FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS FAMILY.
A HISTORICAL NOVEL
By L. Muhlbach
Translated From German By Mrs. Chapman Coleman And Her Daughters
I. The King II. Prince Henry III. Louise von Kleist IV. At the Masked Ball V. A Secret Captain VI. The Legacy of Von Trenck, Colonel of the Pandours VII. The King and Weingarten VIII. The Unwilling Bridegroom IX. The First Disappointment X. The Conquered XI. The Travelling Musicians XII. Travelling Adventures XIII. The Drag-Boat XIV. In Amsterdam XV. The King without Shoes
I. The Unhappy News II. Trenck on his Way to Prison III. Prince Henry and His Wife IV. The Fete in the Woods V. Intrigues VI. The Private Audience VII. The Traitor VIII. Declaration of War IX. The King and his Brothers X. The Laurel-Branch XI. The Ball at Count Bruhl's XII. The Interrupted Feast XIII. The Archives at Dresden XIV. Saxony Humiliated
I. The Maiden of Brunen II. News of Battle III. The Certificate of Enlistment IV. Farewell to the Village V. The Prisoner VI. The Prison Barricade VII. The Battle of Collin VIII. The Inimical Brothers IX. The Letters X. In the Castle at Dresden XI. The Te Deum XII. Camp Scene XIII. The Watch-Fire XIV. The Battle of Leuthen XV. Winter Quarters in Breslau XVI. The Broken Heart
I. The King and his Old and New Enemies II. The Three Officers III. Ranuzi IV. Louise du Trouffle V. The Fortune-Teller VI. A Court Day in Berlin VII. In the Window-Niche VIII. The Nutshells behind the Fauteuil of the Queen IX. The Duel and its Consequences X. The Five Couriers XI. After the Battle XII. A Heroic Soul XIII. The Two Grenadiers XIV. The Right Counsel XV. A Hero in Misfortune
I. The Teresiani and the Prussiani II. Frederick the Great as a Saint III. The Cloister Brothers of San Giovanni e Paolo IV. The Return from the Army V. The Brave Fathers and the Cowardly Sons VI. The Traitor's Betrayal VII. The Accusation VIII. Revenge IX. Trenck X. "Trenck, are you there?" XI. The King and the German Scholar XII. Gellert XIII. The Poet and the King XIV. The King and the Village Magistrate XV. The Proposal of Marriage XVI. The Ambassador and the Khan of Tartary
I. The King's Return II. Prince Henry III. Mother and Daughter IV. The King in Sans-Souci V. The Engraved Cup VI. The Princess and the Diplomatist VII. The Royal House-Spy VIII. The Clouds Gather IX. Brother and Sister X. The Stolen Child XI. The Discovery XII. The Morning at Sans-Souci XIII. A Husband's Revenge XIV. The Separation
CHAPTER I. THE KING.
The king laid his flute aside, and with his hands folded behind his back, walked thoughtfully up and down his room in Sans-Souci. His countenance was now tranquil, his brow cloudless; with the aid of music he had harmonized his soul, and the anger and displeasure he had so shortly before felt were soothed by the melodious notes of his flute.
The king was no longer angry, but melancholy, and the smile that played on his lip was so resigned and painful that the brave Marquis d'Argens would have wept had he seen it, and the stinging jest of Voltaire have been silenced.
But neither the marquis nor Voltaire, nor any of his friends were at present in Potsdam. D'Argens was in France, with his young wife, Barbe Cochois; Voltaire, after a succession of difficulties and quarrels, had departed forever; General Rothenberg had also departed to a land from which no one returns—he was dead! My lord marshal had returned to Scotland, Algarotti to Italy, and Bastiani still held his office in Breslau. Sans-Souci, that had been heretofore the seat of joy and laughing wit—Sans-Souci was now still and lonely; youth, beauty, and gladness had forsaken it forever; earnestness and duty had taken their place, and reigned in majesty within those walls that had so often echoed with the happy laugh and sparkling jest of the king's friends and contemporaries.
Frederick thought of this, as with folded hands he walked up and down, and recalled the past. Sunk in deep thought, he remained standing before a picture that hung on the wall above his secretary, which represented Barbarina in the fascinating costume of a shepherdess, as he had seen her for the first time ten years ago; it had been painted by Pesne for the king. What recollections, what dreams arose before the king's soul as he gazed at that bewitching and lovely face; at those soft, melting eyes, whose glance had once made him so happy! But that was long ago; it had passed like a sunbeam on a rainy day, it had been long buried in clouds. These remembrances warmed the king's heart as he now stood so solitary and loveless before this picture; and he confessed to that sweet image, once so fondly loved, what he had never admitted to himself, that his heart was very lonely.
But these painful recollections, these sad thoughts, did not last. The king roused himself from those dangerous dreams, and on leaving the picture cast upon it almost a look of hatred.
"This is folly," he said; "I will to work."
He approached the secretary, and seized the sealed letters and packets that were lying there. "A letter and packet from the queen," he said, wonderingly opening the letter first. Casting a hasty glance through it, a mocking smile crossed his face. "She sends me a French translation of a prayer-book," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "Poor queen! her heart is not yet dead, though, by Heaven! it has suffered enough."
He threw the letter carelessly aside, without glancing at the book; its sad, pleading prayer was but an echo of the thoughts trembling in her heart.
"Bagatelles! nothing more," he murmured, after reading the other letters and laying them aside. He then rang hastily, and bade the servant send Baron Pollnitz to him as soon as he appeared in the audience-chamber.
A few minutes later the door opened, and the old, wrinkled, sweetly smiling face of the undaunted courtier appeared.
"Approach," said the king, advancing a few steps to meet him. "Do you bring me his submission? Does my brother Henry acknowledge that it is vain to defy my power?"
Pollnitz shrugged his shoulders. "Sire," he said, sighing, "his highness will not understand that a prince must have no heart. He still continues in his disobedience, and declares that no man should marry a woman without loving her; that he would be contemptible and cowardly to allow himself to be forced to do what should be the free choice of his own heart."
Pollnitz had spoken with downcast eyes and respectful countenance; he appeared not to notice that the king reddened and his eyes burned with anger.
"Ah! my brother dared to say that?" cried the king. "He has the Utopian thought to believe that he can defy my wishes. Tell him he is mistaken; he must submit to me as I had to submit to my father."
"He gives that as an example why he will not yield. He believes a forced marriage can never be a happy one; that your majesty had not only made yourself unhappy by your marriage, but also your queen, and that there was not a lady in the land who would exchange places with your wife."
The king glanced piercingly at Pollnitz. "Do you know it would have been better had you forgotten a few of my wise brother's words?"
"Your majesty commanded me to tell you faithfully every word the prince said."
"And you are too much a man of truth and obedience, too little of a courtier, not to be frank and faithful. Is it not so? Ah! vraiment, I know you, and I know very well that you are playing a double game. But I warn you not to follow the promptings of your wicked heart. I desire my brother to marry, do you hear? I will it, and you, the grand chamberlain, Baron Pollnitz, shall feel my anger if he does not consent."
"And if he does?" said Pollnitz, in his laughing, shameless manner; "if I persuade the prince to submit to your wishes, what recompense shall I receive?"
"On the day of their betrothal, I will raise your income five hundred crowns, and pay your debts."
"Ah, sire, in what a pitiable dilemma you are placing me! Your majesty wishes Prince Henry to engage himself as soon as possible, and I must now wish it to be as late as possible."
"Because I must hasten to make as many debts as possible, that your majesty may pay them."
"You are and will remain an unmitigated fool; old age will not even cure you," said the king, smiling. "But speak, do you think my brother may be brought to reason?"
Pollnitz shrugged his shoulders, gave a sly smile, but was silent.
"You do not answer me. Is my brother in love? and has he confided in you?"
"Sire, I believe the prince is in love from ennui alone, but he swears it is his first love."
"That is an oath that is repeated to each lady-love; I am not afraid of it," said the king, smiling "Who is the enchantress that has heard his first loving vows? She is doubtless a fairy—a goddess of beauty."
"Yes, sire, she is young and beautiful, and declares it is also her first love, so no one can doubt its purity; no one understands love as well as this fair lady; no other than Madame von Kleist, who, as your majesty remembers, was lately divorced from her husband."
"And is now free to love again, as it appears," said the king, with a mocking smile. "But the beautiful Louise von Schwerin is a dangerous, daring woman, and we must check her clever plans in the bud. If she desires to be loved by my brother, she possesses knowledge, beauty, and experience to gain her point and to lead him into all manner of follies. This affair must be brought quickly to a close, and Prince Henry acknowledged to be the prince royal."
"Prince Henry goes this evening to Berlin to attend a feast given by the Prince of Prussia," whispered Pollnitz.
"Ah! it is true the prince's arrest ceases at six o'clock, but he will not forget that he needs permission to leave Potsdam."
"He will forget it, sire."
The king walked up and down in silence, and his countenance assumed an angry and threatening appearance. "This struggle must be brought to a close, and that speedily. My brother must submit to my authority. Go and watch his movements; as soon as he leaves, come to me."
Long after Pollnitz had left him, the king paced his chamber in deep thought. "Poor Henry! I dare not sympathize with you; you are a king's son—that means a slave to your position. Why has Providence given hearts to kings as to other men? Why do we thirst so for love? as the intoxicating drink is always denied us, and we dare not drink it even when offered by the most bewitching enchantress!"
Involuntarily his eye rested upon the beautiful picture of Barbarina. But he would have no pity with himself, as he dared not show mercy to his brother. Seizing the silver bell, he rang it hastily.
"Take that picture from the wall, and carry it immediately to the inspector, and tell him to hang it in the picture-gallery," said Frederick.
He looked on quietly as the servant took the picture down and carried it from the room, then sighed and gazed long at the plane where it had hung.
"Empty and cold! The last token of my youth is gone! I am now the king, and, with God's blessing, will be the father of my people."
CHAPTER II. PRINCE HENRY.
Prince Henry sat quiet and motionless in his lonely room; dark thoughts seemed to trouble him; his brow was clouded, his lips compressed. Had you not known him, you would have taken him for the king, so great was the resemblance of the two brothers; but it was only an outward resemblance. The prince had not the spiritual expression, his eyes had not the passionate fire, his face (beautiful as it was) wanted the fascinating geniality, the sparkling inspiration, that at all times lighted the king's countenance like a sunbeam.
The prince possessed a greater mind, a clearer understanding, but he wanted soul and poetic feeling, and allowed himself at times to ridicule his brother's poetic efforts. The king, knowing this, was inclined to regard the shortcomings of the prince as a determined contempt and resistance to his command; and as the prince became more reckless and more indifferent, he became more severe and harsh. Thus the struggle commenced that had existed for some time between the two brothers.
For the last four days the prince had been in arrest for disobeying orders, but the hour of his release was approaching, and he awaited it with impatience.
The bell of the nearest church had just announced the hour of six. The door opened immediately, and an officer, in the name of the king, pronounced his arrest at an end.
The prince answered with a low bow, and remained seated, pointing haughtily to the door; but as the officer left him he arose and paced hastily to and fro.
"He treats me like a school-boy," he murmured; "but I shall show him that I have a will of my own! I will not be intimidated—I will not submit; and if the king does not cease to annoy me, if he continues to forget that I am not a slave, but son and brother of a king, no motives shall restrain me, and I also will forget, as he does, that I am a prince, and remember only that I am a free, responsible man. He wishes me to marry, and therefore has me followed, and surrounds me with spies. He wishes to force me to marry. Well, I will marry, but I will choose my own wife!"
The prince had just made this resolve, when the door opened, and the servant announced that Messrs. Kalkreuth and Kaphengst awaited his commands.
He bade them enter, and advancing smilingly gave them his hand.
"Welcome! welcome!" he said; "the cage is open, and I may enjoy a little air and sunshine; let us not delay to make use of this opportunity. Our horses shall be saddled."
"They are already saddled, prince," said Baron Kalkreuth. "I have ordered them to the court, and as soon as it is dark we will mount them."
"What! is it not best that we should mount before my door and ride openly away?" said the prince, wonderingly.
"It is my opinion that is the best plan," cried Baron Kaphengst, laughing gayly. "Every one will believe your highness to be simply taking a ride, while curiosity would be raised if we left the city on foot."
"I think leaving in the dark, and on foot, looks as if I were afraid," said the prince, thoughtfully.
"Secrecy is good for priests and old women, but not for us," cried Kaphengst.
"Secrecy suits all who wish to do wrong," said Kalkreuth, earnestly.
The prince glanced hastily at him. "You believe, then, we are about to do wrong?"
"I dare not speak of your highness, but we two are certainly doing wrong; we are about to commit an act of insubordination. But still, my prince, I am ready to do so, as your highness wishes us to accompany you."
The prince did not answer, but stepped to the window, and looked out thoughtfully and silently. In a few moments he returned, looking calm and resolute.
"Kalkreuth is right—we were going to do wrong, and we must avoid it. I shall write to the king, and ask leave for you and myself to go to Berlin."
"That is, unfortunately, impossible," said a sweet voice behind him, and as the prince turned he saw the smiling face of Pollnitz. "I beg pardon, your highness, for having entered unannounced, but you allowed me to come at this hour and give you an account of the commissions you gave me."
"Why do you say it is impossible to obtain leave of the king today?" asked Henry, hastily.
"Because his majesty is already in the concert-saloon, and your highness knows that he has strictly forbidden any one to disturb him there."
"We shall, then, have to give up our plan and remain here," said the prince.
Kaphengst glanced angrily and threateningly at his friend.
"And why should your highness do this?" asked Pollnitz, astonished. "All your preparations are made, all your commands fulfilled. I have procured your costumes; no one will recognize you, and if they should, would not dare to betray you to the king. Only two persons know that you are to visit the ball, the Prince of Prussia, and a lovely lady, whose beautiful eyes were misty with tears when I delivered her your message. 'Tell the prince,' she murmured, in a tender voice, 'I will await him there, even if I knew the king would crush me with his anger.'"
The prince blushed with joy. "And you say it is impossible for me to see the king?"
"Impossible, my prince."
"Well, we will have to renounce it," said the prince, sighing.
"Renounce seeing the king, yes! for he will not leave his rooms in Sans-Souci today."
"Then we would be entirely safe; he would not notice our departure," said Kaphengst, quickly.
"Entirely safe," said Pollnitz.
"That is, if Baron Pollnitz does not himself inform the king," said Baron Kalkreuth, whose quick, clear glance rested upon the smiling face of the courtier, and appeared to read his inmost thoughts.
Baron Pollnitz cast a suspicious and angry glance at Kalkreuth. "I did not know that borrowing money from you gave you the right to speak rudely to me!"
"Silence! gentlemen," cried the prince, who, until now, had stood quietly struggling with his own wishes. "Take your cloaks and let us walk. Did you not say that horses were awaiting us at the door, Baron Kalkreuth?"
"I said so, your highness."
"And you Pollnitz? Did you not say that three costumes awaited us in Berlin?"
"Yes, your highness."
"Well, then," said the prince, smiling, "we must not allow the horses and costumes to await us any longer. Come, gentlemen, we will ride to Berlin."
"Really it was hard to get him off," murmured Pollnitz, as he regained the street, and saw the three young men fading in the distance. "The good prince had quite a dutiful emotion; if the king only knew it, he would forgive him all, and renounce the idea of his marriage. But that would not suit me—my debts would not be paid! I must not tell the king of his brother's inward struggle."
"Well!" said the king, as Pollnitz entered, "has my brother really gone to Berlin?"
"Yes, your majesty, and accompanied by the two Messieurs—"
"Silence!" cried the king, hastily; "I do not wish to know their names, I should have to punish them also. He has then gone, and without any hesitation, any reluctance?"
"Yes, sire, without hesitation. He thinks he has the right to go where he pleases, and to amuse himself as he can."
"Order the carriage, Pollnitz," said the king. "Without doubt my brother has taken the shortest road to Berlin?"
"Then there is no danger of our meeting them and being recognized; and as we have relays on the road, we will reach Berlin before them."
CHAPTER III. LOUISE VON KLEIST.
Madame von Kleist was alone in her boudoir. She had just completed her toilet, and was viewing herself with considerable pleasure in a large Venetian glass. She had reason to be pleased. The costume of an odalisque became her wonderfully; suited her luxuriant beauty, her large, dreamy blue eyes, her full red lips, her slender, swaying form. At twenty-eight, Louise von Kleist was still a sparkling beauty; the many trials and sorrows she had passed through had not scattered the roses from her cheek, nor banished youth from her heart.
Louise von Kleist resembled greatly the little Louise von Schwerin of earlier days—the little dreamer who found it romantic to love a gardener, and was quite ready to flee with him to a paradise of love. The king's watchfulness saved her from this romantic folly, and gave her another husband. This unhappy match was now at an end. Louise was again free. She still felt in her heart some of the wild love of romance and adventure of the little Louise; she was the same daring, dreamy, impressible Louise, only now she was less innocent. The little coquette from instinct was changed into a coquette from knowledge.
She stood before the glass and surveyed once more her appearance; then acknowledged with a pleased smile that she was beautiful enough to fascinate all men, to arouse in all hearts a painful longing.
"But I shall love no one but the prince," she said, "and when my power over him is sufficient to induce him to marry me, I shall reward him by my faith, and entire submission to his wishes. Oh! I shall be a virtuous wife, a true and faithful mother; and my lovely little Camilla shall find in her mother a good and noble example. I shall promise this to my angel with my farewell kiss; and then—to the ball!"
She entered the next chamber, and stood at her child's bed. What a strange sight! This woman, in a fantastic, luxuriant costume, bending over the cot of the little girl, with such tender, pious looks, with folded hands, and soft, murmuring lips, uttering a prayer or holy wish!
"How beautiful she is!" murmured Louise, not dreaming that her own beauty at this moment beamed with touching splendor—that mother love had changed the alluring coquette into an adorable saint—"how beautiful she is!"
The gay, ringing laughter of her daughter interrupted her; the child opened her large black eyes, and looked amused.
"You naughty child, you were not asleep," said Louise.
"No, mamma, I was not asleep; I was playing comedy."
"Ah! and who taught you to play comedy, you silly child?" said Louise, tenderly.
The child looked earnestly before her for a few moments as children are wont to do when a question surprises them.
"I believe, mamma," she said, slowly—"I believe I learned it from you."
"From me, Camilla? When have you seen me act?"
"Oh, very often," she cried, laughing. "Just a few days ago, mamma, don't you remember when we were laughing and talking so merrily together, Prince Henry was announced, and you sent me into the next room, but the door was open, and I saw very well that you made a sad face, and I heard the prince ask you how you were, and you answered, 'I am sick, your highness, and how could it be otherwise, as I am always sad or weeping?' Now, mother, was not that acting?"
Louise did not answer. Breathing heavily, she laid her hand upon her heart, for she felt a strange sorrow and indescribable fear.
Camilla continued, "Oh! and I saw how tenderly the prince looked at you; how he kissed you, and said you were as lovely as an angel. Oh, mamma, I too shall be beautiful, and beloved by a prince!"
"To be beautiful, darling, you must be good and virtuous," said the fair odalisque, earnestly.
Little Camilla arose in her bed; the white gown fell from her shoulders and exposed her soft childish form, her brown ringlets curled down her neck and lost themselves in her lace-covered dress.
The chandelier that hung from the ceiling lighted her lovely face, and made the gold and silver embroidered robes and jewels of her mother sparkle brilliantly.
At this moment, as with folded arms she glanced up at her mother, she looked like an angel, but she had already dangerous and earthly thoughts in her heart.
"Mamma," she said, "why should I be virtuous, when you are not?"
Louise trembled, and looked terrified at her daughter. "Who told you I was not virtuous?"
"My poor, dear papa told me when he was here the last time. Oh, he told me a great deal, mamma! He told," continued the child, with a sly smile, "how you loved a beautiful gardener, and ran off with him, and how he, at the command of the king, married you and saved you from shame; and he said you were not at all grateful, but had often betrayed and deceived him, and, because he was so unhappy with you, he drank so much wine to forget his sorrow. Oh, mamma, you don't know how poor papa cried as he told me all this, and besought me not to become like you, but to be good, that every one might love and respect me!"
Whilst Camilla spoke, her mother had sunk slowly, as if crushed, to the floor; and, with her face buried in the child's bed, sobbed aloud.
"Don't cry, mamma," said Camilla, pleadingly; "believe me, I will not do as papa says, and I will not be so stupid as to live in a small town, where it is so still and lonesome."
As her mother still wept, Camilla continued, as if to quiet her:
"I shall be like you, mamma; indeed, I will. Oh, you should but see how I watch you, and notice how you smile at all the gentlemen, what soft eyes you make, and then again, how cold and proud you are, and then look at them so tenderly! Oh, I have noticed all, and I shall do just the same, and I will run away with a gardener, but I will not let papa catch me—no, not I."
"Hush, child, hush!" cried the mother, rising, pale and trembling, from her knees; "you must become a good and virtuous girl, and never run away with a man. Forget what your bad father has told you; you know he hates me, and has told you all these falsehoods to make you do the same."
"Mamma, can you swear that it is not true?"
"Yes, my child, I can swear it."
"You did not run off with a gardener?"
"No, my child. Have I not told you that a virtuous girl never runs away?"
"You did not make papa unhappy, and, being his wife, love other men?"
"No, my daughter."
"Mamma," said the child, after a long pause, "can you give me your right hand, and swear you did not?"
Louise hesitated a moment; a cold shiver ran through her, she felt as if she was about to perjure herself; but as she looked into the beautiful face of her child, whose eyes were fixed on her with a strange expression, she overcame her unwillingness.
"Here is my hand—I swear that all your father told you is false!"
Camilla laughed gleefully. "Oh, mamma, I have caught you: you always want me to tell the truth, and never give my right hand when a thing is not true, and now you have done it yourself."
"What have I done!" said the mother, trembling.
"You gave me your right hand, and swore that all papa told me was false; and I say it is true, and you have sworn falsely."
"Why do you believe that, Camilla?" she asked.
"I don't believe it, I know it," said the child, with a sly smile, "When papa spoke to you, for the last time, and told you good-by forever, he told you the same he had told me. Oh! I was there and heard all; you did not see me slip into the room and hide behind the fire-place. Papa told you that you had been the cause of all his unhappiness and shame; that from the day you had run off with the gardener and he, at the king's command, went after you, and married you—from that day, he had been a lost man, and when he said that, you cried, but did not tell him, as you told me, that it was not true."
Louise did not answer. This last taunt had crushed her heart, and silenced her. Still leaning on the bed, she looked at her child with painful tenderness. Camilla's mocking laughter had pierced her soul as with a dagger.
"Lost," she murmured, "both of us lost!"
With passionate despair she threw her arms around the child, and pressed her closely; kissed her wildly again and again, and covered her face with burning tears.
"No, Camilla, no! you shall not be lost, you must remain good and pure! Every child has its guardian angel; pray, my child, pray that your angel may watch over you!"
She pressed her again in her arms, then returned to her chamber, sadder and more hopeless than she had ever been before.
But this unusual sadness commenced to annoy her; her heart was not accustomed to feel sorrow, and her remorseful, dreary feeling made her shudder. "If the carriage would but come!" she murmured, and then, as if to excuse her thoughtlessness, she added, "it is now my holy duty to listen to the prince; I must regain the respect of my child. Yes, yes, I must become the wife of Henry I I can accomplish this, for the prince loves me truly."
And now, she was again the coquette, whose captivating smile harmonized perfectly with her alluring costume—no longer the tender mother, no longer the sinner suffering from repentance and self-reproach.
She stood before the glass, and arranged her disordered dress and smoothed her dishevelled hair.
"I must be bewitching and fascinating," she murmured, with a smile that showed two rows of pearl-like teeth; "the prince must gain courage from my glance, to offer me his hand. Oh, I know he is quite prepared to do so, if it were only to annoy his brother!" As she saw the carriage drive up, she exclaimed, with sparkling eyes, "The battle begins—to victory!"
CHAPTER IV. AT THE MASKED BALL.
The feast had commenced. As Louise von Kleist, the beautiful odalisque, entered the dancing-saloon, she was almost blinded by the gay and sparkling assembly. The fairy-like and fantastic robes sparkled with gold and jewels. The sea of light thrown from the crystal chandelier upon the mirrors and ornaments of the brilliant saloon dazzled the eye. The entertainments of the Prince of Prussia were renowned for their taste and splendor.
Unrecognized, the beautiful Louise slipped through the gay assembly of masks, and, when detecting some friends under the muffled forms of their disguise, she murmured their names, and some mischievous and witty remark; then springing gayly on to shoot again her arrow, and excite astonishment and surprise.
"Oh, that life were a masked ball!" she murmured softly to herself, "mysterious and sweet! where you find more than you seek, and guess more than is known. No one recognizes me here. The brave and handsome Count Troussel, who is leaning against that pillar, and casting such melancholy glances through the crowd, hunting for the one his heart adores, never dreams that she is standing opposite him, and is laughing at his perplexity. No, he does not recognize me, and no one knows my costume but the prince and Pollnitz, and as they have not yet found me, I conclude they have not arrived. I will therefore amuse myself during their absence."
She was just approaching the sentimental cavalier, when she suddenly felt her arm touched, and, turning around, saw two masks wrapped in dark dominoes before her.
"Beautiful odalisque, I bring you your sultan." murmured one of them, in whom she recognized Baron Pollnitz.
"And where is my sultan?" she asked.
"Here," said the second mask, offering the beautiful lady his arm. Louise saw those glorious eyes beaming upon her through his mask-eyes which the king and Prince Henry alone possessed.
"Ah, my prince!" she murmured softly and reproachfully, "you see that it is I who have waited."
The prince did not answer, but conducted her hastily through the crowd. They had soon reached the end of the saloon. A small flight of steps led them to a little boudoir opening on a balcony. Into this boudoir Pollnitz led the silent pair, then bowing low he left them.
"My God! your highness, if we should be surprised here!"
"Fear nothing, we will not be surprised. Pollnitz guards the door. Now, as we are alone and undisturbed, let us lay aside our disguises."
Thus speaking, the supposed prince removed his mask and laid it upon the table.
"The king!" cried Louise, terrified and stepping back.
The king's eyes rested upon her with a piercing glance. "What!" he asked, "are you still acting? You appear astonished; and still you must have known me. Who but the king would show the beautiful Madame von Kleist such an honor? In what other cavalier could you place such perfect confidence as to accompany him into this lonely boudoir? With whom but the king could you have trusted your fair fame? You need not be alarmed; to be in my presence is to be under my protection—the kind guardianship of your king. I thank you that you knew me, and, knowing me, followed me trustingly."
The searching glance of the king alarmed Louise; his mocking words bewildered her, and she was incapable of reply.
She bowed silently, and allowed herself to be conducted to the divan.
"Sit down, and let us chat awhile," said the king. "You know I hate the noise of a feast, and love to retire into some corner, unnoticed and unseen. I had no sooner discovered the fair Louise under this charming costume, than I knew I had found good company. I ordered Pollnitz to seek out for us some quiet spot, where we might converse freely. Commence, therefore."
"Of what shall I speak, your majesty?" said Louise, confused and frightened. She knew well that the king had not found her by chance, but had sought her with a determined purpose.
"Oh! that is a question whose naivete reminds me of the little Louise Schwerin of earlier days. Well, let us speak on that subject which interests most deeply all who know you; let us speak of your happiness. You sigh. Have you already paid your tribute? Do you realize the fleetness of all earthly bliss?"
"Ah! your majesty, an unhappy marriage is the most bitter offering that can be made to experience," sighed Madame von Kliest. "My life was indeed wretched until released by your kindness from that bondage."
"Ah, yes, it is true you are divorced. When and upon whom will you now bestow this small, white hand?"
Louise looked up astonished. "What!" she stammered, confused, "your majesty means—"
"That you will certainly marry again. As beautiful a lady as you will always be surrounded by lovers, and I sincerely hope that you will marry. You should go forward as an example to my brothers, your youthful playmates, and I will tell my brother Henry that marriage is not so bad a thing, as the beautiful Madame von Kleist has tried it for the second time."
"I doubt very much, sire," said Louise, timidly, "if the example of so insignificant a person would have the desired effect upon the prince."
"You do yourself injustice. The prince has too strong an admiration for you, not to be influenced by your encouraging example. My brother must and shall marry according to his birth. I am assured that, contrary to my wishes and commands, he is about to make a secret and illegitimate marriage. I am not yet acquainted with the name of his wily mistress, but I shall learn it, and, when once noted in my memory, woe be unto her, for I shall never acknowledge such a marriage, and I shall take care that his mistress is not received at court—she shall be regarded as a dishonored woman."
"Your majesty is very stern and pitiless toward the poor prince," said Madame Kleist, who had succeeded in suppressing her own emotions, and, following the lead of the king, she was desirous to let it appear that the subject was one of no personal interest to herself.
"No," said the king, "I am not cruel and not pitiless. I must forget that I am a brother, and remember only I am a king, not only for the good of my family, but for the prosperity of my people. My brother must marry a princess of wealth and influence. Tell Prince Henry this. Now," said the king, with an engaging smile, "let us speak of your lovely self. You will, of course, marry again. Have you not confidence enough in me to tell me the name of your happy and favored lover?"
"Sire," said Louise, smiling, "I do not know it myself, and to show what unbounded confidence I have in your majesty, I modestly confess that I am not positively certain whether among my many followers there is one who desires to be the successor of Kleist. It is easy to have many lovers, but somewhat difficult to marry suitably."
"We need a marrying man to chase away the crowd of lovers," said the king, smiling. "Think awhile—let your lovers pass in review before you—perhaps you may find among them one who is both ardent and desirable."
Louise remained thoughtful for a few moments. The king observed her closely.
"Well," he said, after a pause, "have you made your selection?"
Madame von Kleist sighed, and her beautiful bright eyes filled with tears. She took leave of her most cherished and ambitious dream—bade farewell to her future of regal pomp and splendor.
"Yes, sire, I have found an e'poitseur, who only needs encouragement, to offer me his heart and hand."
"Is he of good family?"
"Yes, sire. He wears only a captain's epaulets. Your majesty sees that I am modest."
"On the day of his marriage he shall be major. When the Church pronounces her blessing, the king's blessing shall not be wanting. We are, of course, agreed. When will you be engaged?"
"Sire, that depends upon my lover, and when I succeed in bringing him to terms."
"We will say in eight days. You see I am anxious to become speedily acquainted with one blissful mortal, and I think that the husband of the beautiful Madame Kleist will be supremely happy. In eight days, then, you will be engaged, and, to complete your good work, you must announce this happy fact to my brother Henry. Of course, he must not even surmise that you sacrifice yourself in order to set him a good example. No, you will complete your noble work, and tell him that a love which you could not control induced you to take this step; and that he may not doubt your words, you will tell your story cheerfully—yes, joyously."
"Sire, it is too much—I cannot do it," cried Madame von Kleist. "It is enough to trample upon my own heart; your majesty cannot desire me to give the prince his death-blow."
The king's eyes flashed angrily, but he controlled himself.
"His death!" he repeated, shrugging his shoulders, "as if men died of such small wounds. You know better yourself. You know that the grave of one love is the cradle of another. Be wise, and do as I tell you: in eight days you will be engaged, and then you will have the kindness to acquaint Prince Henry with your happy prospects."
"Ah, sire, do not be so cruel as to ask this of me," cried Louise, gliding from the divan upon her knees, "be merciful. I am ready to obey the commands of my king, to make the sacrifice that is asked of me—let it not be too great a one. Your majesty asks that I shall draw down the contempt of the man I love upon myself; that this man must not only give me up, but scorn me. You require too much. This is more than the strongest, bravest heart can endure. Your majesty knows that the prince loves me passionately. Ah, sire, your brother would have forfeited his rank and your favor by marrying me, but he would have been a happy man; and I ask the king if that is not, at last, the best result? Are you, sire, content and happy since you trampled your breathing, loving heart to death at the foot of the throne? You command your brother to do as you have done. Well, sire, I submit—not only to resign the prince, but to marry again, to marry without love. Perhaps my soul will be lost by this perjury, but what matters that—it is a plaything in the hands of the king? He may break my heart, but it shall not be dishonored and trodden in the dust. The prince shall cease to love me, but I will not be despised by him. He shall not think me a miserable coquette, despise, and laugh at me. Now, sire, you can crush me in your anger. I have said what I had to say—you know my decision."
She bowed her head almost to the earth; motionless, kneeling at the foot of the king, her hands folded on her breast, she might in reality have been taken for an odalisque but that her sad, tearful face was not in unison with the situation or costume.
A long pause ensued—a solemn, fearful pause. The king struggled with his rage, Louise with her disappointment and distress. Sounds of laughter, the gay notes of music reached them from the dancing-saloon. The ball had commenced, and youth and beauty were mingling in the dance. These sounds aroused the king, and the sad contrast made Louise shudder.
"You will not, then, comply with my request?" said the king, sternly.
"Sire, I cannot!" murmured Louise, raising her hands imploringly to the king.
"You cannot!" cried the king, whose face glowed with anger; "you cannot, that means you will not, because your vain, coquettish heart will not resign the love of the prince. You submit to resign his hand, because you must; but you wish to retain his love: he must think of you as a heavenly ideal, to be adored and longed for, placed amongst the stars for worship. Ah, madame, you are not willing to make the gulf between you impassable! You say you wish, at least, to retain the respect of Prince Henry. I ask you, madame, what you have done to deserve his respect? You were an ungrateful and undutiful daughter; you did not think of the shame and sorrow you prepared for your parents, when you arranged your flight with the gardener. I succeeded in rescuing you from dishonor by marrying you to a brave and noble cavalier. It depended upon you entirely to gain his love and respect, but you forgot your duty as a wife, as you had forgotten it as a daughter. You had no pity with the faults and follies of your husband, you drove him to despair. At last, to drown his sorrows, he became a drunkard, and you, instead of remaining at his side to encourage and counsel him, deserted him, and so heartlessly exposed his shame that I, to put an end to the scandal, permitted your divorce. You not only forgot your duty as a wife and daughter, but also as a mother. You have deprived your child of a father, you have made her an orphan; you have soiled, almost depraved her young soul; and now, after all this, you wish to be adored and respected as a saint by my poor brother! No, madame! I shall know how to save him from this delusion; I shall tell to him and the world the history of little Louise von Schwerin! Fritz Wendel still lives, and, if you desire it, I can release him, and he may tell his romantic story."
"Oh, for the second time to-day I have heard that hateful name!" cried Louise; "the past is an avenger that pursues us mercilessly through our whole lives."
"Choose, madame!" said the king, after a pause; "will you announce your betrothal to my brother in a gay and unembarrassed tone, or shall I call Fritz Wendel, that he may sing the unhappy prince to sleep with his romantic history?"
Whilst the king spoke, Louise had raised herself slowly from her knees, and taken a seat upon the divan. Now rising, and bowing lowly, she said, with trembling lips and tearful voice: "Sire, I am prepared to do all that you wish. I shall announce my betrothal to the prince cheerfully, and without sighs or tears. But be merciful, and free me forever from that hideous spectre which seems ever at my side!"
"Do you mean poor Fritz Wendel?" said the king, smiling.
"Well, on the day of your marriage I will send him as a soldier to Poland: there he may relate his love-adventures, but no one will understand him. Are you content?"
"I thank you, sire," said Louise, faintly.
"Ah, I see our conversation has agitated you a little!" said the king. "Fortunately, we are now at an end. In the next eight days, remember, you will be engaged!"
"The day of your marriage, I will make your captain a major. You promise to tell my brother of your engagement, and that it is in accordance with the warmest wishes of your heart?"
"Yes, sire; and you will banish the gardener forever?"
"I will; but wait—one thing more. Where will you tell my brother of your engagement, and before what witnesses?"
"At the place and before the witnesses your majesty may select," said Madame von Kleist.
The king thought a moment. "You will do it in my presence," said he; "I will let you know the time and place through Pollnitz. We have arranged our little affairs, madame, and we will descend to the saloon where, I think, your epouseur is sighing for your presence."
"Let him sigh, sire! With your permission, I should like to retire."
"Go, madame, where you wish. Pollnitz will conduct you to your carriage."
He offered her his hand, and, with a friendly bow, led her to the door.
"Farewell, madame! I believe we part friends?"
"Sire," she answered, smiling faintly, "I can only say as the soldiers do, 'I thank you for your gracious punishment!'"
She bowed and left the room hastily, that the king might not see her tears.
CHAPTER V. A SECRET CAPTAIN.
The king looked long after her in silence; at first with an expression of deep pity, but this soon gave place to a gay, mocking smile.
"She is not a woman to take sorrow earnestly. When mourning no longer becomes her, she will lay it aside for the rosy robes of joy. She is a coquette, nothing more. It is useless to pity her."
He now stepped upon the balcony that overlooked the saloon, and glanced furtively from behind the curtains upon the gay assembly below.
"Poor, foolish mankind! how wise you might be, if you were not so very childish—if you did not seek joy and happiness precisely where it is not to be found! But how is this?" said the king, interrupting himself, "those two giant forms at the side of the little Armenians are certainly Barons Kalkreuth and Kaphengst, and that is my brother with them. Poor Henry! you have made a bad use of your freedom, and must, therefore, soon lose it. Ah! see how searchingly he turns his head, seeking his beautiful odalisque! In vain, my brother, in vain! For to-day, at least, we have made her a repentant Magdalen; to-morrow she will be again a life-enjoying Aspasia. Ah, the prince separates himself from his followers. I have a few words to whisper in the ear of the gay Kaphengst."
The king stepped back into the room, and after resuming his mask, he descended into the saloon, accompanied by his grand chamberlain.
Mirth and gayety reigned; the room was crowded with masks. Here stood a group in gay conversation; there was dancing at the other end of the saloon. Some were listening to the organ-player, as he sang, in comical German and French verses, little incidents and adventures that had occurred during the present year at court, bringing forth laughter, confused silence, and blushes. Some were amusing themselves with the lively, witty chat of the son of the Prince of Prussia, the little ten-year-old, Prince Frederick William. He was dressed as the God of Love, with bow and quiver, dancing around, and, with an early-ripened instinct, directing his arrow at the most beautiful and fascinating ladies in the room.
Prince Henry paid no attention to all this; his wandering glance sought only the beautiful Louise, and a deep sigh escaped him at not having found her. Hastily he stepped through the rows of dancers which separated the two cavaliers from him.
"It appears," murmured Baron Kalkreuth to his friend, "it appears to me that the prince would like to get rid of us. He wishes to be entirely unobserved. I think we can profit by this, and therefore I shall take leave of you for a while, and seek my own adventures."
"I advise you," murmured Baron Kaphengst, laughingly, "to appoint no rendezvous for to-morrow."
"And why not, friend?"
"Because you will not be able to appear; for you will doubtless be in arrest."
"That is true, and I thank you for your prudent advice, and shall arrange all my rendezvous for the day after to-morrow. Farewell."
Baron Kaphengst turned laughingly to another part of the saloon. Suddenly he felt a hand placed on his shoulder, and a low voice murmured his name.
Terrified, he turned. "I am not the one you seek, mask," he said; but as he met those two large, burning eyes, he shuddered, and even his bold, daring heart stood still a moment from terror. Only the king had such eyes; only he had such a commanding glance.
"You say you are not the one I seek," said the mask. "Well, yes, you speak wisely. I sought in you a brave and obedient officer, and it appears that you are not that. You are not, then, Lieutenant von Kaphengst?"
Kaphengst thought a moment. He was convinced it was the king that spoke with him, for Frederick had not attempted to disguise his voice. Kaphengst knew he was discovered. There remained nothing for him but to try and reconcile the king by a jest.
He bowed close to the king, and whispered: "Listen, mask—as you have recognized me, I will acknowledge the truth. Yes, I am Lieutenant von Kaphengst, and am incognito. You understand me—I came to this ball incognito. He is a scoundrel who repeats it!" and, without awaiting an answer, he hastened away to seek the prince and Baron Kalkreuth, acquaint them with the king's presence, and fly with them from his anger.
But Prince Henry, whose fruitless search for his sweetheart had made him angry and defiant, declared he would remain at the ball until it was over, and that it should be optional with the king to insult his brother openly, and to punish and humble a prince of his house before the world.
"I, unfortunately, do not belong to the princes of the royal house, and I therefore fear that the king might regard me as the cat who had to pull the hot chestnuts from the ashes, and I might suffer for all three. I therefore pray your highness to allow me to withdraw."
"You may go, and if you meet Kalkreuth, ask him to accompany you. You officers must not carry your insubordination any further. I, as prince, and Hohenzollern, dare the worst, but, be assured, I shall pay for my presumption. Farewell, and hasten! Do not forget Kalkreuth."
Kaphengst sought in vain. Kalkreuth was nowhere to be found, and he had to wend his way alone to Potsdam.
"I shall take care not to await the order of the king for my arrest," said Baron Kaphengst to himself, as he rode down the road to Potsdam. "I shall be in arrest when his order arrives. Perhaps that will soften his anger."
Accordingly, when Kaphengst arrived at the court guard, in Potsdam, he assumed the character of a drunken, quarrelsome officer, and played his role so well that the commander placed him in arrest.
An hour later the king's order reached the commander to arrest Baron Kaphengst, and with smiling astonishment he received the answer that he had been under arrest for the last hour.
In the mean time, Kaphengst had not miscalculated. The prince was put under arrest for eight days, Kalkreuth for three. He was released the next morning, early enough to appear at the parade. As the king, with his generals, rode down to the front, he immediately noticed the audacious young officer, whose eye met his askance and pleadingly. The king beckoned to him, and as Baron Kaphengst stood erect before him, the king said, laughingly; "It is truly difficult to exchange secrets with one of your height; bow down to me, I have something to whisper in you ear."
The comrades and officers, yes, even the generals, saw not without envy that the king was so gracious to the young Lieutenant von Kaphengst; whispered a few words to him confidentially, and then smiling and bowing graciously, moved on.
It was, therefore, natural that, when the king left, all were anxious to congratulate the young lieutenant, and ask him what the king had whispered. But Baron Kaphengst avoided, with dignified gravity, all inquiries, and only whispered to his commander softly, but loud enough for every one to hear, the words, "State secrets," then bowing profoundly, returned with an earnest and grave face to his dwelling, there to meditate at his leisure upon the king's words—words both gracious and cruel, announcing his advancement, but at the same time condemning him to secrecy.
The king's words were: "You are a captain, but he is a scoundrel who repeats it!"
Thus Baron Kaphengst was captain, but no one suspected it; the captain remained a simple lieutenant in the eyes of the world.
CHAPTER VI. THE LEGACY OF VON TRENCK, COLONEL OF THE PANDOURS.
Baron Weingarten, the new secretary of legation of the Austrian embassy in Berlin, paced the ambassador's office in great displeasure. It was the hour in which all who had affairs to arrange with the Austrian ambassador, passports to vise, contracts to sign, were allowed entrance, and it was the baron's duty to receive them. But no one came; no one desired to make use of his ability or his mediation, and this displeased the baron and put him out of humor. It was not the want of work and activity that annoyed him; the baron would have welcomed the dolce far niente had it not been unfortunately connected with his earnings; the fees he received for passports, and the arrangement of other affairs, formed part of his salary as secretary of legation, and as he possessed no fortune, this was his only resource. This indigence alone led him to resign his aristocratic independence and freedom of action. He had not entered the state service from ambition, but for money, that he might have the means of supporting his mother and unmarried sisters, and enable himself to live according to his rank and old aristocratic name. Baron Weingarten would have made any sacrifice, submitted to any service, to obtain wealth. Poverty had demoralized him, pride had laid a mildew on his heart and stifled all noble aspirations. As he read a letter, just received from his mother, complaining of wants and privations, telling of the attachment of a young officer to his sister, and that poverty alone prevented their marriage, his heart was filled with repining, and at this moment he was prepared to commit a crime, if, by so doing, he could have obtained wealth.
In this despairing and sorrowful mood he had entered the office, and awaited in vain for petitioners who would pay him richly for his services. But the hours passed in undisturbed quiet, and Baron Weingarten was in the act of leaving the office, as the servant announced Baron von Waltz, and the court councillor, Zetto, from Vienna.
He advanced to meet the two gentlemen, with a smiling countenance, and welcomed his Austrian countrymen heartily.
The two gentlemen seated themselves silently; Weingarten took a seat in front of them.
A painful, embarrassed pause ensued. The majestic Baron von Waltz looked silently at the ceiling, while the black, piercing eyes of the little Councillor Zetto examined the countenance of Weingarten with a strangely searching and penetrating expression.
"You are from Vienna?" said Weingarten at last, putting an end to this painful silence.
"We are from Vienna," answered the baron, with a grave bow. "And have travelled here post-haste to have an interview with you."
"With me?" asked the secretary of legation, astonished.
"With you alone," said the baron, gravely.
"We wish you to do the King of Prussia a great service," said Zetto, solemnly.
Weingarten reddened, and said confusedly: "The King of Prussia! You forget, gentlemen, that my services belong alone to the Empress Maria Theresa."
"He defends himself before he is accused," said Zetto, aside. "It is then true, as we have been told, he is playing a double game—serves Austria and Prussia at the same time." Turning to Baron Weingarten, he said: "That which we ask of you will be at the same time a service to our gracious empress, for certainly it would not only distress, but compromise her majesty, if an Austrian officer committed a murder in Prussia."
"Murder!" cried the secretary of legation.
"Yes, an intentional murder," said Baron Waltz, emphatically—"the murder of the King of Prussia. If you prevent this crime, you will receive ten thousand guilders," said Zetto, examining Weingarten's countenance closely. He remarked that the baron, who was but a moment ago pale from terror, now reddened, and that his eyes sparkled joyously.
"And what can I do to prevent this murder?" asked Weingarten, hastily.
"You can warn the king."
"But to warn successfully, I must have proofs."
"We are ready to give the most incontrovertible proofs."
"I must, before acting, be convinced of the veracity of your charges."
"I hope that my word of honor will convince you of their truth," said Baron Waltz, pathetically.
Weingarten bowed, with an ambiguous smile, that did not escape Zetto. He drew forth his pocket-book, and took from it a small, folded paper, which he handed to Weingarten.
"If I strengthen my declaration with this paper, will you trust me?"
Weingarten looked with joyful astonishment at the paper; it was a check for two thousand guilders. "My sister's dowry," thought Weingarten, with joy. But the next moment came doubt and suspicion. What if they were only trying him—only convincing themselves if he could be bought? Perhaps he was suspected of supplying the Prussian Government from time to time with Austrian news—of communicating to them the contents of important dispatches!
The fire faded from his eye, and with a firm countenance he laid the paper upon the table.
"Your are mistaken, gentlemen! That is no document, but a check."
"With which many documents could be purchased," said Zetto, smiling. Placing the paper again in his pocket-book, he took out another and a larger one. It was a check for three thousand guilders.
But Weingarten had regained his composure. He knew that men acting thus must be spies or criminals; that they were testing him, or luring him on to some unworthy act. In either case, he must be on his guard.
"I beg you to confirm your charge in the usual manner," said he, with a cold, indifferent glance at the paper. "Murder is a dreadful accusation—you cannot act too carefully. You say that an Austrian officer intends to murder the King of Prussia. How do you know this?"
"From himself," said Baron Waltz. "He communicated his intentions to me, and confided to me his entire plan."
"It appears," remarked Weingarten, mockingly, "that the officer had reason to believe he might trust you with this terrible secret."
"You see, however, that he was mistaken," said the baron, smilingly. "I demand of you to warn the King of Prussia of the danger that threatens him."
"I shall be compelled to make this danger clear, give all particulars, or the king will laugh at my story and consider it a fairy tale."
"You shall give him convincing proof. Say to him that the murder is to be committed when his majesty attends the Austrian review at Konigsberg."
"How will the officer cross the Prussian border?"
"He is supplied with an Austrian passport, and under the pretence of inheriting a large property in Prussia, he has obtained leave of absence for a month."
"There remains now but one question: why does the officer wish to murder the king? What motive leads him to do so?"
"Revenge," said Baron von Waltz, solemnly—"an act of vengeance. This Austrian officer who is resolved to murder the king of Prussia, is Frederick von Trenck."
Weingarten was embarrassed, and his countenance bore an uneasy and troubled expression. But as his eye fell upon the weighty paper that lay before him, he smiled, and looked resolved.
"Now I have but one thing more to ask. Why, if your story is authentic, and well calculated to startle even the brave king, have you thought it necessary to remove my doubts with this document?"
Baron Waltz was silent, and looked inquiringly at Zetto.
"Why did I hand you this document?" said the councillor, with a sweet smile. "Because gold remains gold, whether received from an Austrian councillor or from a Prussian prince."
"Sir, do you dare to insult me?" cried the secretary of legation, fiercely.
Zetto smiled. "No, I only wish to notify you that we are aware that it is through you that Baron von Trenck receives money from a certain aristocratic lady in Berlin. It is, therefore, most important that the king should be warned by you of his intended murder—otherwise you might be thought an accomplice."
Weingarten appeared not to be in the least disconcerted by this statement—he seemed not even to have heard it.
"Before I warn the king," he said, with calm composure, "I must be convinced of the truth of the story myself, and I acknowledge to you that I am not convinced, cannot understand your motives for seeking the destruction of Baron von Trenck."
"Ah! you search into our motives—you mistrust us," cried Zetto, hastily. "Well, we will prove to you that we trust you, by telling you our secret. You know the story of the inheritance of Trenck?"
"He is the only heir of the pandour chieftain, Franz von Trenck."
"Correct. And do you know the history of this pandour chieftain Trenck?"
"I have heard a confused and uncertain statement, but nothing definite or reliable."
"It is, however, a very interesting and instructive story, and shows how far a man with a determined will and great energy can reach, when his thoughts are directed to one end. Baron Trenck wished to be rich, immensely rich—that was the aim of his life. Seduced by his love of money, he became the captain of a band of robbers, then a murderer, a church-robber; from that a brave soldier, and, at last, a holy penitent. Robbing and plundering every-where, he succeeded in collecting millions. The pandour chieftain Trenck soon became so rich, that he excited the envy of the noblest and wealthiest men in the kingdom, so rich that he was able to lend large sums of money to the powerful and influential Baron Lowenwalde. You see, baron, it only needs a determined will to become rich."
"Oh! the foolish man," said Weingarten, shrugging his shoulders. "Lending money to a noble and powerful man, is making an irreconcilable enemy."
"You speak like a prophet. It happened, as you say. Lowenwalde became Trenck's enemy. He accused him of embezzling the imperial money, of treachery and faithlessness—and Trenck was imprisoned."
"His millions obtained his release, did they not?"
"No. His riches reduced him to greater misery. His lands were sequestered, and a body of commissioners were selected to attend to them. Baron Waltz and myself belonged to this commission."
"Ah! I begin to understand," murmured Weingarten.
Baron Zetto continued, with a smile. "The commissioners made the discovery that report had greatly exaggerated the riches of Trenck. He had not many treasures, but many debts. In order to liquidate those debts, we desired his creditors to announce themselves every day, and promised them a daily ducat until the end of the process."
"I hope you two gentlemen were among his creditors," said Weingarten.
"Certainly, we were, and also Baron Marken."
"Therefore you have a threefold advantage from Trenck's imprisonment. First, your salary as a member of the commission; secondly, as a creditor—"
"And thirdly—you spoke of a threefold advantage?"
"And thirdly," said Weingarten, laughing, "in searching for the missing treasures of Baron Trenck which had disappeared so unfortunately."
"Ah, sir, you speak like those who suspected us at court, and wished to make the empress believe that we had enriched ourselves as commissioners. Soon after this Trenck died, and Frederick von Trenck hastened from St. Petersburg to receive his inheritance. How great was his astonishment to find instead of the hoped-for millions a few mortgaged lands, an income of a hundred thousand guilders, and sixty-three creditors who claimed the property."
"He should have become one of the commissioners," remarked Weingarten, mockingly. "Perhaps it would have then been easier for him to obtain his possessions."
"He attempted it in another way, with the aid of money, bribery, and persuasion. He has already succeeded in obtaining fifty-four of his sixty-three processes, and will win the others in a few days."
"And then he will doubtless cause the commissioners to give in their accounts, and close their books."
"Exactly. He has already commenced to do so. He ordered an investigation to be made against the quartermaster, and the commander of the regiment to which Franz von Trenck belonged. This man had accused Trenck of having embezzled eight thousand of the imperial money, and Trenck succeeded so far, that it was declared that it was not he, but his accusers, who had committed the crime. The consequence was, that the quartermaster was deposed, and it would have fared as badly with the commander, had he not found powerful protection."
"And now the dangerous Frederick von Trenck will seize the property of the commissioners."
"He would do so if we did not know how to prevent him. We must employ every means to remove him, and, believe me, we are not the only men who wish for his disappearance. A large and powerful party have the same desire, and will joyfully pay ten thousand guilders to be freed from his investigations."
Weingarten's eyes sparkled for a moment, and his heart beat quickly, but he suppressed these joyful emotions, and retained his calm and indifferent expression.
"Gentlemen," he said, quietly, "as you are speaking of a real criminal, one who intends committing so great a crime, I am at your service, and no money or promises are necessary to buy my assistance."
"Is he really a man of honor, and have we received false information?" thought Zetto, who was misled for a moment by the quiet and virtuous looks of the secretary of legation.
"In the mean while you will not prevent those for whom you are about to do a great service from showing their gratitude," said Baron Waltz. "Every one has a right to give or to receive a present."
"Gentlemen," said Baron Weingarten, smilingly, "No one has spoken of a present, but of a payment, a bribery, and you can readily understand that this is insulting to a man of honor."
"Ah, he leaves open a door of escape," thought Zetto. "He is won, he can be bought.—You are right, baron," he said aloud, "and we are wrong to offer you now that which hereafter will be a debt of gratitude. We will speak no more of this, but of the danger that threatens the king. You alone can save him by warning him of his danger."
"You really believe, then, that Trenck has the intention of murdering the king?" said Weingarten.
"We will believe it," said Zetto, with an ambiguous smile.
"We must believe it!" cried Baron Waltz, emphatically. "We must either believe in his murderous intentions, or be ourselves regarded as traitors and robbers. You will think it natural that we prefer the first alternative, and as he resolved to ruin us, we will anticipate him, and set the trap into which he must fall."
"Why could you not lay your snares in Austria, gentlemen? Why could you not accuse him of intending to murder the empress?"
Zetto shrugged his shoulders. "That would not be credible, because Trenck has no motive for murdering Maria Theresa, while he might very well thirst to revenge himself upon Frederick. You know that the king and Trenck are personal enemies. Trenck has boasted of this enmity often and loud enough to be understood by the whole world, and I do not believe that this animosity has diminished. Enemies naturally desire to destroy each other. Trenck would succeed if we did not warn the king, and enable him to anticipate his enemy."
"How can this be done? Will the king really go to Konigsberg to be present at the Austrian festivities?"
"It has been spoken of."
"Well, Trenck now proposes to go to Dantzic, and he has boasted that he will enter Konigsberg at the same time with the King of Prussia, who will not dare to arrest him."
"We have made a bet with him of a hundred louis d'or on this boast," said Baron Waltz, "and for greater security we have put it in writing."
"Have you it with you?"
"Here it is."
The baron handed Weingarten a paper, which he seized hastily, unfolded, and read several times.
"This is indeed written in very ambiguous language, and calculated to ruin Trenck should it reach the hands of the king," said Baron Weingarten with a cruel smile.
Zetto returned this smile. "I wrote the document, and you will naturally understand that I measured the words very closely."
"Who copied the letter?" asked Weingarten. "Doubtlessly Baron Trenck was not magnanimous enough to do that."
"Baron Waltz is a great adept in imitating handwriting, and he happily possessed original letters of Trenck's," said Zetto, smilingly.
"You will find it most natural that I should try to win my bet," said Baron Waltz. "If Trenck is arrested before he goes to Konigsberg, I have won my bet, and will receive the hundred louis d'ors from the commissioners."
All three laughed.
"These commissioners will soon have to pay you ten thousand guilders," whispered Zetto. "Here is a bond. On the day that Trenck is a prisoner of the king of Prussia, this bond is due, and you will then find that the commissioners are not backward in paying." Zetto laid the document upon the table. "You will now have the kindness to receive our testimony, and, if you desire it, we will add our accusations, or you can mention that this can be done."
Weingarten did not answer; a repentant fear tormented his heart, and for a moment it appeared as if his good and evil genius were struggling for his soul.
"This involves probably the life of a man," he said, softly; "it is a terrible accusation that I must pronounce: if not condemned to death, the king will imprison him for many long years, and I shall be responsible for this injustice."
Councillor Zetto's attentive ear heard every word; he stood near him like the evil one, and his piercing eyes rested upon the agitated countenance of Weingarten and read his thoughts.
"Have you not lived the life of a prisoner for many years?" asked Zetto, in a low, unnatural voice; "have you not always been a slave of poverty? Will you now, from weak pity, lose the opportunity of freeing yourself from this bondage? Ten thousand guilders is no fortune, but it may be the beginning of one—it may be the thread of Ariadne to lead you from the labyrinth of poverty to freedom and light; and who will thank you if you do not seize this thread—who recompense you for your generosity and magnanimity? If you tell it to the wise and cunning, they will laugh at you, and if the foolish hear it, they will not understand you. Every one is the moulder of his own happiness, and woe unto him who neglects to forge the iron while it is hot!"
Baron Weingarten felt each of these words. He did not know if they were uttered by human lips, or if they came from the depths of his own base soul.
"It is true, it is true!" he cried, in a frightened voice, "He is a fool who does not seize the hand of Fortune when tendered by the laughing goddess—a fool who does not break his fetters when he has the power to rend them. Come, gentlemen! We take the testimony, and when that is done, I will conduct you to our ambassador, Baron Puebla."
"Not so—when that is done, we shall depart with post-haste; you alone shall receive thanks and recompense. Now to work!"
CHAPTER VII. THE KING AND WEINGARTEN.
The king paced his room hastily; he was very pale, his lip trembled, and his eyes sparkled angrily.
He suddenly remained standing before the Austrian secretary of legation, and gazed long and earnestly into his face, but his glance, before which so many had trembled, was sustained by the secretary with so quiet and innocent a countenance that it deceived even the king.
"I see that you are convinced of the truth of what you tell me." the king said at last. "You really believe that this madman has the intention of murdering me?"
"I am convinced of it, sire," replied Weingarten, humbly, "for I have the proof of his intention in my hand."
"The proof—what proof?"
"This paper which I allowed myself to hand to your majesty, and which you laid upon the table without reading."
"Ah, it is true! I forgot that in my excitement," said the king, mildly. "I beg you to read me the contents of this paper."
Baron Weingarten received the paper from the king with a respectful bow; his voice did not tremble in the least as he read the important words which refined malice and cruel avarice had written there—words which, if literally interpreted, would fully condemn Trenck.
The words were:
"'In consequence of a bet, I pledge myself to be in Konigsberg the same day in which the King Frederick of Prussia, my cruel enemy and persecutor, shall arrive there. I shall go there to do, in the king's presence, that which no one has done before me, and which no one will do after me. If I do not succeed in accomplishing my purpose, or if I should be arrested, I have lost my bet, and shall owe Baron Waltz one hundred louis d'or, which must be paid him by the commissioners of the Trenck estate.'"
"'BARON FREDERICK VON TRENCK.'"
"And Trenck wrote this note himself?" said the king.
"If your majesty is acquainted with Trenck's handwriting, you will perhaps have the goodness to examine it yourself."
"I know his handwriting; give me the paper."
He took the paper and glanced over it searchingly. "It is his handwriting," he murmured; "but I will examine it again."
Speaking thus, he stepped hastily to his escritoire, and took from a small box several closely written yellow papers, and compared them with the document which Weingarten had given him.
Ah, how little did Trenck dream, as he wrote those letters, that they would witness against him, and stamp him as a criminal! They were already a crime in the king's eyes, for they were tender letters that Trenck had dared to write from Vienna to the Princess Amelia. They had never reached her!
And not those tender epistles of a tearful and unhappy love must bear witness against the writer, and condemn him for the second time!
"It is his handwriting," said the king, as he laid the letters again in the box. "I thank you, Baron Weingarten, you have saved me from a disagreeable occurrence, for, if I will not even believe that Trenck intended murder, he was at all events willing to create a scene, if only to gratify his vanity. It appears that he has now played out his role at Vienna, as well as in St. Petersburg and Berlin, and the world would forget him if he did not attract its attention by some mad piece of folly. How he intended to accomplish this I do not know, but certainly not by a murder—no, I cannot believe that!"
"Your majesty is always noble and magnanimous, but it appears to me that these words can have but one meaning. 'I shall go to Konigsberg,' writes Baron Trenck, 'and there do in the presence of the king what no one has done before me, and what no one will do after me.' Does not this make his intention pretty clear?"
"Only for those who know his intentions or suspect them, for others they could have any other signification, some romantic threat, nothing more. Baron Trenck is a known adventurer, a species of Don Quixote, always fighting against windmills, and believing that warriors and kings honor him so far as to be his enemies. I punished Trenck when he was in my service, for insubordination; now he is no longer in my service, and I have forgotten him, but woe be unto him if he forces me to remember him!"
"Your majesty will soon see if he is falsely accused. These reliable and irreproachable men came especially to warn your majesty, through me. You will discover if they have calumniated Trenck, by giving this testimony. If he does not go to Dantzic, does not enter Prussia, they have sworn falsely, and Trenck is innocent."
"He will not dare to cross the borders of my state, for he knows he will be court-martialled as a deserter. But I am convinced that he is a bold adventurer, he has boasted that he will defy me, that is certainly what no one has done before him, and what no one will do after him, but it will rest there, you may believe me."
Baron Weingarten bowed silently. The king continued, with an engaging smile.
"However, monsieur, I owe you many thanks, and it would please me to have an opportunity of rewarding you."
Until this moment, Weingarten had been standing with bowed head, he now stood erect, and his eye dared to meet that of the king.
"Sire," he said, with the noble expression of offended innocence, "I demand and wish no other reward than that you may profit by my warning. If the fearful danger that threatens your majesty is averted through me, that will be my all-sufficient recompense. I must decline any other."
The king smiled approvingly. "You speak emphatically, and it appears that you really believe in this danger. Well, I thank you only as that is your desire. I will respect your warning and guard myself from the danger that you believe threatens me, but to do that, and at the same time to convince ourselves of Trenck's evil intentions, we must observe the most perfect silence in this whole affair, and you must promise me to speak of it to no one."
"Sire, secrecy appeared to me so necessary, that I did not even communicate it to Baron Puebla, but came to your majesty on my own responsibility."
"You did well, for now Trenck will fall unwarned into the trap we set for him. Be silent, therefore, upon the subject. If you should ever have a favor to ask, come to me with this tabatiere in your hand. I will remember this hour, and if it is in my power will grant you what you wish."
He handed Weingarten his gold, diamond-studded tabatiere, and received his thanks with approving smiles. After he had dismissed the secretary of legation, and was alone, the smile faded from his face, and his countenance was sad and disturbed.
"It has come to this," he said, as he paced his room, with his hands folded behind his back. "This man, whom I once loved so warmly, wishes to murder me. Ah! ye proud princes, who imagine yourselves gods on earth, you are not even safe from a murderer's dagger, and you are as vulnerable as the commonest beggar. Why does he wish my death? Were I a fantastic, romantic hero, I might say he hoped to claim his sweetheart over my dead body! But Amelia is no longer a person for whom a man would risk his life; she is but a faint and sad resemblance of the past—her rare beauty is tear-stained and turned to ashes, but her heart still lives; it is young and warm, and belongs to Trenck! And shall I dissipate this last illusion? Must she now learn that he to whom she sacrificed so much is but a common murderer? No, I will spare her this sorrow! I will not give Trenck the opportunity to fulfil his work; even his intention shall remain doubtful. I shall not go to Konigsberg; and if, in his presumptuous thirst for notoriety or for vengeance, he should enter Prussia, he shall be cared for—he shall not escape his punishment. Let him but try to cross my borders—he will find a snare spread, a cage from which he cannot escape. Yes, so it shall be. But neither the world nor Trenck shall suspect why this is done. If my brothers and envious persons hold him up in future as an example of my hardness of heart, what do I care for their approval, or the praise of short-sighted men! I do my duty, and am answerable only to God and myself. Trenck intends to murder me—I must preserve myself for my people. My mission is not yet accomplished; and if a poisonous insect crosses my path, I must crush it."
CHAPTER VIII. THE UNWILLING BRIDEGROOM.
Prince Henry had again passed eight days in arrest—eight tedious days, days of powerless anger and painful humiliation. This arrest had been, by the king's express orders, so strict, that no one was allowed to see the prince but Pollnitz, who belonged, as the king said, to the inventory of the house of Hohenzollern, and, therefore, all doors were open to him.
Pollnitz alone had, therefore, the pleasure of hearing the complaints, and reproaches, and bitter accusations of the prince against his brother. Pollnitz always had an attentive ear for these complaints; and after listening to the prince with every appearance of real feeling and warm sympathy, he would hasten to the king, and with drooping eyelids and rejoicing heart repeat the bitter and hateful words of the unsuspicious prince—words that were well calculated to increase the king's displeasure. The prince still declared that he would not marry, and the king insisted that he must submit to his will and commands.
Thus the eight days had passed, and Pollnitz came to-day with the joyful news that his arrest was at an end, and he was now free.
"That means," said the prince, bitterly, "that I am free to wander through the stupid streets of Potsdam; appear at his table; that my clothes may be soiled by his unbearable four-legged friends, and my ears deafened by the dull, pedantic conversation of his no less unbearable two-legged friends."
"Your highness can save yourself from all these small annoyances," said Pollnitz; "you have only to marry."
"Marry, bah! That means to give my poor sister-in-law, Elizabeth Christine, a companion, that they may sing their sorrows to each other. No, I have not the bravery of my kingly brother, to make a feeling, human being unhappy in order to satisfy state politics. No, I possess not the egotism to purchase my freedom with the life-long misery of another."
"But, mon Dieu! my prince," said Pollnitz, in his cynical way, "you look at it in too virtuous a manner. All women are not as good and pure as poor Elizabeth Christine, and know how to compensate themselves in other quarters for the indifference of their husbands. We are not speaking here of a common marriage, but of the betrothal of a prince. You do not marry your heart, but your hand. Truly such a marriage-ceremony is a protecting talisman, that may be held up to other women as an iron shield upon which, all their egotistical wishes, all their extravagant demands must rebound. Moreover, a married man is entirely sans consequence for all unmarried women, and if they should love such a one, the happy mortal may be convinced that his love is really a caprice of the heart, and not a selfish calculation or desire to marry."
The prince regarded the smiling courtier earnestly, almost angrily. "Do you know," he said, "that what you say appears to me very immoral?"
"Immoral?" asked Pollnitz, astonished; "what is that? Your princely highness knows that I received my education at the French court, under the protection of the Regent of Orleans and the Princess of the Palatinate, and there I never heard this word immoral. Perhaps your highness will have the kindness to explain it to me."
"That would be preaching to deaf ears," said the prince, shrugging his shoulders. "We will not quarrel about the meaning of a word. I only wish to make you understand that I would not marry at my brother's bon plaisir. I will not continue this race of miserable princes, that are entirely useless, and consequently a burden to the state. Oh! if Heaven would only give me the opportunity to distinguish myself before this people, and give to this name that is go small, so unworthy, a splendor, a color, a signification!"
"Your highness is ambitous," said Pollnitz, as the prince, now silent, paced his room with deep emotion.
"Yes, I am ambitious—I thirst for action, renown, and activity. I despise this monotonous, colorless existence, without end or aim. By God! how happy I should be, if, instead of a prince, I could be a simple private man, proprietor of a small landed estate, with a few hundred subjects, that I should endeavor to make happy! But I am nothing but a king's brother, have nothing but my empty title and the star upon my coat. My income is so small, so pitiful, that it would scarcely suffice to pay the few servants I have, if, at the same time, they were not paid by the king as his spies."
"But all this will cease as soon as you speak the decisive word; as soon as you declare yourself prepared to marry."
"And you dare to tell me this?" cried the prince, with flashing eyes—"you, that know I love a lady who is unfortunately no princess; or do you believe that a miserable prince has not the heart of a man—that he does not possess the ardent desire, the painful longing for the woman he loves?"
"Oh, women do not deserve that we should love them so ardently; they are all fickle and inconstant, believe me, my prince."
The prince cast a quick, questioning glance at the smiling countenance of the courtier.
"Why do you say this to me?" he asked, anxiously.
"Because I am convinced of its truth, your highness; because I believe no woman has the power to preserve her love when obstacles are placed in the way, or that she can be faithful for the short space of eight days, if her lover is absent."
The prince was startled, and looked terrified at Pollnitz.
"Eight days," he murmured; "it is eight days—no, it is twelve since I saw Louise."
"Ah, twelve days—and your highness has the really heroic belief that she still loves you?"
The prince sighed, and his brow clouded, but only for a few moments, and his countenance was again bright and his eyes sparkled.
"Yes, I have this belief; and why should I not have it, as my own heart had stood the trial? I have not seen her for twelve days, have not heard of her, and still my love is as great and as ardent as ever. Yes, I believe that at the thought of her my heart beats more quickly, more longingly than if I had her in my arms."
"The reason of this," said Pollnitz, almost sympathetically, "is that it is your first love."
Prince Henry looked at him angrily.
"You are wrong and most unjust to this beautiful woman, who remained good and pure in the midst of the corrupting and terrible circumstances in which destiny placed her. She preserved a chaste heart, an unspotted soul. Her misfortunes only refined her, and therefore I love her, and believe that God has placed me in her way that, after all her sufferings, I might make her happy. Oh, precisely because of her sorrows, the shameful slanders with which she is pursued, and all for which she is reproached, I love her."
"Well, my prince," sighed Pollnitz, with a tragical expression, "I never saw a bolder hero and a more pious Christian than your highness."
"What do you mean by that, Pollnitz?"
"That an enormous amount of bravery is necessary, prince, to believe Madame von Kleist chaste and innocent, and that only a pious Christian can count himself so entirely among those of whom Christ says, 'Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.' May a good fairy long preserve you your bravery and your Christianity! But surely your highness must have important and convincing proofs to believe in the innocence and faithfulness of this woman. I confess that any other man would have been discouraged in his godlike belief by facts. It is a fact that for twelve days Madame von Kleist has sent you no message through me; it is a fact that she was not at the masked ball; that as often as I have been to her in these last days, to deliver letters for your highness, and to obtain hers in return, she has never received me, always excused herself; and, therefore, I could not receive her letters, nor deliver those of your highness."
"And were you not in Berlin early this morning! Did you not go to her as I ordered you, and tell her she might expect me this evening?"
"I went to her house, but in vain; she was with the queen-mother, and I was told that she would not return until late in the evening, I therefore could not deliver the message, your highness."