FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS COURT
An Historical Romance
AUTHOR OF JOSEPH II. AND HIS COURT
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY
MRS. CHAPMAN COLEMAN AND HER DAUGHTERS
I. The Queen Sophia Dorothea, II. Frederick William I., III. The Tobacco Club, IV. Air-Castles, V. Father and Son, VI. The White Saloon, VII. The Maid of Honor and the Gardener, VIII. Von Manteuffel, the Diplomat, IX. Frederick, the Prince Royal, X. The Prince Royal and the Jew, XI. The Princess Royal Elizabeth Christine, XII. The Poem, XIII. The Banquet, XIV. Le Roi est Mort. Vive le Roi! XV. We are King, XVI. Royal Grace and Royal Displeasure,
I. The Garden of Monbijou, II. The Queen's Maid of Honor. III. Prince Augustus William, IV. The King and the Son, V. The Queen's Tailor, VI. The Illustrious Ancestors of a Tailor, VII. Soffri e Taci, VIII. The Coronation, IX. Dorris Ritter, X. Old and New Sufferings, XI. The Proposal of Marriage, XII. The Queen as a Matrimonial Agent, XIII. Proposal of Marriage, XIV. The Misunderstanding, XV. Soiree of the Queen Dowager, XVI. Under the Lindens, XVII. The Politician and the French Tailor, XVIII. The Double Rendezvous,
I. The Intriguing Courtiers, II. The King and the Secretary of the Treasury, III. The Undeceived Courtier, IV. The Bridal Pair, V. The French and German Tailors, or the Montagues and Capulets of Berlin, VI. In Rheinsberg, VII. The King and his Friend, VIII. The Farewell Audience of Marquis von Botter, the Austrian Ambassador, IX. The Masquerade, X. The Maskers, XI. Reward and Punishment, XII. The Return, XIII. The Death of the Old Time, XIV. The Discovery, XV. The Countermine, XVI. The Surprise, XVII. The Resignation of Baron von Pollnitz,
FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS COURT.
THE QUEEN SOPHIA DOROTHEA.
The palace glittered with light and splendor; the servants ran here and there, arranging the sofas and chairs; the court gardener cast a searching glance at the groups of flowers which he had placed in the saloons; and the major domo superintended the tables in the picture gallery. The guests of the queen will enjoy to-night a rich and costly feast. Every thing wore the gay and festive appearance which, in the good old times, the king's palace in Berlin had been wont to exhibit. Jesting and merrymaking were the order of the day, and even the busy servants were good-humored and smiling, knowing that this evening there was no danger of blows and kicks, of fierce threats and trembling terror. Happily the king could not appear at this ball, which he had commanded Sophia to give to the court and nobility of Berlin.
The king was ill, the gout chained him to his chamber, and during the last few sleepless nights a presentiment weighed upon the spirit of the ruler of Prussia. He felt that the reign of Frederick the First would soon be at an end; that the doors of his royal vault would soon open to receive a kingly corpse, and a new king would mount the throne of Prussia.
This last thought filled the heart of the king with rage and bitterness. Frederick William would not die! he would not that his son should reign in his stead; that this weak, riotous youth, this dreamer, surrounded in Rheinsberg with poets and musicians, sowing flowers and composing ballads, should take the place which Frederick the First had filled so many years with glory and great results.
Prussia had no need of this sentimental boy, this hero of fashion, who adorned himself like a French fop, and preferred the life of a sybarite, in his romantic castle, to the battle-field and the night-parade; who found the tones of his flute sweeter than the sounds of trumpets and drums; who declared that there were not only kings by "the grace of God, but kings by the power of genius and intellect, and that Voltaire was as great a king—yes, greater than all the kings anointed by the Pope!" What use has Prussia for such a sovereign? No, Frederick William would not, could not die! His son should not reign in Prussia, destroying what his father had built up! Never should Prussia fall into the hands of a dreaming poet! The king was resolved, therefore, that no one should know he was ill; no one should believe that he had any disease but gout; this was insignificant, never fatal. A man can live to be eighty years old with the gout; it is like a faithful wife, who lives with us even to old age, and with whom we can celebrate a golden wedding. The king confessed to himself that he was once more clasped in her tender embraces, but the people and the prince should not hope that his life was threatened.
For this reason should Sophia give a ball, and the world should see that the queen and her daughters were gay and happy.
The queen was indeed really gay to-day; she was free. It seemed as if the chains which bound her bad fallen apart, and the yoke to which she had bowed her royal neck was removed. To-day she was at liberty to raise her head proudly, like a queen, to adorn herself with royal apparel. Away, for to-day at least, with sober robes and simple coiffure. The king was fastened to his arm-chair, and Sophia dared once more to make a glittering and queenly toilet. With a smile of proud satisfaction, she arrayed herself in a silken robe, embroidered in silver, which she had secretly ordered for the ball from her native Hanover. Her eyes beamed with joy, as she at last opened the silver-bound casket, and released from their imprisonment for a few hours these costly brilliants, which for many years had not seen the light. With a smiling glance her eyes rested upon the glittering stones, which sparkled and flamed like falling stars, and her heart beat high with delight. For a queen is still a woman, and Sophia Dorothea had so often suffered the pains and sorrows of woman, that she longed once more to experience the proud happiness of a queen. She resolved to wear all her jewels; fastened, herself, the sparkling diadem upon her brow, clasped upon her neck and arms the splendid brilliants, and adorned her ears with the long pendants; then stepping to the Venetian mirror, she examined herself critically. Yes, Sophia had reason to be pleased; hers was a queenly toilet. She looked in the glass, and thought on bygone days, on buried hopes and vanished dreams. These diamonds her exalted father had given when she was betrothed to Frederick William. This diadem had adorned her brow when she married. The necklace her brother had sent at the birth of her first child; the bracelet her husband had clasped upon her arm when at last, after long waiting, and many prayers, Prince Frederick was born. Each of these jewels was a proud memento of the past, a star of her youth. Alas, the diamonds had retained their brilliancy; they were still stars, but all else was vanished or dead—her youth and her dreams, her hopes and her love! Sophia had so often trembled before her husband, that she no longer loved him. With her, "perfect love had not cast out fear." Fear had extinguished love. How could she love a man who had been only a tyrant and a despot to her and to her children? who had broken their wills, cut off their hopes, and trodden under foot, not only the queen, but the mother? As Sophia looked at the superb bracelet, the same age of her darling, she thought how unlike the glitter and splendor of these gems his life had been; how dark and sad his youth; how colorless and full of tears. She kissed the bracelet, and wafted her greeting to her absent son. Suddenly the door opened, and the Princesses Ulrica and Amelia entered.
The queen turned to them, and the sad expression vanished from her features as her eyes rested upon the lovely and loving faces of her daughters.
"Oh, how splendid you look, gracious mamma!" exclaimed the Princess Amelia, as she danced gayly around her mother. "Heaven with all its stars has fallen around you, but your sweet face shines out amongst them like the sun in his glory."
"Flatterer," said the queen, "if your father heard you, he would scold fearfully. If you compare me to the sun, how can you describe him?"
"Well, he is Phoebus, who harnesses the sun and points out his path."
"True, indeed." said the queen, "he appoints his path. Poor sun!—poor queen!—she has not the right to send one ray where she will!"
"Who, notwithstanding, assumes the right, gracious mamma," said Amelia, smiling, and pointing to the diadem, "for I imagine that our most royal king and father has not commanded you to appear in those splendid jewels."
"Commanded," said the queen, trembling; "if he could see me he would expire with rage and scorn. You know he despises expense and ornament."
"He would immediately calculate," said Amelia, "that he could build an entire street with this diadem, and that at least ten giants could be purchased for the Guard with this necklace." She turned to her sister, who had withdrawn, and said:
"Ulrica, you say nothing. Has the splendor of our mother bewildered you? Have you lost your speech, or are you thinking whom you will command to dance with you at the ball this evening?"
"Not so," replied the little Ulrica, "I was thinking that when I am to be a queen, I will make it a condition with my husband that I shall be entirely free to choose my toilet, and I will never be forbidden to wear diamonds! When I am a queen I will wear diamonds every day; they belong to majesty, and our royal mother was never more a queen than to-day!"
"Listen," said Amelia, "to this proud and all-conquering little princess, who speaks of being a queen, as if it were all arranged, and not a doubt remained; know you that the king, our father, intends you for a queen? Perhaps he has already selected you for a little margrave, or some unknown and salaried prince, such as our poor sister of Bairout has wedded."
"I would not give my hand to such a one!" said the princess, hastily.
"You would be forced to yield, if your father commanded it," said the queen.
"No," said Ulrica, "I would rather die!"
"DIE!" said Sophia; "man sighs often for Death, but he comes not; our sighs have not the power to bring him, and our hands are too weak to clasp him to our hearts! No, Ulrica, you must bow your will to your father, as we have all done—as even the prince, your brother, was forced to do."
"Poor brother," said Amelia, "bound to a wife whom he loves not—how wretched he must be!"
Ulrica shrugged her shoulders. "Is not that the fate of all princes and princesses; are we not all born to be handled like a piece of goods, and knocked down to the highest bidder? I, for my part, will sell myself as dearly as possible; and, as I cannot be a happy shepherdess, I will be a powerful queen."
"And I," said Amelia, "would rather wed the poorest and most obscure man, if I loved him, than the richest and greatest king's son, to whom I was indifferent."
"Foolish children," said the queen, "it is well for you that your father does not hear you; he would crush you in his rage, and even to-day he would choose a king for you, Amelia; and for you, little Ulrica, he would seek a small margrave! Hark, ladies! I hear the voice of the major domo; he comes to announce that the guests are assembled. Put on a cheerful countenance. The king commands us to be joyous and merry! but remember that Frederick has his spies everywhere. When you speak with Pollnitz, never forget that he repeats every word to your father; be friendly with him; and above all things when he leads the conversation to the prince royal, speak of him with the most unembarrassed indifference; show as little interest and love for him as possible, and rather ridicule his romantic life in Rheinsberg. That is the way to the heart of the king; and now, my daughters, come."
At this moment the grand chamberlain, Pollnitz, threw open the doors and announced that the company was assembled. The queen and princesses followed the master of ceremonies through the room, giving here and there a smile or a gracious word, which seemed a shower of gold to the obsequious, admiring crowd of courtiers. Pride swelled the heart of Sophia, as she stepped, to the sound of soft music, into the throne saloon, and saw all those cavaliers, covered with stars and orders—all those beautiful and richly-dressed women bowing humbly before her. She knew that her will was more powerful than the will of all assembled there; that her smiles were more dearly prized than those of the most-beloved bride; that her glance gave warmth and gladness like the sun. While all bowed before her, there was no one to whom she must bend the knee. The king was not near to-night; she was not bound by his presence and his rude violence. To-night she was no trembling, subjected wife, but a proud queen; while Frederick was a poor, gouty, trembling, teeth-gnashing man—nothing more.
FREDERICK WILLIAM I.
Mirth and gayety reigned in one wing of the palace, while in the other, and that occupied by the king himself, all was silent and solitary; in one might be heard joyous strains of music, in the other no sound reached the air but a monotonous hammering, which seemed to come immediately from the room of the king.
Frederick William, when in health, had accustomed himself to use his crutch as a rod of correction; he would shower down his blows, careless whether they fell on the backs of his lacqueys, his ministers of State, or his wife. When ill, he was contented to vent his wrath upon more senseless objects, and to flourish a hammer instead of his crutch. Under the influence of the gout, this proud and haughty monarch became an humble carpenter; when chained to one spot by his disease, and unable to direct the affairs of State, he attempted to banish thought and suffering, by working with his tools. Often in passing near the palace at a late hour of the night, you might hear the heavy blows of a hammer, and consider them a bulletin of the king's health. If he worked at night, the good people of Berlin knew their king to be sleepless and suffering, and that it would be dangerous to meet him in his walk on the following day, for some thoughtless word, or careless look, or even the cut of a coat, would bring down on the offender a stinging blow or a severe reprimand. Only a few days had passed since the king had caused the arrest of two young ladies, and sent them to the fortress of Spandau, because, in walking through the park at Schonhausen, he overheard them declare the royal garden to be "charmant! charmant!" One French word was sufficient to condemn these young girls in the eyes of the king; and it was only after long pleading that they were released from confinement. The men were fearful of being seized by the king, and held as recruits for some regiment; and the youths trembled if they were caught lounging about the streets. As soon, therefore, as the king left the proud castle of his ancestors, all who could fled from the streets into some house or by-way, that they might avoid him.
But now they had nothing to fear. His queen dared to wear her jewels; his subjects walked unmolested through the streets, for the king was suffering, chained to his chair, and occupying himself with his tools. This employment had a beneficial effect: it not only caused the king to forgot his sufferings, but was often the means of relief. The constant and rapid motion of his hands and arms imparted a salutary warmth to his whole body, excited a gentle perspiration, which quieted his nervous system, and soothed him in some of his most fearful attacks.
To-day the king was once more freed from his enemy, the gout; this evil spirit had been exorcised by honest labor, and its victim could hope for a few painless hours.
The king raised himself from his chair, and with a loud cry of delight extended his arms, as if he would gladly embrace the universe. He commanded the servant, who was waiting in the adjoining room, to call together the gentlemen who composed the Tobacco Club, and to arrange every thing for a meeting of that august body.
"But those gentlemen are at the queen's ball," said the astonished servant.
"Go there for them, then," said the king; "happily there are no dancers among them; their limbs are stiff, and the ladies would be alarmed at their capers if they attempted to dance. Bring them quickly. Pollnitz must come, and Eckert, and Baron von Goltz, and Hacke, the Duke of Holstein, and General Schwerin. Quick, quick! In ten minutes they must all be here, but let no one know why he is sent for. Whisper to each one that he must come to me, and that he must tell no one where he is going. I will not have the queen's ball disturbed. Quick, now, and if these gentlemen are not all here in ten minutes, I will give a ball upon your back, and your own howls will be the most appropriate music."
This was a threat which lent wings to the feet of the servant, who flew like a whirlwind through the halls, ordered, with breathless haste, two servants to carry the tobacco, the pipes, and the beer-mugs into the king's chamber, and then hurried to the other wing of the palace, where the ball of the queen was held.
Fortune favored the poor servant. In ten minutes the six gentlemen stood in the king's ante-room, asking each other, with pale faces, what could be the occasion of this singular and unexpected summons.
The servant shrugged his shoulders, and silently entered the king's room. His majesty, dressed in the full uniform of his beloved Guard, sat at the round table, on which the pipes, and the mugs, filled with foaming beer, were already placed. He had condescended to fill a pipe with his own hands, and was on the point of lighting it at the smoking tallow candle which stood near him.
"Sire," said the servant, "the gentlemen are waiting in the next room."
"Do they know why I have sent for them?" said the king, blowing a cloud of smoke from his mouth.
"Your majesty forbade me to tell them."
"Well, go now, and tell them I am more furiously angry to-day than you have ever seen me; that I am standing by the door with my crutch, and I command them to come singly into my presence."
The servant hurried out to the gentlemen, who, as the door was opened, perceived the king standing in a threatening attitude near the door, with his crutch raised in his hand.
"What is the matter? Why is the king so furious? What orders do you bring us from his majesty?" asked the gentlemen anxiously and hurriedly.
The servant assumed a terrified expression, and said:
"His majesty is outrageous to-day. Woe unto him over whom the cloud bursts. He commanded me to say that each of you must enter the room alone. Go now, for Heaven's sake, and do not keep the king waiting!"
The gentlemen glanced into each other's pale and hesitating countenances. They had all seen the threatening appearance of the king, as he stood by the door with his raised crutch, and no one wished to be the first to pass under the yoke.
"Your grace has the precedence," said the grand chamberlain, bowing to the Duke of Holstein.
"No," he replied, "you are well aware his majesty does not regard etiquette, and would be most indignant if we paid any attention to it. Go first yourself, my dear friend."
"Not I, your grace, I would not dare to take precedence of you all. If you decline the honor, it is due to General Schwerin. He should lead on the battle."
"There is no question of a battle," said General Schwerin, "but a most probable beating, and Baron von Pollnitz understands that better than I do."
"Gentlemen," said the servant, "his majesty will become impatient, and then woe unto all of us."
"But, my God," said Count von Goltz, "who will dare go forward?"
"I will," said Councillor Eckert; "I owe every thing to his majesty, therefore I will place my back or even my life at his service."
He approached the door with a firm step, and opened it quickly.
The others saw the flashing eyes of the king, as he raised his stick still higher. They saw Eckert enter, with his head bowed down and then the door was closed, and nothing more was heard.
"Against which of us is the anger of the king directed?" faltered Pollnitz.
"Against one and all," said the servant, with a most malicious expression.
"Who will go now?" the gentlemen asked each other, and, after a long struggle, the grand chamberlain, Von Pollnitz, concluded to take the bitter step. Once more, as the door opened, the king was seen waiting, crutch in hand, but the door closed, and nothing more was seen. Four times was this scene repeated; four times was the king seen in this threatening attitude. But as General Schwerin, the last of the six gentlemen, entered the room, the king no longer stood near the door, but lay in his armchair, laughing until the tears stood in his eyes, and Baron von Pollnitz stood before him, giving a most humorous account of the scene which had just taken place in the ante-room, imitating the voices of the different gentlemen, and relating their conversation.
"You all believed in my rage," said the king, almost breathless with laughing. "The joke succeeded to perfection. Yours, also, Schwerin. Do you at last know what it is to be afraid, you who never experienced the feeling on the field of battle?"
"Yes, sire, a shot is a small thing in comparison with the flashing of your eye. When the cannon thunders my heart is joyful, but it is very heavy under the thunder of your voice. I do not fear death, but I do fear the anger and displeasure of my sovereign."
"Oh, you are a brave fellow," said the king, warmly giving the general his hand. "And now, gentlemen, away with all constraint and etiquette. We will suppose the king to be at the ball. I am only your companion, Frederick William, and will now proceed to the opening of the Tobacco Club."
He once more lighted his pipe, and threw himself into one of the chairs, which were placed round the table; the other gentlemen followed his example, and the Tobacco Club was now in session.
THE TOBACCO CLUB.
There was a short interval of silence. Each one busied himself with pipe and tobacco. The dense clouds of smoke which rolled from the lips of all had soon enveloped the room with a veil of bluish vapor, from the midst of which the tallow candle emitted a faint, sickly light.
The king ordered the man in waiting to light several additional candles. "To-day our Tobacco Club must also present a festive appearance, that the contrast between it and the ball may not be too great. Tell me, Pollnitz, how are matters progressing over there? Is the assemblage a handsome one? Are they enjoying themselves? Is the queen gay? and the princesses, are they dancing merrily?"
"Sire," said Pollnitz, "a more magnificent festival than to-day's I have never witnessed. Her majesty was never more beautiful, more radiant, or gayer than today. She shone like a sun in the midst of the handsomely dressed and adorned ladies of the court."
"Indeed! she was then magnificently attired?" said the king, and his countenance darkened.
"Sire, I had no idea the queen possessed so princely a treasure in jewels."
"She has put on her jewels, then, has she? It seems they are taking advantage of my absence. They are merry and of good cheer, while I am writhing on a bed of pain," exclaimed the king, who, in his easily excited irritability, never once remembered that he himself had appointed this festival, and had demanded of his wife that she should lay aside care, and be cheerful and happy.
"Happily, however, your majesty is not ill, and not on a bed of pain. The queen has, therefore, good reason to be happy."
The king made no reply, but raised his mug to his lips, and took a long draught of beer, and let fall its lid with an angry movement.
"I should not be surprised if Frederick had clandestinely come over to this ball," murmured the king. "They dare any thing when not apprehensive of my taking them by surprise."
"But taking by surprise is your majesty's forte," exclaimed Count Hacke, endeavoring to give the conversation another direction. "Never before in my life did I feel my heart beat as it did when I crossed the threshold of this chamber to-day."
The king, who was easily soothed, laughed heartily. "And never before did I see such pale faces as yours. Really, if the gout had not made my fingers so stiff and unwieldy, I would paint you a picture of this scene that would make a magnificent counterpart to my representation of the Tobacco Club, and I would call it 'The Six Tailor Apprentices who are afraid of Blue Monday.' See! we will now devote ourselves to poetry and the arts, and our learned and fantastic son will soon have no advantage over us whatever. If he plays the flute, we paint. While he writes sentimental, we will write satirical poems; and while he sings to sun, moon, and stars, we will do as the gods, and, like Jupiter, envelop ourselves in a cloud. Let it be well understood, however, not for the purpose of deluding a Semele or any other woman, at all times, and in all circumstances, we have been true to our wives, and in this particular the prince royal might well take his father as an example."
"Sire, he could do that in all things," exclaimed Count von Goltz, blowing a cloud of smoke from his lips.
"He thinks at some future day to govern the kingdom with his book-learning and his poems," said the king, laughing. "Instead of occupying himself with useful things, drilling recruits, drawing plans, and studying the art of war, he devotes his time to the acquirement of useless and superficial knowledge, which benefits no one, and is most injurious to himself. A dreaming scholar can never be a good king; and he who, instead of sword and sceptre, wields the pen and fiddle-bow, will never be a good general."
"Nevertheless, no regiment made a finer appearance, or was better drilled, at the last review, than that of the prince royal," said the Duke of Holstein.
The king cast a distrustful look at him, and muttered a few words which no one understood. He was never pleased to hear any defence of the prince royal, and suspected every one who praised him.
"Your majesty forgets that this is a sitting of the Tobacco Club and not of the State Council," said Pollnitz, in a fawning voice. "If your majesty designed to be angry, it was not necessary to light the pipes and fill the beer-mugs; for while you are neither smoking nor drinking, the pipe goes out, and the beer becomes stale."
"True," replied the king, and raising his glass he continued: "I drink this to the health of him who first overcame his timid heart and dared to enter my chamber. Who was it? I have forgotten."
"It was the privy councillor Von Eckert, sire," said Count Hacke, with an ironical smile. Eckert bowed.
"He entered the chamber as if going to battle," exclaimed Von Pollnitz, laughing. "In the spirit he took leave of all the fine breweries, and artfully constructed never-smoking chimneys which he had built; he also took leave of the city exchanges, which he had not yet provided with royal commissioners, destined to despoil them of their riches; he bade adieu to his decoration and to his money-bags, and exclaiming, 'To the king I owe all that I am, it is therefore but proper that my back as well as my life should be at his service,' marched courageously into the royal presence."
"Did he really do that? Did he say that?" exclaimed the king. "Eckert, I am pleased with you for that, and will reward you. It is true that I have elevated you from a lowly position; that I have made a gentleman of the chimney-sweep; but gratitude is a rare virtue, men seldom remember the benefits they have received; your doing so, is an evidence that you have a noble heart, one which I know how to appreciate. The new house which I am building in Jager Street shall be yours; and I will not present you with the naked walls, but it shall be handsomely furnished and fitted up at my expense."
"Your majesty is the most gracious, the best of monarchs!" exclaimed Eckert, hastening to the king and pressing his hand to his lips. "Yes, your majesty is right in saying that you have elevated me from the dust, but my heart, at least, was always pure, and I will endeavor to preserve it so. You have rescued me from the scum of the people. As the ancient Romans gave freedom to those slaves who had rendered themselves worthy of it by good and noble deeds, so has my king also delivered me from the bondage of poverty and lowliness, and given me freedom, and I also will strive to render myself worthy of this great boon by good and noble actions."
"And Berlin offers you the best opportunities of doing so. There are still many smoking chimneys and indifferent beer breweries. Privy Councillor Von Eckert can, therefore, still execute many glorious deeds before he is gathered to his forefathers," exclaimed Von Pollnitz.
All were amused at this, and the king himself could not refrain from smiling. Von Eckert's countenance had become pale and lowering, and casting an angry look at Von Pollnitz, he said, with a forced laugh:
"Really, your wit to-day is dazzling, and I am so charmed with your pleasantries, that should your wine merchant refuse to supply you with any more wine until your old accounts have been settled, I shall be perfectly willing to send you a few bottles from my own cellar, that your Grace may be able to drink my health."
"That I will gladly do," said Pollnitz, affably. "Yes, I will drink to your long and lasting health, for the longer you live the more time your ancestors will have to increase and to multiply themselves. And, as it seems that you are not destined to become the father of a coming generation, you should, at least, endeavor to become the progenitor of your ancestors and the father of your fathers. Ancestors are born to you as children are to others, and, if I am not mistaken, you are already the possessor of three. For a gentleman of wealth and quality, this is, however, too few. I will, therefore, drink to your health, that you may still be able to create many ancestors. And I propose to your majesty to give him an ancestor for every chimney which he frees from smoke."
"Silence, Pollnitz!" exclaimed the king, laughing. "No more of this raillery. Listen to what I have to say. I have given Eckert the new house, and as I have invested him with a title of nobility, it is but proper that a noble coat-of-arms should be placed over his door. Gentlemen, let us consider what the escutcheon of Eckert shall be. Each of you, in his turn, shall give me his opinion. You, duke, commence."
With grave and sober mien the gentlemen began to confer with each other in regard to Von Eckert's escutcheon; and each one considering the favor in which the former stood with the king, took pains to propose the most magnificent coat-of-arms imaginable. But the king was not pleased with the grave and learned devices which were proposed. He disliked giving the newly-made baron a coat-of-arms worthy of any house of old and established nobility, which would have placed him on an equality with the oldest counts and barons of the kingdom.
"When I build a house," said the king, "I wish every one, to see that it is a new one; I therefore give it a nice white coat of paint, and not an old graystone color to make it look like a robber castle. Eckert should, therefore, have a fresh touch of paint for his new dignity, a spick and span new coat-of-arms."
"I am entirely of your majesty's opinion," exclaimed Von Pollnitz solemnly; "and as every noble family bears on its coat-of-arms some emblem and reminiscence of the deeds and events through which it became great, so should also the escutcheon of the noble house of Eckert contain some such reminiscence. I propose to quarter this shield. The first field shall show on a silver ground a black chimney, in which we will also have indicated the Prussian colors. The second field is blue, with a golden vat in the centre, having reference to Eckert's great ability as a beer-brewer. The third field is green, with a golden pheasant in the middle, suggestive of Eckert's earlier occupation as gamekeeper in Brunswick; and the fourth field shows on a red ground a cock and a knife, a reminiscence of the good old times when Privy Councillor Von Eckert fed and dressed fowls in Bairout."
A peal of laughter from the entire club rewarded Von Pollnitz for his proposition. The king was also so well pleased, that he, in all gravity, determined to accept it, and to have a coat-of-arms with the above designated emblems adjusted over the door of the new house in Jager Street.
The merriment of the gentlemen of the Tobacco Club was now becoming energetic, and jests and jokes were contributed by all. The grand chamberlain, Von Pollnitz, was, however, the gayest of the gay. And if the pleasantries which bubbled from his lips like water from a fountain, at any time threatened to flag, a glance at the pale face of Von Eckert, who fairly trembled with suppressed rage, was sufficient to renew his merriment.
While the king was conversing with Von Eckert on the subject of his new house, Pollnitz turned to his neighbor and asked if he had not made ample amends for his awkwardness in the first instance.
"By my thoughtless repetition of that hypocritical man's words, I procured him the new house, but I have also given him a coat-of-arms; and I wager the privy councillor would willingly relinquish the former, if he could thereby get rid of the latter."
"Pollnitz, why are you looking so grave?" asked the king at this moment. "I wager you are in a bad humor, because the handsome house in Jager Street was not given to you."
"By no means, your majesty; as handsome as the house is, it would not suit me at all."
"Ah, yes, you are right; it would be much too large a one for you!" said Frederick William, laughing.
"No, your majesty, it would be much too small for me. When a cavalier of my quality once determines to build a house, it should be arranged in accordance with his rank and standing, and that costs a great deal of money, much more than I ever possessed. It is true that my father left me a fortune of about two hundred thousand dollars, but what is such a trifle to a nobleman? It was not enough for a decent support, and it was too much to go begging on. I calculated how long this sum might be made to last, and finding that, with considerable economy, it would perhaps do for four years, I lived like a noble and generous cavalier for that time; and during that period I was fortunate enough to have the most devoted friends and the truest sweethearts, who never deserted me until the last dollar of my fortune was expended!"
"Do I understand you to say that you expended two hundred thousand dollars in four years?" asked the king.
"Yes, your majesty; and I assure you that I was obliged to practise the most, rigorous economy."
Frederick William regarded him with surprise, almost with admiration. To the king there was something in this man's nature which was imposing. It was perhaps the great contrast between the unlimited extravagance of the baron and his own frugality, which exerted so great an influence on the king, excited his astonishment, and enlisted his admiration in behalf of this ready, witty, and ever-merry courtier.
"An income of fifty thousand dollars is, therefore, not sufficient for a decent support?" asked the king.
"Your majesty, if one attempted to live in a style befitting a nobleman, on that sum, he might die of hunger."
"Ah, explain that. What sum would you consider necessary to enable you to live in a style befitting a nobleman?"
Pollnitz remained lost in thought for a moment, and then replied:
"You majesty, in order to live somewhat respectably, I should require four hundred thousand dollars yearly."
"That is not true, not possible!" exclaimed the king.
"That is so very possible, sire, that I hardly know whether it would suffice or not."
"Gentlemen, do you believe that?" asked the king.
"I, for my part, have not the fourth part of this income," said the Duke of Holstein, smiling.
"I not the tenth!" said Count Von der Goltz.
"And I not the twentieth!" exclaimed General Von Schwerin and Count Hacke at the same time.
"And yet," said the king, "you all live as respected cavaliers, as esteemed gentlemen of my court. Let us hear how Pollnitz would manage to spend so much money. Quick, Jochen, quick, give us a sheet of paper and a pencil."
The valet hastily executed this commission, and handed the king paper and pencil.
"Fill the glasses, Jochen," ordered the king, "and then seat yourself at the foot of the table, and pay attention to what Von Pollnitz is about to explain. It is worth the trouble to learn how an income of four hundred thousand dollars can be spent in a respectable manner. You shall dictate, and I will be your secretary. Woe to you, however, if you do not keep your word, if you expend less! For every thousand which you fail to account for, you shall drink ten glasses of beer, and smoke a pipe of the strong Havana tobacco recently sent me by the stadtholder of Holland."
"But what shall I receive for every thousand which I expend over and above that sum?" asked Von Pollnitz, laughing.
"Oh, it is impossible that a nobleman should need more, that is, provided he does not expend it in a foolish manner, like a madman."
"And if, in order to live in a style befitting a nobleman, I should nevertheless need more, what am I to receive for every thousand?"
"Well, then, for every thousand, I will pay a hundred of your oldest debts," said the king. "But commence. And you, gentlemen, drink and smoke, and pay attention to what he has to say."
"I will begin," said Pollnitz. "First of all, I shall need a respectable house, to receive my guests in, to exhibit my collections, and entertain my friends; to pursue my studies, without being disturbed by the slightest noise; a house, in which my wife must have her separate apartments, and as I shall wish to have my friends with me, every now and then, to smoke, my wife's reception-rooms must be entirely separated from mine."
"But," exclaimed the king, "your wife will certainly allow you to smoke in her rooms!"
"And if she permitted it, your majesty, I would not do so; it becomes not a cavalier to smoke in a lady's room."
The king reddened a little, and carried the mug to his lips, to hide his embarrassment; he remembered how often he had smoked in the queen's rooms, notwithstanding her sighs.
Pollnitz continued quietly: "I must then have several different reception-rooms, and as my wife and myself will frequently be at variance with each other, two different and widely-separated staircases will be necessary, that we may not meet, unless we wish it!"
"Oh! you mean to lead a wretched life with your wife; to quarrel with her every now and then, do you?"
"No, sire, we will never quarrel; it ill becomes a cavalier to have a contest with his wife."
The king reddened again, this time from anger. This exposition of a cavalier began to offend him; it seemed to be a satire upon himself; for unhappily the king not only smoked in the queen's rooms, but the world knew that his wife and children were often the objects of his violent temper, and that the queen had more than once been terribly frightened by his thundering reproaches and unbearable threats.
"Your highness sees that my house must be large, and as it is so, a host of servants and a large income will be necessary. But of this hereafter. Let us speak of my houses, for it is easily understood that I must have a country residence."
"Yes, that is a reasonable demand," said the king, in adding the country house to his list.
"But as I do not go to the country to live as I do in the city, but to enjoy the beauties of nature and scenery, I must have a garden, with vineyards, and beautiful walks, and, for their cultivation, many servants. And, as I cannot ask my friends to visit me simply to pluck my flowers, and eat my fruits, I must procure for them other and rarer pleasures. I must have a park for hunting, and a lake for fishing."
"Yes, that is well argued and true," said the king, noting the park and the lake on his paper.
"Now we are coming to the most important points—the kitchen and wine-cellar. On these two I must bestow most particular care. It would be most unworthy a cavalier to present such dishes to his friends as they can enjoy every day at home. No, if I invite my friends, they must be certain of having such luxuries as they cannot procure elsewhere—such rare and costly viands as will recall the wonders of fairy land!"
"I am quite of your opinion," cried the king, and his face brightened at the thought of the delightful and costly dishes that the rich Pollnitz would set before his friends. "Listen: from time to time you can prepare for me the delightful bacon-pie that I once tasted at Grumbkou's. Oh, that was really splendid, and reminded one, as you say, of the wonders of fairy land! My cook obtained the receipt immediately; but what do you think? three bottles of champagne and three bottles of burgundy were necessary to stew the meat. I had to give up the intention of having such a pie, but I told Grumbkou that when I felt like eating such an expensive dish, I would be his guest."
"I will obey your commands, your highness," said Pollnitz, earnestly, and bowing low to the king. "Let us continue to furnish my house; after that we will speak of the pie. As hunting is decided upon, we must now consider the horses, for I cannot ask my friends to hunt on foot, or walk to the lake. I must have beautiful and noble steeds, and as horses and carriages do not take care of themselves, I must have a number of servants to attend to them."
"That is true," said the king, adding the carriages and horses to his list. "That is true; but I find that you think a great deal of your friends and very little of yourself. Your whole demand, so far, is for the benefit of your friends."
"Sire, hospitality is one of the noblest virtues of a cavalier, for which one can never do too much, but easily too little."
The king frowned and looked threateningly before him; the rest of the club looked at Pollnitz with increasing astonishment, surprised at his daring to show the king in this manner his faults and weaknesses.
Pollnitz alone remained gay and unembarrassed. "Now, as I have attended sufficiently to the pleasure and comfort of my friends, it is time that I should think a little of myself. I therefore beg your highness to name the sum you deem necessary for my yearly expenses for charities and presents for my sweetheart."
"Your wife is your sweetheart. You intend to be a very tender husband, notwithstanding the two staircases."
"Sire, it would not become a cavalier to possess a wife and sweetheart in the same person. Your wife represents your family, your sweetheart amuses you. You give your wife name and rank, your sweetheart your love and whole heart. A true cavalier does not love his wife, but he demands that the world shall honor her as the lady that bears his name."
"Pollnitz, Pollnitz," said the king, shaking his hand threateningly at him, "take care that I never see your cavalier in my house, and no one that is like him; I would have no pity with him, but crush him with my kingly anger!"
Pollnitz was frightened, and covered himself in a cloud of smoke, that the king might not see his perplexity.
"Continue," said Frederick William, after a short pause. "I have set aside a certain amount for every single article you have mentioned, but I truly hope you have concluded; and that the demon that dwells in you, and masters you, will make no further suggestions to your luxurious and insane fancies."
"Yes, your highness; and I beg you will calculate the sum total necessary for these different articles."
The king calculated, his guests smoked and drank in silence, and Pollnitz listened attentively to the sound of voices, and noise of horses in the court.
The king suddenly uttered an oath, and brought his fist heavily down on the paper. "As truly as God lives, Pollnitz is right! Four hundred thousand dollars are not sufficient to support a cavalier of his pretensions. The sum here amounts to four hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
"Your highness confesses that I have demanded nothing superfluous or exaggerated?"
"Yes, I confess it."
"Consequently, your highness will be kind enough to pay me five thousand dollars."
"The devil! How can I understand that?"
"Your majesty forgets that you promised me one hundred dollars for every thousand over and above the sum of four hundred thousand."
"Did I say that?" said the king; and as all present confirmed it, he laughed aloud, saying, "I see that none of you understand Pollnitz. That was not my meaning. I did not say I would pay Pollnitz the gold; but for every thousand above his four hundred thousand I would pay a hundred of his oldest debts, and that is quite a different affair. You know well, if I gave him the gold, his creditors would never receive a cent of it. But what I have promised I will do; bring me, to-morrow, a list of your oldest debts, and I will pay five thousand dollars upon them."
"Your highness, my account is not yet finished. I have only mentioned the most pressing and necessary articles, and much has been forgotten. I must have a forester to chase the poachers from my park, and a night watch to guard my country house, to feed the fish in my pond, to strike upon the water in order to silence the frogs, that my sleep and that of my friends may not be disturbed."
"Enough, enough of your castles in the air, fool that you are!" cried the king, half angry, half amused. "Seek another sovereign, who is rich enough to provide for your follies."
"Sire," said Pollnitz, "I will seek nothing elsewhere. I am too happy to have found so noble and gracious a monarch. I only wished to prove to your majesty, and these gentlemen that do me the honor to consider me a spendthrift, that a great fortune can be easily spent without extravagance and folly, and you will now understand that I have given a worthy proof of economy in fixing my yearly income at four hundred thousand dollars, when I could easily dispose of that sum in six months."
The king laughed, and, raising the beer-pot aloft, commanded the gentlemen to drink to the health of the miser Pollnitz.
The beer-pots were raised, and were jingling merrily, when suddenly it seemed as if an electric shock had struck them all simultaneously—all with the exception of the king. The six cavaliers placed their beer-pots upon the table, and, rising with breathless haste from their chairs, bowed lowly and humbly.
FATHER AND SON.
The king, in speechless amazement, sank back in his chair. He could not yet conceive what spell had taken hold of these gentlemen, that made them rise from their seats in spite of the rules of the Tobacco Club. The king did not see that, behind him, the door had opened, and, in the midst of the smoke that filled the whole room, a young man was visible, whose appearance had produced this astounding impression upon the six cavaliers. And, certainly, there was something exalted and imposing in this youth. A wondrous combination of beauty, nobility of soul, youth, royalty, and melancholy was expressed in this face, whose sharp and marked lines spoke of severe pain and bitter experience, while so fresh and youthful a smile played upon the soft red lip, you could but suppose the heart young, confiding, and impressible. But the eyes were in wonderful contrast to these beautiful lips; they shone like great, mysterious, unfathomable stars—one moment sparkling with youthful superciliousness, the next with the firm, steady, piercing glance of an observing sage. The lofty, somewhat retreating forehead, and the straight, finely-pointed nose, formed a profile indicating commanding elevation of character. And the soul imprisoned behind these temples was powerfully agitated, seeking ever for freedom of thought and expression. It was the eye, the head of a hero; and, had his form corresponded with the giant strength of his glance, he would have been a Titan, and might have crushed the world like a toy in his hand. But his slender, symmetrical, and graceful form was more weak than powerful, more maidenly than heroic.
You felt, however, that this head might lend strength to the body, and if the Titan could not overcome by physical strength, he could rule and conquer by the commanding power of his genius.
 A French traveller, by the name of Birre, who went from Paris to Berlin to see Frederick, describes him in this manner: Buste admirable el vraiment royal, mais pauvre et miserable pedestal. Sa tete et sa poitrine sont au dessous des eloges, le train d'en bas au dessous de la critique.—(See Thiebault.)
This was the unexpected apparition that shocked the gentlemen of the Tobacco Club, and forced them hastily from their seats! The king sat speechless and amazed in his chair, while the youth stood close behind him.
"Allow me to wish your majesty good-evening," said the prince, with his full, clear-ringing voice.
The king was greatly agitated, and the blood rushed to his face. "Fritz!" said he, in a light tone. "Fritz!" repeated he more sternly, and already the sound of a coming storm was perceptible in his voice.
"I come from Ruppin," said the prince, in a quiet, kindly voice, "where I was reviewing my regiment, and I beg pardon for my unexpected appearance."
The king made no reply; his mistrust was scornfully exhibited. He thought that the queen believed him to be suffering and confined to his room. He did not doubt for a moment that she had sent for the prince, and Frederick was there to see if the life of the king was not in danger; if the throne of Prussia would not soon be empty, and ready for its successor.
These dark suspicions excited the king's ire, and filled his heart with bitter distrust. With a hasty movement he dashed back the hand of the prince royal, and arose from his chair. His scornful eye took in at a glance the whole circle, still standing in awe-struck silence around the table.
"Why have you arisen from your chairs?" cried the king, with trembling voice. "How dare you arise contrary to my command, and thus set yourselves in opposition to my kingly power? Do you no longer know the laws of the Tobacco Club? Do you not know that these laws positively forbid you to arise from your seats to greet any one? You are all silent, miserable cowards that you are, who do not attempt to defend yourselves, who go always with wind and tide, and deceive and flatter in every direction. Answer me, Pollnitz, did you not know the law of the Tobacco Club, forbidding you to arise from your seat?"
"I know it, sire, but thought I might be allowed to make an exception of the prince royal."
"So thought we all," said General Schwerin, in a steady voice.
The king struck with doubled fist on the table, and the pitchers and beer-mugs trembled.
"You thought that," said the king, "and yet knew that no exception was ever made for me! But certainly the prince royal is of more consequence than the king. The prince royal is the future sovereign, the rising sun! What the king was not able to give, the prince royal may bestow. From the king there is nothing left to hope, nothing to fear; for this reason you turn to the prince royal; for this reason you ridicule the laws of the father to flatter the son. The son is a fine French cavalier, who loves ornament and courtesy, to whom the question of etiquette is important. You stand up also when the prince royal enters, although you know in this room all are equal, and here you have often forgotten that I am king. Yes, the king can be forgotten—the prince royal never; he may soon be king!"
"God grant your majesty a long and happy life," said the prince royal.
During this passionate speech of the king, he had stood silent and immovable behind his chair.
"Who spoke to you? Who told you to speak until you were questioned?" said the king, whose whole form trembled with rage. "You, the slave of etiquette, should know that no man speaks to the king until he is spoken to. Truly you think the king does not understand etiquette. He is an old-fashioned man, and knows not how a true cavalier should conduct himself. Now, Pollnitz, you see there a cavalier after your own heart, a veritable model. Ah, you thought perhaps I did not see the face lurking behind your picture; you suppose I did not recognize the cavalier you painted in such glowing colors, in order to prove that he must have four hundred thousand dollars yearly or be forced to make debts. Patience! patience! my eyes are at last opened! Woe, woe to you all when I see that you dare brave me in order to please the prince royal! I will prove to you that I yet live, and am your master. The Tobacco Club is closed, and you may all go to the devil!"
"As I don't know the way there, will your majesty allow me to return to Rheinsberg? I now take my leave," said the prince royal, bowing respectfully to the king.
Frederick William turned his head, and said but one word—"Go!"
The prince bowed again; then, turning to the cavaliers, he said:
"Good-evening, gentlemen. I sincerely regret to have been the cause of the king's anger. Against you this displeasure is however just, for a command of the king should never be disobeyed, not even with a kind and magnanimous intent."
The prince had with these words put himself beyond the reach of the king's rage, and at the same time done justice to all: to the king in acknowledging the justice of his anger; to the cavaliers in praising their good intentions. He was evidently master of the situation.
With a firm, steady tread he left the room, while the king, in spite of his anger, could not help feeling that he had again failed in kindness to the prince royal. But this consciousness only made him the more passionate. He muttered a deep curse, and looked threateningly at the pale, trembling cavaliers.
"Hypocrites and eye-servants are you all," muttered he, as he slowly passed by them. "Give me your arm, Hacke, and lead me into the other room. I cannot look at these men any longer."
Count Hacke rushed forward, and, leaning on his arm, the king tottered into the adjoining room.
When the door closed behind them, the cavaliers seemed to awaken from their torpidity. They raised their heads, and looked at one another with a half-confused, half-angry gaze. They had been scolded like children, and felt that they were men. Their honor had received a sensitive wound, but their awe of the king kept them from demanding satisfaction.
When the count returned to order the gentlemen in the king's name to leave the palace, they did not have the courage to obey this command, but sent the count as their ambassador to the king to ask in the humblest manner for forgiveness and pardon, and to assure him that their behavior to the prince royal was but the consequence of involuntary thoughtlessness.
The count, after much trembling, left the room to deliver this message to the king; the cavaliers waited in anxious silence for his return. At length the door opened, and the count appeared.
"Well, what says the king? Has he forgiven us? Will he take us into his favor again? Is he convinced that we are his true, humble, and obedient servants?"
All these questions the count answered by a slight motion of the hand. It was a moment of anxious expectation; all were eagerly looking at the count, who was to pronounce for them the words of forgiveness or condemnation.
"Gentlemen," at length said the count, and his voice sounded to the trembling courtiers hollow and awful as that of an angel of death, "gentlemen, the king says if you do not leave here at once, he will easily find means to compel you to do so!"
This was a menace that gave strength to the trembling limbs of the courtiers. Silently, with sad, troubled looks, they hastened away, and not until the great portals of the palace had closed upon them did they feel safe from the fear of imprisonment, and the king's crutch.
The king had not yet subdued his anger. He thirsted for another victim. The servants wisely remained at a distance beyond the reach of the royal crutch; the king's ungovernable anger had even banished Count Hacke from the room.
The king was alone, entirely alone in this dark, empty room, and its comfortless silence filled him with anxiety. He sank into his arm-chair, and looked with a sad glance around this large room, which, because of his parsimony, was but badly lighted with four tallow candles. Nothing broke the silence but from time to time the gay music of the dance, which was heard from the other wing of the castle. Mirth still reigned in the saloons of the queen. The king sighed; his heart was filled with melancholy and rage. The queen was gay, while her husband suffered. The court was joyful, while he sat alone and neglected, gnashing his teeth in this dark and joyless room. And yet he was the king, the all-powerful ruler of millions of subjects, who trembled before him, and yet not one of them loved him.
All eyes were fixed upon the rising sun, upon Frederick, so unlike his father, and so little the son of his father's heart. As the king thought of this, deep grief and a foreboding melancholy overcame him. In the anguish of his heart he turned to God and prayed. He silenced the voice of self-accusation and remorse, now whispering in his breast, by prayer.
The king prayed. Exhausted with rage, he fancied that he had given himself up to pious contrition and world-despising godliness.
As the tones of the music were again heard, he experienced a pious exasperation over this unholy levity, a peaceful self-content; he belonged not to the ungodly, who gave themselves up to worldliness and vanity, but alone and deserted he prayed to his Father in heaven. How small, how pitiful, how contemptible did the gay dancers appear to him! How pleased he was with himself, his holy walk and conversation! At this moment the anxious face of his valet appeared at the door.
"Your majesty commanded me to tell you so soon as the coffins which came yesterday were unpacked and placed in the white saloon: this is done, and the coffins can be seen."
"Ah! My coffin is ready!" said the king, involuntarily shuddering. "My coffin, and that of the queen! And Sophia gives a ball, and perhaps dances, in place of bowing her soul in contrition before God. I will awaken her from these soul-destroying vanities; the arrival of the coffins now was an especial providence of God. The queen shall see them!"
He called his two valets, commanded one to lead him to the ball-room, the other to illuminate the white saloon in which the coffins were placed.
THE WHITE SALOON.
The queen had no suspicion of all that had happened in the chambers of the king; she had not observed the absence of the Tobacco Club, and after having made the grand tour of the saloons, she seated herself at the card-table.
Her majesty had no idea that her husband was free from pain, and had left his arm-chair; she was, therefore, gay and careless, filled with a sense of freedom and power. The cruel eye of Frederick William was not bent upon her to look her down, and cast a veil of humility over the sparkling diamonds which adorned her brow; no, she was to-night entirely herself—every inch a queen! proud and happy, smiling and majestic. Rejoicing in her own greatness and glory, she was still amiable and obliging to this great crowd of devoted, submissive, flattering, smiling men, who surrounded her; never had she been so gracious, never so queenly. As we have said, she had seated herself at the card-table, and the margrafin Maria Dorothea and the English and French ambassadors were her partners; behind her chair stood her two maids of honor, to whom she now and then addressed a word, or sent them to look after the young princesses, who were dancing in the adjoining room, and giving themselves up merrily to the pleasures of the evening. Suddenly the music ceased, and a strange, unaccustomed silence reigned throughout the rooms.
The queen was arranging the cards, and turned smilingly to one of her maids of honor, commanding her as soon as the dance was ended to lead the princesses to her side; she then gave her attention to the game, when suddenly the Princess Amelia, pale and terrified, rushed hastily to her mother, and whispered a few words in her ear.
Sophia Dorothea uttered a low cry of terror, and exclaimed: "The king! my God, the king! he seems very angry!" said the princess; "do not let him see your diamonds." The partners of the queen sat in respectful silence, waiting for her to play; she dashed her cards upon the table, removed her necklace and bracelets hastily, and thrust the glittering heap into her dress pocket.
 See Thiebault.
"Remove my long ear-rings," she whispered to Amelia, and while the princess obeyed the command, the queen took her cards from the table. The glory was departed; the diamonds were hiding timidly in her pocket, and the fire of her eye was quenched.
The king was there; Sophia Dorothea was no longer a royal queen, but a trembling, dependent woman, cowering before the rage of her husband. The partners of the queen sat quietly with downcast eyes, and did not appear to see the rash change in the toilet of her majesty, still seemingly waiting for the play of the queen. Sophia played a queen, Lord Hastings played the king.
"Lost!" said her majesty, "so must the queen ever lose when the king comes; but it is always a comfort," she said, with a bitter smile, "to be overcome only by a king." She played on quietly, though she knew that the king was already in the door of the room and watching her closely.
As the king stepped forward and called her name, she rose and advanced toward him with an expression of joyful surprise.
"Ah, my husband, what a great pleasure you have prepared for us!" she said smiling; "it is most amiable of your majesty to glorify this feast with your presence."
"I come, however," said the king, in a rude, harsh voice, and thrusting the queen's arm in his own, "to cast gloom upon this fete; it is good and necessary in the midst of tumultuous earthly pleasures to be reminded of the fleeting vanity of all sublunary things; and to still the voluptuous music with prayer, I am come to administer this medicine to your vain and sin-sick soul. Come with me, you there!" said the king, turning his head backward to the courtiers, who were gathered in silent and frightened groups. "You there, follow us!" He dragged the queen forward; silently the procession of richly-adorned guests followed the royal pair, no one knew where.
The queen had in vain implored the king to make known his purpose. This long procession, adorned with flowers, diamonds, uniforms, and orders, had a gay and festal appearance; you might well suppose them wedding guests on their way to church. The principal actors on this occasion, however, did not promise to be a happy pair.
The king looked steadily, with a frowning brow and tightly-compressed lips, right before him; the queen, wan and trembling, turned her eyes anxiously from side to side, seeking everywhere some new danger, some new terror prepared for her. The procession stepped silently and earnestly through the dressing-rooms, odorous with flowers; through the illuminated antechamber; further on through the corridors and up the wide stair steps; onward still through long passages till they reached the great doors of the White Saloon, which Frederick had built and adorned.
"We have arrived," said the king, opening the door, and leading in the queen. Suddenly Sophia Dorothea uttered a cry of horror, and fell backwards; behind her stood the curious, astonished, and shocked courtiers, pressing themselves hastily through the door of the saloon.
"Two coffins!" murmured the queen, with horror; her timid glance rested first upon the solemn coffins, then wandered anxiously to the lofty, imposing marble statues of the prince electors, who, in solemn rest, in this chamber of the dead, seemed to hold a watch over the coffins of the living.
"Yes, two coffins," said the king—"our coffins, Sophia; and I resolved in this hour to show them to you and the assembled court, that this solemn warning might arouse you all from your unholy and sinful lusts. Death must strike at your heart to awaken it from voluptuous sleep and cause you to look within. In these coffins we will soon rest, and all earthly vanity and glory will be at an end. No one will fear my glance or my crutch; no one will compliment the beautiful toilet of the queen, or admire her diamonds; dust will return to dust, and the king and the queen be nothing more than food for worms!"
"Not so," said Sophia, whose noble and proud heart felt humbled by this pious grovelling of her husband; "not so, we will be more than dust and food for worms. The dust of common mortals will be scattered in every direction by the hand of Time, and over their graves will History walk with destroying feet; but she will remain with us and will gather our dust, and build therewith a monument to our memory; when our bodies of flesh and blood are placed in the vault of our ancestors, our forms will arise again with limbs of marble and bosoms without hearts. Look, my husband, at these statues of your exalted ancestors; they have also gone down into the vaults, but their marble forms have the best places in our splendid rooms; perhaps they listen to our words and behold our deeds."
Whilst the queen spoke, her countenance was illuminated with royal energy and beauty; she was now, indeed, truly imperial, without the aid of diamond coronets. The queen was herself again; she had conquered her womanish fears; she felt herself not only the wife of Frederick, but the sister of the king of England, the mother of the future king.
But Frederick, in what he considered his holy penitential mood, was made angry by her self-possession, her proudly-erected head; he felt that this soul had made itself free from his heavy yoke, and claimed and enjoyed a separate existence; but she should acknowledge him again as her lord, and he bowed down with humble penitence. The queen should become the woman, the obedient wife; had not the Bible said, and "he shall rule over thee"?
"So, then, let our ancestors behold how we try our coffins before them," said the king, placing his hand heavily on the shoulder of the queen; "the world knows that diamonds become you, and that I, in my uniform, am a fine-looking fellow; let us see now how our coffins will clothe us!"
"What do you mean, my king?" said Sophia, fixing her trembling glance upon her husband.
"I mean that we will see if we can take our places with dignity and worthily in our coffins; that we will do to-day in sport what we must hereafter do in solemn earnest."
"This is indeed a cruel jest," said the queen.
"Oh, yes, to the children of this world every thing seems cruel which reminds them of death and the fleeting nature of all earthly joys," said the king, "but such a warning is good and healthy to the soul, and if we would accustom ourselves from time to time to leave the ballroom and rest awhile in our coffins, we would, without doubt, lead more holy and earnest lives. Lay yourself, therefore, in your coffin, Sophia; it will be to your soul's advantage, and my eyes will see a picture which, praised be God, you can never behold. I shall see you in your coffin."
"Oh, you are younger than I, my husband; you will surely see me buried; it is not therefore necessary to put me to this trial."
"Conquer thy soul, and make it quiet and humble," said the king; "we have come hither to try our coffins, and we will try them!"
"The king had a feverish attack of piety to-day. I would not have come if I had known the intentions of your majesty," said the queen.
"You would have come as I willed it," murmured the king, while his cheeks glowed with anger and his eye flashed fire.
Sophia saw these symptoms of a rising storm, and she knew that all restraints would be removed if she resisted longer. She called with a commanding tone to one of her maids of honor, and said proudly:
"Reach me your hand, duchess; I am weary, and will for awhile rest upon this bed, of a new and uncommon form."
With the appearance and nobility of a truly royal soul, she raised her robe a little, lifted her foot over the edge of the coffin, and placed it firmly in the bottom. She stood in the coffin proudly erect, commanding and majestic to behold; then, with inimitable grace, she stooped and lay down slowly. The coffin creaked and groaned, and amongst the crowd of courtiers a murmur of horror and disgust was heard. The king stood near the coffin, and Sophia Dorothea looked at him so steadily, so piercingly, that he had not the courage to meet her glance, and fixed his eyes upon the ground. The queen stood up quietly. The Countess Hacke held out her hand to assist her, but she waved her proudly back.
"No," she said, "kings and queens leave their coffins by their own strength and greatness, and sustained by the hand of History alone." Sophia then stepped over the edge of the coffin, and, bowing profoundly to the king, she said—
"Your majesty, it is now your turn."
The king was confused. He cast a dark, distrustful glance upon the queen. Her simple words had for him a prophetic meaning, and he shuddered as he drew near the coffin. With a powerful effort he overcame himself, stepped into the coffin, and nodded to some of his courtiers to assist him in lying down.
"Ah, I rest well upon this couch," said Frederick. "Here will I soon sleep till it shall please God to wake me at the resurrection!"
"May that time be far removed, my king!" said Sophia earnestly. "Allow me to assist you."
She reached her hand to the king; he seized it with alacrity, and was in the act of rising, when a wild and unaccustomed sound was heard without—a loud, piercing cry, which was many times repeated, then the sound of hasty steps approaching the room! The pallid and awe-struck courtiers whispered to each other.
"What is it?" cried the king, who was still sitting in his coffin.
No one answered. The courtiers whispered confused and wild words, but no one dared to answer.
"I demand to know what has happened," said the king, as with much difficulty he sought to raise himself up.
The major domo stepped forward. "Your majesty, two soldiers are without who held watch in the corridor; they declare that a long, white figure, with a veiled face and black gloves, passed slowly by them the whole length of the corridor, and entered this room; they, believing that some unseemly mask wished to approach your majesty, followed the figure and saw it enter this room. They ran hither to seize the masker, but your majesty knows no such person is here."
"The white lady!" cried the king, and sank powerless and as if broken to pieces in the coffin. "The white lady! veiled and with black gloves! That signifies my death!"
"The white lady!" murmured the courtiers, withdrawing involuntarily from the door through which the evil-omened white lady should enter.
The queen alone was silent. She looked around with a searching glance upon the marble statues of the prince electors, and her soul was far away with her beloved son Frederick.
THE MAID OF HONOR, AND THE GARDENER.
It was a lovely day in May. The lilacs were in bloom; the birds were singing their sweetest songs; the swans floating upon the tranquil lake, which, bordered with water lilies and other fragrant plants, was one of the chief ornaments in the garden of the prince royal at Rheinsberg. It was still early; the residents of the palace, which was surrounded by this beautiful garden, were sleeping; the windows were closed and curtained, and you heard none of the sounds which usually arose from this gay and charming place. No music fell on the ear but the melting tones of the nightingale and the morning song of the lark.
The prince royal himself was still asleep, for his flute was silent, and that was a sure sign to all who lived in the palace that the lord of the house was not awake, or at least that he had not yet begun the day.
The music of his flute was the morning sacrifice with which the young prince greeted the day; it, like the pillar of Memnon, which gave forth a sound when touched by the rays of the sun, announced to his flattering courtiers that their sun had arisen.
But the flute was silent; the sun had therefore not arisen, although its beams had long been flooding the park in golden light, and drinking from every flower the dew that had fallen during the past sultry night.
Fritz Wendel, the gardener, was already busy with his watering-pot, and was at the same time anxiously selecting and gathering the most beautiful flowers, and concealing them carefully under the various plants and bushes; perhaps to protect them from the heat of the sun, perhaps to secure them from the curious eyes of some observer. Such eyes were already observing him, and resting upon him with an expression so tender and smiling, that you could see that the young girl to whom they belonged had a special interest in the tall, handsome gardener, who, in his modest, simple dress, and his great and imposing beauty, appeared to realize the truth of the old fables, of the gods who visited the earth in disguise. He might have been Apollo charmed by some Daphne, and taking this rude dress to approach the shepherdess he loved. Perhaps this charming young girl thought thus, and on that account looked at him so smilingly from behind the lilacs, or perhaps she believed him to be a prince, and waited anxiously for the moment when he would throw off his disguise and declare himself her equal. For she was, although not a princess, maid of honor to one, and of noble birth.
But youth is indifferent to such things as a genealogical tree, or a coat-of-arms, and what cared this child of thirteen summers whether Fritz Wendel was the son of a prince or a peasant? He pleased her because he was young and handsome, and he had one other great charm, he was her first lover. Every one else called Mademoiselle von Sehwerin a child, and jested with little Louise. The princess royal had begged her from her mother, as a sort, of plaything with which to amuse her lonely hours, and the title "maid of honor" was only a jest, which served merely to secure the entrance of the young lady to her royal mistress at any time.
But Louise was only a child in years; she possessed already the heart, the feelings, and the desires of a woman; nothing, therefore, hurt her pride so much as being called a child, and she was never happier than when her beauty and talent caused her youth to be forgotten.
Fritz Wendel, the young gardener, knew nothing of her age. For him she was Mademoiselle von Schwerin, a young lady, the goddess at whose shrine he worshipped, the fairy under whose glance his flowers bloomed, and his heart beat high. For her alone he tended the flowers and the fruits; for her alone had God created the earth; was she not its queen, and was it not natural that Fritz Wendel lay at her feet, and called her the star of his existence?
The young lady having watched her silent, dreaming "first lover" long enough, and tired of this unnatural silence, walked forward from her place of concealment, and bade Fritz Wendel good-morning, just as he was gathering a beautiful narcissus.
Poor Fritz trembled, and a deep blush overspread his face; he was so embarrassed that he forgot to return the young girl's greeting, and only bent still lower over the flower which he held in his hand.
"For whom are your flowers intended?" said Louise, "and why have you hidden the most beautiful ones? Will you not place them in the bouquet which you arrange every morning for the princess?"
"I have never been ordered to gather the most beautiful flowers for the princess," said Fritz Wendel, who had not yet dared to glance at the young lady. "The prince royal commanded me to place fresh flowers in the vases every morning; that is all."
"But it seems to me that is not all," said Louise, laughing, "for you are gathering other flowers; for whom are they intended, if not for the princess royal?"
Fritz Wendel at length dared to raise his eyes, and glance timidly at the smiling face of the young girl who stood near him.
"They are also intended for a princess," he said, in a low voice—"for my princess."
"Oh! then you have a special princess for whom you gather flowers?"
"Yes, I have my princess, whom I serve, and for whom I would willingly sacrifice my life," cried the impetuous young man, with all the energy of his passionate and untamed nature.
Mademoiselle von Schwerin played carelessly with the branch of the lilac which she held in her hand. She plucked off the small blossoms, and throwing them in the air, blew them about, as she danced here and there on tiptoe.
"I would like to know how it is that I find a magnificent bouquet in my room every morning, and who it is that dares to gather more beautiful flowers for me than any to be found in the vases of the princess royal?"
"It must be some one who adores you," said the young gardener, with his eyes on the ground, and blushing deeply at his own temerity.
"Then it is a nobleman, perhaps one of the court gentlemen," she said, casting a teasing glance on her embarrassed lover. "Who else would dare to adore me, or to send me flowers?"
"Yes, you are right, who would dare?" murmured Fritz Wendel; "perhaps some poor, deluded mortal, led by a wild insanity to forget his humble condition, and consider himself your equal. There have been maniacs who imagined themselves great among earth's greatest men, and equal even to the very God in heaven."
"How pale you are!" cried Louise, looking at the young man with undissembled tenderness. "Why do you weep, Fritz?"
She took his hand, and gazed into his eyes with a most singular expression, half curious, half questioning.
Fritz Wendel trembled with delight at her touch, but withdrew his hand almost with violence.
"I weep because I am a miserable gardener," he murmured; "I weep because I am not great and noble, like the gentlemen at court."
"Yesterday Baron von Kaiserling gave an account of an Austrian general, who was the son of a peasant, and had been a cowherd. Now he is a general, and is married to the daughter of a count."
The countenance of Fritz Wendel beamed with energy and courage.
"Oh! why is there not a war?" he cried, enthusiastically. "I could not fail to become a general, for I should fight like a lion."
"You would like to become a general, in order to marry the daughter of a count?"
"Not the daughter of a count, but—"
"Fritz Wendel! Fritz Wendel!" called a voice in the distance.
"It is the head gardener," said poor Fritz, sadly. "Farewell, farewell; be kind and gracious, and come again to-morrow to the garden."
He took his basket of flowers, and hurried down the avenue.
Mademoiselle von Schwerin followed him, with an angry glance. "Once more no declaration of love," she murmured, stamping on the ground with the spitefulness of a child. "He shall make me a declaration. Madame von Morien says there is nothing more heavenly than to hear for the first time that you are beloved. She also says it is wisest not to choose your lovers among your equals, but either above or beneath you, for then you may be sure that you will not be betrayed. She told me yesterday that she was never so worshipped as by a young huntsman who served her father when she was just my age, and that no other man had ever adored her as he had done. Now Fritz Wendel loves me also, and he shall make me a declaration, for I must know what this charming sensation is. He shall do it to-morrow. I will be so kind and gentle that he will tell me of his love. But now I must return to the palace. I dare not be found here," and the young girl flew away lightly as a gazelle.
VON MANTEUFFEL, THE DIPLOMAT.
The garden was again solitary. Nothing was heard but the chattering of birds, as they flitted from limb to limb, and the whispering of the wind among the trees; all else was tranquil and still. But this did not last long. The noise of advancing footsteps gave evidence of the approach of some one, whose figure was soon visible at the entrance of the grand avenue.
This person was again a lady, who, if not so beautiful as Mademoiselle von Schwerin, was still pretty enough to be called one of the fair sex. She was dressed in a charming and tasteful morning robe, which was eminently adapted to display to advantage the beautiful contour of her tall and stately figure.
Nor had she come into the garden merely to breathe the fresh morning air, and enjoy the delightful fragrance of flowers; these were scarcely observed, as she hurriedly swept past them. She stood still for a moment at the end of the long avenue, and looked cautiously around in all directions. Seeing that no one was near, that she was alone and unobserved, she turned aside into the bushes, and, following a narrow, overgrown path, at last arrived at the garden wall, where she remained standing before a small door for a moment, listening with suppressed breathing. Hearing nothing, she clapped her hands three times, and listened again. And now a repetition of her signal could be heard from the other side, and she cried in clear and silvery tones, "Good-morning, good-morning!" A deep, manly voice returned her greeting from the other side of the wall.
"It is he!" murmured the lady, and quickly drawing a key from her pocket, she opened the door.
The man who had been standing outside sprang forward through the open gate, and, bowing low to the lady, pressed her proffered hand to his lips.
"Good-morning, Count Manteuffel," said she, smiling. "Really you are as punctual as if coming to a rendezvous with your lady love."
"Tempi passali!" sighed the count. "I am married,"
"So am I," said the lady, laughing; "that is, however, no reason why—"
"You should not still have ardent and devoted admirers." said the count, interrupting her. "But you are still young and beautiful, while I have grown old. Tell me, kind lady, by what, art you have preserved the charming freshness of youth, and those bright and sparkling eyes by which I was so completely enslaved when I still had a heart?"
The lady gave him a penetrating, mocking look. "Count Manteuffel," said she, "you are so friendly, and your adoration is of so profound a nature, that you undoubtedly have some very particular favor to solicit at my hands. But come, let us enter that little pavilion; there we will find comfortable seats, and be secure from all interruption."
They passed silently along the wall to the pavilion, to which the same key gave access which had before opened the garden door.
"Here we are safe," said the lady, throwing back the lace veil which had concealed her face. "Come, count, let us be seated; and now tell me why you desired this meeting, and why it is that your valet was not sent as usual to deliver your letters and to receive mine?"
"I had an irresistible longing to see you, to behold once more your lovely countenance," said the count, with a deep sigh.
"But just now you said you had no heart," said the lady, laughing.
"You are the enchantress who recalls it to life. Really you do credit to your name, and, thanks to Madame Brandt, my heart is again in flames."
"Count, it is very evident that you are now playing a part to which you are not accustomed," exclaimed Madame Brandt, laughing. "When you attempt to act the lover you become insipid, while your are known and acknowledged to be one of the shrewdest and most ingenious of diplomatists. But no diplomatic subterfuges with me, I pray. Let us waste no time on the shell, but to the kernel at once! What do you require of me? In my last letter I gave you an accurate account of the state of affairs at court, and also of the state of my finances, which is precisely that of the prince royal's; that is, his purse is as empty as mine."
"And both of you have an empress who is only too happy to have the privilege of supplying this deficiency," said Count Manteuffel, drawing forth a well-filled purse, through the silken meshes of which gold glittered, and presenting it to the lady. "I am only sorry to say there are several empresses who have the inestimable privilege of assisting the prince royal and Madame Brandt."
"What do you mean, count? We no longer understand each other, and I beg of you not to speak in riddles, which I am not prepared to solve."
"I mean to say that the prince royal, in his moneyed embarrassments, no longer addresses himself to the Empress of Austria, although she, as his nearest relative, as the aunt of the princess royal, has undoubtedly the first claim to his confidence."
"But perhaps the purse of the Empress of Austria is insufficient to meet his demands," said Madame von Brandt.
"He should first have tested the purse of the empress, as he frequently did in former times—in times when not only the prince royal, but also his sister of Bairout, experienced the generosity of their imperial aunt. But the prince royal readily forgets the benefits which he has received."
"That he does," sighed Madame von Brandt. "We poor women are the greatest sufferers. He has loved us all, and forgotten us all."
"All?" asked Count Manteuffel.
"All, count! We are nothing more to him than the plaything of an idle hour; he then wearies of us, and throws us aside. There is but one whom he truly loves and constantly."
"And this lady's name?"
"The flute, count! Ah, you looked sadly crestfallen. True, this lady cannot be bribed, either with Austrian gold or with the flattery of the skilful Count Manteuffel; she is always discreet, always mysterious; she never betrays her lover. Ah, count, we might both learn something from this noble flute. Yes, believe me, I would try to be like her, if, unfortunately, I did not need so many things for which a flute has no use, and if the glitter of Austrian gold were not so alluring. But you, Count Manteuffel, why are you not like the flute? Why have you spies and eavesdroppers at all places? Why are you an Austrian spy at the court of Prussia—you who have wealth, rank, and standing which should place you above such paltry considerations?"
Count Manteuffel's brow darkened, and he compressed his lips angrily. But he quickly subdued this momentary irritation, and was once more the affable, easy, and attentive diplomat.
"I serve the Austrian court from inclination," said he, "from preference, and certainly with honest intentions. I serve that court, because I am deeply convinced that upon Austria devolves the privilege and duty of dethroning all other German princes, and uniting all Germany under one government, of converting Austria into Germany. Prussia must then cease to exist in Austria, and must bend the knee as a vassal. That is my political conviction, and I act in accordance with it."