign of heart-felt love; the little maiden threw herself weeping convulsively into her sister's arms, and was pressed closely and tenderly to her bosom.
"Tears!" said Ulrica lovingly, as she drew her sister to the sofa and pressed her down upon the soft pillows; "you weep, and yet a splendid future is this day secured to you!"
Amelia sobbed yet more loudly and pressed her tear-stained face more closely to the bosom of her sister. Ulrica looked down with a mixture of curiosity and triumph; she could not understand these tears; but she had a secret satisfaction in seeing the person she most envied weeping so bitterly.
"How is this? are you not happy to be a queen?"
Amelia raised her face hastily and sobbed out: "No! I am not pleased to be an apostate, to perjure myself! I am not content to deny my faith in order to buy a miserable earthly crown! I have sworn to be true to my God and my faith, and now I am commanded to lay it aside like a perishable robe, and take another in exchange."
"Ah, is it that?" said Ulrica, with a tone of contempt she could scarcely control; "you fear this bold step by which your poor innocent soul may be compromised."
"I will remain true to the belief in which I have been educated, and to which I have dedicated myself at the altar!" cried Amelia, bursting again into tears.
"It is easy to see that but a short time only has elapsed since you took these vows upon you. You have all the fanaticism of a new convert. How would our blessed father rejoice if he could see you now!"
"He would not force me to deny my religion; he would not, for the sake of outward splendor, endanger my soul's salvation. Oh! it is harsh and cruel of my brother to treat me as a piece of merchandise; he asks not whether my heart or principles can conscientiously take part in his ambitious plans."
Ulrica cast a long and piercing glance upon her sister. She would gladly have searched to the bottom of her soul; she wished to know if this fierce opposition to the marriage was the result of love to the faith of her fathers.
"And you are not ambitious? you are not excited by the thought of being a queen, of marrying a man who will fill a place in the world's history?"
The young girl raised her eyes in amazement, and her tears ceased to flow.
"What has a woman to do with the world's history?" she said; "think you I care to be named as the wife of a king of Sweden? It is a sad, unhappy fate to be a princess. We are sold to him who makes the largest offer and the most favorable conditions. Well, let it be so; it is the fate of all princesses; it is for this we are educated, and must bow humbly to the yoke; but liberty of conscience should be at least allowed us, freedom of thought, the poor consolation of worshipping God in the manner we prefer, and of seeking help and protection in the arms of that religion we believe in and love."