NAPOLEON IN GERMANY
NAPOLEON AND BLUCHER
An historical Novel
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY F. JORDAN
NAPOLEON AT DRESDEN.
I. Frederick William and Hardenberg II. The White Lady III. Napoleon and the White Lady IV. Napoleon at Dresden V. Napoleon's High-born Ancestors VI. Napoleon's Departure from Dresden
THE LAST DAYS OF 1812.
VII. The Conspirators of Helgoland VIII. The European Conspiracy IX. Gebhard Leberecht Blucher X. Recollections of Mecklenburg XI. Glad Tidings XII. The Oath
CHANCELLOR VON HARDENBERG.
XIII. The Interrupted Supper XIV. The Defection of General York XV. The Warning XVI. The Diplomatist XVII. The Clairvoyante XVIII. An Adventuress XIX. The Two Diplomatists XX. The Attack XXI. The Courier's Return
XXII. The Manifesto XXIII. Leonora Prohaska XXIV. Joan of Orleans XXV. The National Representatives
WAR AND AN ARMISTICE.
XXVI. Theodore Korner XXVII. The Heroic Tailor XXVIII. The General-in-Chief of the Silesian Army XXIX. The Ball at the City Hall of Breslau XXX. The Appointment XXXI. After the Battle of Bautzen XXXII. Bad News XXXIII. The Traitors XXXIV. Napoleon and Metternich
DELIVERANCE OF GERMANY.
XXXV. On the Katzbach XXXVI. Blucher as a Writer XXXVII. The Revolt of the Generals XXXVIII. The Battle of Leipsic XXXIX. The Nineteenth of October
HANNIBAL ANTE PORTAS.
XL. Blucher's Birthday XLI. Passage of the Rhine XLII. Napoleon's New-Year's-Day XLIII. The King of Rome XLIV. Josephine XLV. Talleyrand XLVI. Madame Letitia
FALL OF PARIS.
XLVII. The Battle of La Rothiere XLVIII. The Diseased Eyes XLIX. On to Paris! L. Departure of Maria Louisa LI. The Capitulation of Paris LII. Night and Morning near Paris LIII. Napoleon at Fontainebleau LIV. A Soul in Purgatory
NAPOLEON AND BLUCHER.
NAPOLEON AT DRESDEN.
FREDERICK WILLIAM AND HARDENBERG.
It was a fine, warm day in May, 1812. The world was groaning under the yoke of Napoleon's tyranny. As a consolation for the hopeless year, came the laughing spring. Fields, forests, and meadows, were clad in beautiful verdure; flowers were blooming, and birds were singing everywhere—even at Charlottenburg, which King Frederick William formerly delighted to call his "pleasure palace," but which now was his house of mourning. At Charlottenburg, Frederick William had spent many and happy spring days with Queen Louisa; and when she was with him at this country-seat, it was indeed a pleasure palace.
The noble and beautiful queen was also now at Charlottenburg, but the king only felt her presence—he beheld her no more. Her merry remarks and charming laughter had ceased, as also her sighs and suffering; her radiant eyes had closed forever, and her sweet lips spoke no more. She was still at Charlottenburg, but only as a corpse. The king had her mausoleum erected in the middle of the garden. Here lay her coffin, and room had been left for another, as Frederick William intended to repose one day at the side of his Louisa.
From the time that the queen's remains had been deposited there— from that day of anguish and tears—the king called Charlottenburg no longer his "pleasure palace." It was henceforth a tomb, where his happiness and love were buried. Still, he liked to remain there, for it seemed to him as though he felt the presence of the spirit of his blessed queen, and understood better what she whispered to his soul in the silent nights when she consoled him, and spoke of heaven and a renewed love. The bereaved husband, however, did not prefer to dwell in the magnificent abode of his ancestors, where he had formerly passed in spring so many happy days with his beloved Louisa. He had, therefore, a small house near the palace; it was into this plain and humble structure that he had retired with his grief-stricken heart. Here, in his solitude, he had already passed two springs.
The second year had nearly elapsed since the queen's death, and Frederick William's heart was still overburdened with sorrow, but yet he had learned what time teaches all mortals—he had learned to be resigned. Yes, resignation in these melancholy days was the only thing that remained to the unfortunate King of Prussia. It was a sad and difficult duty, for he had lost happiness, love, greatness, and even his royal independence. It is true, he was still called King of Prussia, but he was powerless. He had to bow to the despotic will of Napoleon, and scarcely a shadow of his former greatness had been left him. The days of Tilsit had not yet brought disgrace and humiliation enough upon him. The Emperor of the French had added fresh exactions, and his arrogance became daily more reckless and intolerable. In the face of such demands it only remained for Frederick William to submit or resist. He looked mournfully at his unhappy country, at those whom the last war had deprived of their husbands and fathers; at his small army; at the scanty means at his disposal, compared with the resources of Napoleon, and—the king submitted.
He had indeed hesitated long, and struggled strongly with his own feelings. For, by submitting to Napoleon's behests, he was to become the open enemy of the Emperor Alexander, and the King of Prussia was, jointly with the Emperor of the French, to arm against the Emperor of Russia. It was a terrible necessity for Frederick William to sacrifice his friend to his enemy, and at the very moment when Alexander had offered his hand for a new league, and proposed to conclude an offensive and defensive alliance with Prussia and England.
But such an alliance with distant Russia could not strengthen Prussia against neighboring France, whose armies were encamped near her frontiers. The danger of being crushed by Napoleon was much more probable than the hope of being supported by Russia. Russia had enough to do to take care of herself. She was unable to prevent France from destroying Prussia, if Napoleon desired, and the crown might fall from the head of Frederick William long before a Russian army of succor could cross the Prussian frontier. He submitted therefore, and accepted with one hand the alliance of France, while threatening her with the other.
On the 24th of February, 1812, the Prussian king signed this new treaty. As was stipulated by the first article, he entered into a defensive alliance with France against any European power with which either France or Prussia should hereafter be at war. Napoleon, the man who had broken Queen Louisa's heart, was now the friend and ally of King Frederick William, and the enemies of France were henceforth to be the enemies of Prussia!
It was this that the king thought of to-day, when, in the early part of May, he was alone, and absorbed in his reflections, at his small house in Charlottenburg. It was yet early, for he had risen before sunrise, and had been at work a long time, when he ceased for a moment and yielded to his meditations. Leaning back in his easy chair, he gazed musingly through the open glass-doors, now on serene sky, and again on the fragrant verdure of his garden.
But this quiet relaxation was not to last long; the door of the small anteroom opened, and the footman announced that his excellency Minister and Chancellor von Hardenberg requested to see his majesty.
"Let him come in," said the king, as he rose, turning his grave eyes, which had become even gloomier than before, toward the door, on the threshold of which the elegant and somewhat corpulent form of the chancellor of state appeared. He bowed respectfully. His noble and prepossessing countenance was smiling and genial as usual; the king's, grave, thoughtful, and sad.
"Bad news, I suppose?" asked the king, briefly. "You come at so early an hour, something extraordinary must have happened. What is it?"
"Nothing of that kind, your majesty," said Hardenberg, with his imperturbable smile. "Yet, it is true, we are constantly in an extraordinary situation, so that what otherwise might appear unusual is now nothing but a very ordinary occurrence."
"A preamble!" said Frederick William, thoughtfully. "You have, then, to tell me something important. What is it? Take a seat and speak!" The king pointed to a chair, and resumed his own. Hardenberg seated himself, and looked down for a moment with an air of embarrassment.
"Any thing the matter in Berlin?" asked the king. "Perhaps, a quarrel between the citizens and the French?"
"No, your majesty," said Hardenberg, to whose thin lips came his wonted smile. "The people of Berlin keep very quiet, and bear the arrogance of the French with admirable patience. I have to report no quarrels, and, on the whole, nothing of importance; I wished only to inform your majesty that I received a courier from Dresden late last night."
The king started, and looked gloomy. "From whom?" he asked, in a hollow voice.
"From our ambassador," replied Hardenberg, carelessly. "Surprising intelligence has reached Dresden. They are expecting the Emperor Napoleon. He left Saint Cloud with the Empress Maria Louisa on the 9th of May, and no one knew any thing about the object or destination of the journey. It was generally believed that the emperor, with his consort, intended to take a pleasure-trip to Mentz, but immediately after his arrival there he informed his suite that he was on his way to a new war, and would accompany his wife only as far as Dresden, where they would meet their Austrian majesties. Couriers were sent from Mentz to Vienna, to Dresden, to King Jerome, and to all the marshals and generals. The columns of the army have commenced moving everywhere, and are now marching from all sides upon Dresden. As usual, Napoleon has again succeeded in keeping his plans secret to the very last moment, and informing the world of his intentions only when they are about to be realized."
"Yes," exclaimed the king, in a tone of intense hatred and anger— "yes, he wears a kind, hypocritical mask, and feigns friendship and pacific intentions until he has drawn into his nets those whom he intends to ruin; then he drops his mask and shows his true arrogant and ambitious face. He caressed us, and protested his friendship, until we signed the treaty of alliance, but now he will insist on the fulfilment of the engagements we have entered into. He commences a new war, and, by virtue of the first article of our treaty, I have to furnish him an auxiliary corps of twenty thousand men and sixty field-pieces."
"Yes, your majesty, it is so," said Hardenberg, composedly. "The new French governor of Berlin, General Durutte, came to see me this morning, and demanded in the name of his emperor that the Prussian auxiliary troops should immediately take the field."
"Auxiliary troops!" exclaimed the king, angrily. "The Prussian victims, he ought to have said, for what else will my poor, unfortunate soldiers be but the doomed victims of his ambition and insatiable thirst for conquest? He will drive them into the jaws of death, that they may gain a piece of blood-stained land, or a new title from the ruin of the world's happiness; he does not care whether brave soldiers die or not, so long as his own ambition is served."
"Yes," said Hardenberg, solemnly, "his path leads across corpses and through rivers of blood, but the vengeance of God and man will finally overtake him, and who knows whether it may not do so during this wild Russian campaign?"
"My evil forebodings, then, are proving true," said the king, sighing; "the expedition is directed against Russia?"
"Yes, against Russia," said Hardenberg, sneeringly; "the master of the world intends to crush Russia also, because she ventured to remain an independent power, and the Emperor Alexander was so bold as to demand the fulfilment of the promises of Tilsit and Erfurt. Providence is always just in the final result, your majesty. It punishes the Emperor Alexander for suffering himself to be beguiled by the flatteries and promises of Napoleon, and the territories which he allowed Napoleon to give him at Tilsit, at the expense of Prussia, will be no precious stones in his crown."
"Not a word against Alexander!" exclaimed the king, imperiously. "However appearances may be against him, he has always proved a true friend of mine, and perhaps especially at a time when we suspected it the least. His keen eyes penetrated the future, and behind the clouds darkening our horizon he believed he could descry light and safety. He yielded, in order to lull Napoleon to sleep; he pretended to be fascinated, in order to convince him of his attachment and devotedness. He wished to be regarded as Napoleon's friend until ho had armed himself, and felt strong enough to turn against the usurper. Hush! do not contradict me. I have heard all this from Alexander's own lips. On his return from Erfurt he confided the plans of his future to me and the queen, under the seal of secrecy. Louisa carried the secret into her grave, and I have preserved it in my breast. Now I may communicate it to you, for the hour of decision has come; it finds me on the side of France, and God has decreed that I should turn my arms against my friend, against Alexander! Ah, happy the queen, because she did not live to see this day and witness my new humiliation and disgrace! And was it, then, unavoidable? Was it, then, really necessary for me to enter into this hateful alliance? Was there no way of avoiding it?"
And as the king put this question to himself rather than to Hardenberg, he laid his head against the back of his easy-chair, and looked gloomy and thoughtful.
"There was no way, unfortunately, of avoiding it," said Hardenberg, after a short pause. "Your majesty knows full well that we submitted to stern necessity only; to act otherwise would have been too dangerous, for the crown on the head of your majesty would have been menaced."
"It is better to lose the crown and die a freeman than live a crowned slave!" exclaimed the king, impetuously.
"No, pardon me, your majesty, for daring to contradict you," said Hardenberg, smiling; "it is better to keep the crown, and submit to necessity as long as possible, in order to be able to take future revenge on the oppressor. At times I am likewise tortured by the doubts and fears now disquieting the noble soul of your majesty. But at such hours I always repeat to myself, in order to justify our course, a few words from the letter which the Duke de Bassano addressed to our ambassador, Baron von Krusemark, as the ultimatum of the Tuileries. I have learned this letter by heart, and, if you will graciously permit me, I will repeat a few words." The king nodded assent, and Hardenberg added: "This letter read: 'My dear baron, the moment has come when we must give you our views about the fate of Prussia. I cannot conceal from you that this is a matter of life and death for your country. You know that the emperor entertained already at Tilsit very unfriendy intentions against Prussia. These intentions still remain the same, but will not be carried out at this time, on the condition that Prussia become our ally, and a faithful one. The moments are precious, and the circumstances very grave.'" [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. xi., p. 324]
"An outrageous letter!" muttered Frederick William to himself.
"Yes, an outrageous letter," repeated Hardenberg, bowing, "for it contained a serious threat, and yet, on the other hand, it offered us a sort of guaranty. Prussia was lost, in case she refused to join the alliance, for Austria had likewise acceded to it, and, by holding out against the wishes of France, Prussia would have run the risk of being crushed by two armed enemies in the north, as well as in the south, and blotted out from the list of nations. We, therefore, were obliged to submit; we had no other choice."
"But what did we gain by submitting?" asked the king, angrily. "In order to preserve my people from the horrors of war, I bowed to Napoleon's will, and accepted the disgraceful alliance. I thereby wished to secure peace to my unfortunate country, which stands so greatly in need of it. Instead of attaining this object, the alliance plunges us into the very abyss which I intended to avoid, and I am compelled to send my soldiers into the field for an unjust cause against a monarch who is my friend, and under the orders of a commander-in-chief who is my enemy, and has always shown his bitter hostility to me."
"But your majesty has at least prevented your own country from being devastated by war. It is true, you send out your army, but the war will not lay waste the fields of Prussia; it will not trample in the dust the crops of the Prussian farmer, interrupt the labors of the mechanic, or carry its terror into our cities and villages, our houses and families. The enemy is at least far from our own country."
"You only wish to palliate the calamity," exclaimed the king. "The enemy is here, and you know it. He is dogging every step of ours; he is listening to every word of mine, and watching every movement. An inconsiderate word, an imprudent step, and the French gendarmes will rush upon me and conduct the King of Prussia as a prisoner to France, while no one can raise his hand to prevent them. We have the enemy in Berlin, in Spandau, and in all our fortresses. Our own soldiers we have to send into the field, and our cities and fortresses are occupied by French garrisons. An army of four hundred and eighty thousand infantry and seventy thousand cavalry cover Prussia like a cloud of locusts; Berlin, Spandau, Konigsberg, and Pillau, have received French garrisons; only Upper Silesia, Colberg, and Graudenz, have remained exempt from them. The whole country, as though we were at war, is exposed to the robberies, extortions, and cruelties in which an enemy indulges: this time, however, he comes in the garb of a friend, and, as our ally, he is irritating and impoverishing the farmers, and plundering the mechanics and manufacturers. And I am not only obliged to suffer all this in silence, but I must send my own soldiers, the natural defenders of our states, into a foreign country, and command them to obey the man who has heaped the vilest insults not only on myself, but on the whole of Prussia, and has broken the heart of my beloved wife!" And the king, quite exhausted, breathless with his unusually long speech, and almost ashamed of his own tremulous excitement, buried his face in his hands and groaned aloud.
Hardenberg gazed upon him for a moment with an expression of profound sympathy; he then looked around the room with searching glances, which seemed to pierce every niche, every fold of the curtains, and every piece of furniture and sculpture. "Is your majesty sure that no one can hear and watch us here?" he asked in a low voice.
The king dropped his hands from his face, and looked at him in surprise.
"Your majesty, you yourself say that you are surrounded by spies, and eavesdroppers," added Hardenberg. "Does your majesty suspect any such to be here?"
"No," said the king, with a mournful smile, "it is the last blessing of my Louisa that she has secured me this quiet asylum. The spies do not venture to penetrate here—this retreat is not desecrated by their inquisitive and lurking glances."
"Well," said Hardenberg, almost joyously, "if we need not be afraid of the eyes and ears of spies, your majesty will permit me to speak freely to you. My king, great events are maturing; while impenetrable darkness still seems to surround us, morning is gradually dawning, and the day of retribution is not distant. Europe is utterly tired of war, and this incessant bloodshed; she has practised forbearance until it is exhausted and converted into an intense indignation. Thanks to his unscrupulous machinations, Napoleon has hitherto succeeded in bringing about wars between the different nations of Europe in order to derive benefits for France alone from these fratricidal struggles. It was he who drove the Poles and Turks into a war against the Russians, the Italians against the Austrians, the Danes against the Swedes and English, and armed the princes of the Rhenish Confederation against their German countrymen and brethren. He instigated all against each other; he made them continue the struggle until they sank from loss of blood, for he knew that he would then be able to take the property of those whom he had made murder each other. And who could prevent him? The warriors, exhausted by their long and bloody work—the starving people, to whom, in their hunger and anguish, only he who brought them peace and a little bread seemed a true friend! Italy wished to deliver herself from the Austrian yoke, and after long struggles the liberty that Napoleon had promised her consisted but in entire submission to his own behests. To Poland, too, he promised deliverance, and, after the unfortunate country had risen, and spent her last strength and her best blood in the war against Russia, she became exhausted, and offered no resistance when he claimed her as his spoil, and declared the Poles, who had dreamed that they were free, to be subjects of France. The princes of the Rhenish Confederation were compelled to send their German troops to Spain, to wage war against a nation that was struggling for independence; and Napoleon in the meantime placed a French adventurer upon a throne in the middle of Germany, and erected a kingdom for him from the spoils he had taken from German princes. Holland, which had endeavored to preserve some vestiges of liberty, was suddenly deprived of her sovereign, and converted into a French province; and when Napoleon had succeeded in bringing about a war between Sweden and Russia, and instigating unfortunate Finland to resist the latter power, he profited by the favorable moment, and took Stralsund and the Island of Rugen, both of which belonged to the King of Sweden, who had been his ally up to that time. In Italy only the Pontifical states and the holy father at Rome still resisted him, after the remainder of the peninsula had awakened from its dreams of liberty under the rule of French marshals and Napoleonic princes. He instigated Naples and Sardinia against Rome, and when the struggle had commenced, he magnanimously hastened to the assistance of his brother-in-law Murat, arrested the pope, conveyed him as a prisoner to France, and declared Rome to be the property of that country until the pope should submit to his will. No country, no nation, escaped his intrigues—conflagrations, devastation, and death accompanied him everywhere! But the nations, as I have stated already, are at length impatient; they are wearied of fighting; or, rather, if they still fight, they intend to do so only in order to conquer peace for themselves, and bring retribution on him who was the sole cause of all this bloodshed."
"And they commenced by rushing, at his command, into the field—by entering upon another war!" exclaimed Frederick William, shrugging his shoulders with a sneer.
"Your majesty," said Hardenberg, solemnly, "they will do so now for the last time. Napoleon is digging his own grave, and, by consolidating the forces of all countries into one vast army, he makes friends of those whom he hitherto successfully tried to make enemies and adversaries of each other. But when the nations have once found out that they are really brethren, it only needs a voice calling upon them to unite for one grand object—that is to say, for the deliverance of Europe from the tyrant's yoke!"
"Those are Utopian dreams," said the king. "Whence should this voice come? Who would be so audacious as to utter it?"
"Whence should this voice come?" asked Hardenberg. "Your majesty, it will come from heaven, and find an echo on the whole earth. It will resound from the hundred thousand graves of the soldiers killed in battle; from the breasts of sorrowing widows and orphans, and, like the noise of the tempest, it will come from the lips of thousands of humiliated and disgraced men. This voice will not be that of a single man; but God, Nature, and all nations, will unite, and millions will utter that one shout of 'Liberty! Let us rise and expel the tyrant!'"
"But, then, the story of the tower of Babel will be reenacted," said Frederick William, sighing; "the nations will not understand each other; an endless confusion of languages will ensue, and, finally, the building, which they intended jointly to erect, will fall to ruins and they be dispersed."
"In order to prevent this, a chieftain must gladly place himself at their head, and direct their will," exclaimed Hardenberg. "I hope God will intrust this leadership to your majesty."
"To me?" asked the king, almost angrily. "Will you take the liberty of mocking my distress, or do you believe that I ought to be consoled in the calamities of the present by such hopes of the future?"
"No, your majesty, I am only convinced that God will one day intrust the task of retribution to Prussia, because it is she that has suffered most."
"Let us leave retribution to God," said the king, gently.
"No, your majesty," exclaimed Hardenberg, "let us now take upon ourselves the task of avenging our wrongs, and only pray to Heaven for a blessing on our efforts. And that God is with us, that He at last averts His face from the man who has so long trampled the world under foot, is shown by the new war into which Napoleon is about to enter. This expedition to Russia is the first step to his ruin!"
"Oh, you are mistaken!" exclaimed the king, almost indignantly. "It will be a new triumphal procession for Napoleon. Russia will succumb to him, as we all have done. He marches upon the position of his enemy with the armies of all his allies—half a million of warriors and thousands of cannon—while Russia stands alone; she has no force compared with his, and no allies whatever."
"She has one friend more powerful than any Napoleon has," said Hardenberg, solemnly—"NATURE. When this ally appears, with its masses of ice and snow-storms, Napoleon is lost."
"But he will take good care not to wait for this reenforcement," exclaimed the king. "As always, he will finish the war in a few weeks, vanquish the feeble forces of Alexander with his own tremendous columns in one or two decisive battles, and then, on the ruins of the Russian empire, dictate terms of peace to the humiliated emperor. This has been the course of events ever since Bonaparte commanded, and so it will be hereafter."
"Your majesty, it will not; for, during twelve years, he has been the instructor of the world, and the nations have learned from him not only the art of war, but his special strategies. His secret consists in the rapidity of his movements. He has made Macchiavelli's words his own: 'A short and vigorous war insures victory!' He must, therefore, be opposed by a protracted and desultory war—his enemies must fight long, not with heavy columns, but with light battalions, now here, now there; they must take care not to bring on a general battle, but slowly thin the ranks of his army, and exhaust his resources and his patience. This was the course which the Spaniards pursued, and their hopes are, therefore, promising; they are carrying on a guerilla warfare, and he is obliged to renew the struggle every day without being able to defeat them in a decisive battle. Russia will adopt a similar plan. She will take pains to draw Napoleon farther and farther into the interior of the country, incessantly alluring him forward by insignificant victories, rendering him eager for a great battle. In strict obedience to the plans he has adopted, she will especially endeavor to weaken Napoleon, and cut him off from his supplies and base of operations. She will successively fight him at every important point with a strong army, supported by large reserves, tire him out, and ruin him in detail. This plan she will adhere to until her great ally approaches from Siberia—grim Winter, covering Russia with an invulnerable defence, so that her sons may at last take the offensive, and expel the terrified enemy."
"That is a grand, but an infernal scheme!" exclaimed the king, who had risen, and was walking up and down with hasty steps. "Who conceived it?"
"No single brain; it is the result of the consultations of the most eminent Russian generals. They also have studied Macchiavelli, and found that significant axiom, 'He who knows how to resist will conquer in the end.' The Russians, therefore, will resist, and they will conquer."
"But who tells you that this is the plan which Russia will adopt?" asked the king. "Whence have you derived such accurate information?"
"Your majesty," said Hardenberg, smiling, "though we publicly act as the enemies of Russia, and are compelled to send our army against her, she secretly regards us as her ally, and knows well that we are only waiting for the favorable moment to drop the mask and become the open enemy of the usurper. We have, therefore, warm friends in Russia, who will keep us informed about every thing going on, that we may prudently use the favorable moment when we also can take up arms against Napoleon."
"No rash steps—no coups de main," exclaimed Frederick William, gravely and imperiously, standing in front of Hardenberg, and looking him full in the face. "I am opposed to any sort of underhand games; when you are not strong enough to attack your enemy openly and honestly, you ought to be too proud to shoot at him from an ambuscade, like a coward and bandit. The bullet may miss him, and he who fired it dies as a traitor, overwhelmed with disgrace. I have concluded this alliance with France; I am now her ally, and thereby compelled to furnish her an auxiliary corps of twenty thousand men against Russia; so long, therefore, as this campaign lasts, I must, by virtue of the pledges I have given, stand by France, and woe to the general of mine who should forget this, and disobey the orders I have given him!"
"There may be circumstances, however, your majesty," said Hardenberg, in an embarrassed tone, "circumstances—"
"There can be none," interrupted the king, "justifying us to turn traitors. A man has but one word to pledge, and that I have pledged to Napoleon. When my soldiers forsake the colors under which I have placed them, they shall be punished as deserters. No one knows the anguish with which I say this, but as a man who must keep his word, and as a commander-in-chief who, above all, must maintain discipline and subordination, I cannot speak otherwise. Tell your friends in Russia so. I am sad and dejected enough, compelled as I am to become Napoleon's ally. But I will not perjure myself!"
"Your majesty, I bow in admiration of these noble words of my king," exclaimed Hardenberg, enthusiastically; "I wish the whole world could hear them. At this hour you obtained a greater victory than Napoleon ever gained on the battlefield—a victory of duty and fidelity over your own inclinations and wishes! Far be it from me to oppose this magnanimous resolution. Our army, then, will march out side by side with the French troops and will return, if it ever should, as an auxiliary corps of the grand army. But then, your majesty, the new day will dawn, for which we must prepare while Napoleon is in Russia. It must be in secret—in the dead of night— but the rising sun will find us ready. The world is now united for the great work; brethren are offering their hands to brethren from the shores of the Mediterranean to those of the Atlantic and the Baltic. Their common sufferings have filled their hearts with the same love and hatred. All the nations are uniting into one family, and in their wrath will destroy him who is menacing all alike. Secret messengers keep the brethren in the west and north, in the south and east, well informed of what is done by their friends. Patriotic poets are arousing the nations from the lethargy that enthralled them during so many years; they make them hear the gospel of liberty, and awaken them from their indifference. In secret workshops the brethren are forging arms; in the night the sisters are at work upon uniforms, and their children are making lint for warriors to be wounded in the holy war of liberation. They are quietly preparing for it in the offices, the students' halls, and the workshops. At the first call they will fling aside their pens and tools, take up the sword, and hasten into the field, to deliver the fatherland. All Europe, at the present moment, is but one vast secret society, which has even in France active and influential members. Napoleon stands on a volcano, which will soon engulf him."
"Enough!" exclaimed the king, anxiously. "Say no more; I will know nothing about secret societies and conspiracies. They are perhaps an inevitable evil in these times, but still they ARE an evil, destroying those for whose benefit they were intended."
"May God in His mercy favor them in advancing our cause," exclaimed Hardenberg, "that from them may arise the army that is to deliver the nations from the yoke of the tyrant! I am convinced that it will be so, and that the moment will come when Prussia will be able to redeem the oath which I am sure every Prussian took when he saw the coffin of the august Queen Louisa. On the day, your majesty, when I saw it, I resolved to strive for no other object than to deliver my country. For this I will devote my whole strength—my life, if need be! Heaven heard my oath, and I shall not die before its fulfilment."
The king gazed long and mournfully upon the queen's portrait which hung over his desk, and represented her in the attire in which Frederick William had seen her for the first time. "But she died before the hour of deliverance struck," he said, gloomily, to himself. "Her heart was broken, and she did not even take hope with her into the grave. She,—" he stopped suddenly, and turned his eyes toward Hardenberg. "I will communicate something to you," he said briefly and impulsively; "I will confess to you that I comprehend your oath; for I also took one when I held the queen's corpse in my arms. In the beginning the terrible blow paralyzed my soul, and I felt as though I had been hurled into a dark abyss. Suddenly I heard, as from a voice resounding in my ears, 'You must not die before you avenge her death upon him who broke her heart!' I bent over her, and kissing her lips, swore that I would live only to obey. I have not forgotten that oath and that hour, and, you may depend on it, I shall ever remember it; but I will wait for the favorable moment and it must not be supposed that I can allow myself to be carried away by imprudent projects."
"No one would wish that, your majesty," said Hardenberg hastily. "On the contrary, prudence, above all, is necessary at the present time, and for this reason I would entreat you to overcome your feelings and go to Dresden, to pay your respects to the emperor."
"Never!" exclaimed Frederick William, starting up and blushing with indignation. "No, nowhere else than in battle can I meet again this man, who has destroyed my happiness, my honor, and my hopes! Do not allude to this any more. It cannot be. How can I meet him, whom I have not seen since the days of Tilsit? Who can ask me to go to Dresden, to stand there as a courtier at the door of an arrogant victor, and mingle with the crowd of his trainbearers?"
"Your majesty, the Emperor of Austria will also go to Dresden," said Hardenberg, entreatingly.
"The Emperor of Austria does so, because he is unfortunate enough to be Napoleon's father-in-law."
"Nevertheless, the Emperor Francis saw his son-in-law for the last time on the day when, after the battle of Austerlitz, he repaired as a supplicant to the bivouac-fire of Napoleon, and implored the conqueror to grant him peace. That was even worse than Tilsit, and still the Emperor of Austria comes to Dresden, to become, as your majesty said, the trainbearer of the victor."
"Why does he do so?" asked the king, shrugging his shoulders. "Because he must—because at the present time every wish of Napoleon is almost an order, even for princes. Napoleon caused his ambassador at Vienna verbally to inform the emperor that he wished to see his father-in-law at Dresden, and witness the meeting of his consort, Maria Louisa, with her parents. The Emperor Francis hastened to comply with this request, and is expected to arrive to-morrow."
"Well, Bonaparte, fortunately, expressed to me no such wish, and it will not be expected that I should go thither without being requested to do so."
"Pardon me, your majesty, our ambassador at Dresden received a similar communication from the French envoy at the court of Saxony. The Emperor Napoleon desires likewise to see your majesty at Dresden. Here is the letter from the ambassador."
The king took the paper and hastily glanced over it. He then heaved a profound sigh, and, returning it to Hardenberg, fixed his eyes once more upon the portrait of the queen. He gazed steadfastly upon it. Gradually the expression of his features became milder, and his gloomy eye more cheerful. With a wave of his hand he called Hardenberg to his side; looking again at the portrait, and saluting it with a gentle nod, he said, "She overcame her feelings, and went to Tilsit, because she believed it necessary, for the welfare of Prussia, to pacify the wrath of Napoleon. I will follow the example of my beloved Louisa. I will conquer myself, and go to Dresden. But you, Hardenberg, must accompany me."
THE WHITE LADY.
Great commotion reigned at the palace of Baireuth. Servants hurried through the brilliantly-decorated rooms, spreading out here and there an additional carpet, placing everywhere vases filled with fragrant flowers, or dusting the finely-polished furniture. It was a great and important day for Baireuth. All felt it, and excitement and curiosity drove the inhabitants into the streets. No one cared to stay at home, or be absent at that historic hour which was to shed upon Baireuth a ray of her ancient glory.
The man at whose feet the world was prostrate, to whom kings and princes were bowing, before whom empires trembled and thrones passed away, who had only to stretch out his hand to establish new dynasties, and whom the world admired while it hated—Napoleon—was to arrive at Baireuth. The quartermasters had arrived already early in the morning, and ordered in the name of the emperor that the rooms at the palace should be put in readiness, because he intended to reach Baireuth in the afternoon of the 14th of May, and stop overnight.
The whole population seemed to be in the streets. The windows of the houses along the route of the emperor were open, crowded with the most distinguished ladies of the city; they were dressed in their most beautiful toilets, and held in their hands bouquets, with which they intended to salute Napoleon. But the greatest commotion, as we have remarked, reigned at the new palace, for the emperor had given express orders that apartments should be prepared for him there, and not at the old palace of the Margraves of Brandenburg. Count Munster, intendant of the palaces, had, of course, complied with these orders, and four brilliant rooms were ready for the reception of Napoleon. All the arrangements were completed, and the intendant, followed by the castellan, walked for the last time through the imperial rooms to satisfy himself that every thing was in good order.
"No, nothing has been left undone," said the count, when he stepped into the bedchamber destined for the emperor. "Every thing is as comfortable as it is splendid; the arrangement reflects a great deal of credit upon you, my dear Schluter, and will, doubtless, procure you a liberal reward from the emperor, who is said to be very munificent."
"I do not wish to accept any presents at the tyrant's hands," growled the castellan, with a gloomy face; "I do not want to stain my hands with the plunder which he brings from foreign lands, and which is accompanied with a curse rather than a blessing."
"You are a fool, my dear Schluter," exclaimed the count, laughing. "You see at least that curses do not incommode the emperor, for his power and authority are constantly on the increase. He is now going to Dresden, to see at his feet all the princes of Germany; and he will then hasten northward, to gain new victories and humiliate the only man in the world who still dares to defy him, the Emperor Alexander of Russia."
"I know some one else who will not bow to him, and whom he will not humiliate," said the castellan, contemptuously shrugging his shoulders.
"Well, and who is that?" asked Count Munster, quickly.
"It is the White Lady!" exclaimed the castellan, solemnly and loudly.
Count Munster shuddered and glanced around in evident terror, "For Heaven's sake, hush!" he said, hastily. "Pray forget these foolish hallucinations, and, above all, do not venture to talk about them at the present time."
The castellan shook his head slowly. "You ought not to talk of hallucinations, count," he said, solemnly. "The White Lady is awake and walking, and she knows that the enemy of her house, the house of Brandenburg, will spend the coming night at this palace. I repeat it to your excellency, she is walking, and her eyes are filled with wrath, and there is a curse on her lips against the enemy of the Hohenzollerns. I would not be surprised if she should shout to-night into the ears of the tyrant, and, by her words, awaken him from his slumber."
"Gracious Heaven, Schluter, do not talk so audaciously!" exclaimed the count, anxiously. "If one of the attendants of the emperor overhear your words, you would perish. Napoleon is said to be somewhat superstitious; he, who otherwise is afraid of nothing in the world, is said to be easily terrified by ghosts, and to believe in all sorts of omens and prophecies. He has already heard of the White Lady of Baireuth, and therefore given express orders that apartments should be prepared for him at the new palace, and not at the old one, and rooms selected in which she was not in the habit of walking. [Footnote: Historical.—Vide Minutoli, "The White Lady," p. 17.] I hope that you have punctually carried out this order, and that these rooms are exempt from the visits of the apparition?"
"Who has the power to give orders to spirits, and command them, 'So far and no farther?'" asked the castellan, almost scornfully. "She goes whither she desires, and the doors closed against her she opens by a breath. The walls disappear before her, and where you expect her least of all, there you suddenly meet her tall, majestic form in the white dress, her head covered with a black veil, under which her large angry eyes are flashing."
"Hush, Schluter!" exclaimed the count, anxiously, "I know the portrait of the White Lady, which hangs in the cabinet adjoining the audience-hall, and it is, therefore, unnecessary for you to describe her appearance to me."
"Your excellency knows that we have two portraits of the White Lady," said the castellan, laconically.
"Yes, the one with the white dress is at the hermitage; the other, representing her in a dark dress, is here at the palace. Thank Heaven! there is but one portrait of her here, and I hope it is in the other wing of the building."
"That is to say, I saw the portrait there this afternoon, but who knows whether it is still there?"
"How so? Who knows?" asked the count impatiently. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, count, that it is in fact no portrait, but only the bed in which the White Lady sleeps until it pleases her to walk, and that, while she is walking, it will certainly not be found at its place. Did I not report to your excellency six months since that the portrait had again broken the nail and fallen? It was an entirely new nail, count, so firm and strong, that half a regiment of French soldiers might have been hung upon it at the same time; I had had the nail made by the blacksmith, and the mason fixed it. I myself hung up the portrait, and it seemed as firm as though it had grown in the wall. But that very night a noise like a thunder-clap rolling over my head awakened me, and when I opened my eyes, the White Lady stood at my bedside; her right hand raised menacingly, her black veil thrown back, she stared at me with a face flashing with anger. I uttered a cry, and shut my eyes. When I opened them again, she had disappeared. In the morning I went into the hall to look after the portrait. It was gone. Where the nail had been fixed nothing but a blood-red stain was to be seen; the nail itself, broken into small pieces, lay on the floor. The portrait had walked to the small cabinet adjoining the hall, and was quietly leaning there against the wall as though nothing had happened."
"And I told you to let it stand there, and not try again to hang it up. The large painting is too heavy."
"If the large painting wanted to hang on the wall it would allow the smallest nail to hold it," said Schluter, shaking his head. "But the White Lady wishes to stand on her own feet, and no human power is able to prevent her."
"Schluter, I repeat to you, you are a dreamer," exclaimed the count, impatiently. "Let us speak no more of the apparition. It makes one feel quite curious. Tell me now whether you have really removed the portrait far enough that it cannot be seen by the emperor?"
"When I was an hour ago at the cabinet adjoining the audience-hall, the portrait was still there. But who knows what may have happened since then?"
"Well, it is a fixed idea of yours," said the count, shrugging his shoulders. "I do not wish to hear any more of it. These rooms are finely arranged, and I have no fault to find with them. Now lock the entrance-door, and let us go out through the Gallery of Palms, by which the emperor will have to enter."
"Pray, your excellency, lead the way; I shall lock the door and immediately follow you," said the castellan, walking hastily through the opened rooms.
Count Munster slowly walked on, thoughtfully looking down, and shuddering inwardly at the immovable superstition of the castellan, whom his reason vainly endeavored to deride.
"And still it is folly, nothing but folly," he muttered to himself, while opening the high hall-door, and stepping into the anteroom, to which, on account of its length and narrowness, and the fresco paintings of tropical plants on the walls, the name of the "Gallery of Palms" had been given.
All was silent in this gallery; the setting sun shed its beams through the windows, covered with dark curtains, and drew trembling shining lines across the high room. The footsteps of the count resounded so loudly that he himself was frightened, and glanced anxiously around. Suddenly he started in dismay, and quickly advanced several steps. He had seen something moving at the lower end of the gallery, and it seemed to him as though he had heard approaching footsteps. Yes, he was not mistaken; now he saw it quite distinctly! A lady approached. The sun illuminated her tall form, and shed a golden light over the white dress falling down in ample folds over her feet. She approached with slow steps, quite regardless of the count, who at first looked at her in surprise, and then turned with an angry face toward the castellan, who just then entered.
"You did not comply, then, with my orders, Schluter?" exclaimed the count, vehemently. "I told you expressly to keep the rooms shut until the emperor's arrival, and not to admit any one. How could you dare disobey my instructions?"
"But, your excellency, I did obey them," answered Schluter. "Not a human being besides the footmen has been permitted to enter here, and even those I drove out two hours ago, and shut the doors."
"If that be true, how does it happen that there is a lady here in the gallery," asked Count Minister, stretching out his arm toward the lower end of the apartment.
"A lady?" asked Schluter, greatly amazed. "Where is she, your excellency?"
The count fixed his eyes searchingly on the large arched window, in the bright light of which he had distinctly seen the lady. She was gone—the gallery was empty. "You forgot to shut the lower door, and while I turned and scolded you, the lady escaped!" he exclaimed. He hastily rushed forward, and tried to open the door leading into the corridor: but this was locked. The count vainly shook the lock. "That is strange," he muttered, dropping his hand. "I know I saw her distinctly; it is impossible that I could have been mistaken. Where can she be? What has become of her? Where has she concealed herself?"
"What becomes of the last sigh of a dying person, your excellency," asked Schluter, solemnly. "Where does the soul conceal itself after escaping from the body?"
"Ah, nonsense!" ejaculated Count Munster. "It could not have been a spectre. Why, it is not a spectre's hour, and, besides, I certainly saw the lady plainly; it was a decidedly earthly figure. Her face was pale and grave, but there was nothing spectral about it. She wore a black veil thrown back from her face; the upper part of her body was covered with—"
"A dark pelisse trimmed with fur," interrupted Schluter, composedly. "Below this dark pelisse protruded a white silk dress, falling to the ground in full folds."
"Yes, yes, that was the costume," exclaimed the count. "But how do you know it without having seen her?"
"It is the costume of the White Lady, your excellency," said Schluter, "and it was she who just walked through the gallery. Pray, count, go with me to the other wing of the palace and look at her portrait; your excellency will then be convinced that I tell the truth."
"No, no, I do not wish to see it," replied Count Munster, whose cheeks turned pale, and who felt his heart frozen with terror. "Unlock the door, Schluter! The air here is sultry and very oppressive! Quick! quick! open the door!" The castellan obeyed, and the count rushed out into the corridor, where he opened a window and inhaled the fresh air in eager draughts.
At this moment shouts were heard at a distance, and at the same time the count's footman rushed breathlessly down the corridor. "Your excellency, the emperor is coming. He has already passed through the gate, and the people are loudly cheering him. I have run as fast as I could, in order to inform your excellency."
"I am coming," said the count, advancing rapidly. But, having proceeded a few steps, he turned again and beckoned the castellan to his side. "Schluter," he whispered to him, "if you love your life, do not say a word about what has just happened here. It must remain a secret."
"A secret!" muttered Schluter to himself, gazing after the count, who hurried away. "The White Lady will manage the affair in such a manner that he at least will hear of the secret, and the bloodthirsty tyrant will not sleep well in the palace of the Margraves of Brandenburg." He violently closed the door and stepped out into the large staircase-hall, the doors of which opened upon the street. Uttering incoherent words of indignation in an undertone, the castellan pushed open one of the windows and looked gloomily down on the street. An immense crowd were in front of the palace; all eyes were turned to the side from which the emperor was to approach. Breathless with curiosity, the people waited for the arrival of the hero who had conquered nearly all the world.
"How those fools are gaping!" growled Schluter. "Idle and lazy as usual; they like to complain and lament, but they never think of doing anything. If only each one would take up a single stone from the pavement and throw it as a greeting at the tyrant's iron head, all this distress and wretchedness would be at an end. But no one thinks of that, and I should not wonder if those fellows, instead of cursing him, should enthusiastically cheer him."
The shouts drew nearer at this moment, as the crowd rushed from the lower part of the street, their acclamations growing constantly more deafening. French lancers galloped up to keep the people back, and several carriages, preceded by a plain calash, came in view. A negro, dressed in a richly-embroidered livery, sat on the box by the side of the coachman; two plainly-dressed gentlemen occupied the inside of the carriage.
"That is he!" growled Schluter. "The Evil One brings him hither—he is his best friend. Yes, that is he, and he looks pale, grave, and incensed, as though he would like to wither by a single glance the whole miserable rabble staring at him."
"That is he!" shouted the people. "Long live Napoleon! Long live the emperor!"
Napoleon gazed coldly arid impassively upon the crowd, whose cheers came to him as a sound to which he had long been accustomed, and which was by no means agreeable. It was not worth while for him to smile on these inhabitants of a small city; a cold, quick nod was a sufficient acknowledgment. "Long live Napoleon!" shouted the crowd again, when the emperor, having left the carriage, now turned again in front of the palace-gate, and gazed long and indifferently upon the spectators.
The castellan closed his window. "Ah!" he said, "he dares to enter this palace. The White Lady will bid him welcome, and know how to hasten the flight of this arrogant tyrant. Napoleon is coming! Do you hear that, White Lady? Napoleon is coming!" He burst into laughter, and, opening the door of the corridor, took a position at the one leading into the Gallery of Palms.
Footsteps resounded on the staircase, and various persons appeared. Generals, adjutants, and lackeys hurried in and formed on both sides, as it were, in line of battle. The emperor then entered the lower end of the corridor; Count Munster walked by his side in the most respectful and submissive manner. All bowed their heads reverentially, but the emperor took no notice of them, and slowly passed the saluting officers and servants.
"I hope you have punctually fulfilled my orders, count?" he asked, in his sonorous voice. "This is the new palace, is it not?"
"It is, sire. And this man will testify that no one has set foot into the imperial rooms," said Count Munster, pointing with a smile to the castellan, who, holding his bunch of keys in his uplifted arm, stood at the entrance of the Gallery of Palms.
"Who is it?" asked Napoleon, whose eagle eye was fixed upon Schluter.
"Sire, it is the castellan of this palace, a faithful, reliable man, who has been on service here for more than thirty years. He has guarded and locked the rooms, and they open now only to your majesty's orders."
"Open," ordered the emperor, with a quick wave of his hand. The castellan obeyed, and Napoleon entered. Count Munster followed, and the attendants crowded in after them. Advancing quickly into the middle of the gallery, the emperor stood directly in front of the arched window in which Count Munster had before seen the strange apparition.
"The White Lady, then, never appears in this wing of the palace?" asked Napoleon, abruptly.
"No, sire—never," said Count Munster, solemnly. "On the whole, sire, no one here believes in the absurd old story, and I am sure no one knows of the White Lady otherwise than from hearsay."
The emperor nodded, and passed on. "Let us soon have supper; you will be my guest," he said, turning on the threshold to Count Munster and dismissing the gentlemen of his suite.
The door closed. He was now a guest at the palace of the ancestors of the royal family of Prussia, the Margraves of Brandenburg.
NAPOLEON AND THE WHITE LADY.
The emperor had long risen from the supper-table. The imperial suite had been allowed to withdraw. Alone he sat in a comfortable night- dress on the high, antiquated easy-chair, in front of the fire- place, in which, at his express order, notwithstanding the warm weather, a large fire had been kindled. He liked heat; the sun of Egypt and the desert had never been too warm for him; in the hottest summer days in France he frequently felt chilly, and called for a fire. It seemed as though the inflamed blood in his veins made the world appear cold to him; he saw the light of the sunbeams, but did not feel their warmth. He now sat close to the fire, his face bent over the large map that lay on the table. It was a map of Russia. He rapidly drew several lines across it, marking positions with the colored pins, taken from the small boxes beside him. "Yes, this is my plan," he said to himself, after a long pause. "Three of my corps must be placed on the Niemen; Davoust, Oudinot, and Ney, will command them. There, farther to the left, the cavalry reserves, under Nansouty and Montbrun, will take position. Here the old guard, under Lefebore; there the young guard, under Mortier and Bessieres, with the cavalry of the guard. At this point, farther to the south, the fourth corps, composed of the Italians and Bavarians, will operate, and the Viceroy of Italy, Eugene, will be its general-in- chief. Farther down, here at Grodno and Bialys tock, I will place the Poles, Westphalians, and Saxons; the fifth, seventh, and eighth corps to be commanded by my brother Jerome. The Prussians will halt at Tilsit, and form the extreme left wing; Macdonald will be their leader; and below there, at Drochiczyn Schwartzenberg with his Austrians will form the extreme right wing. The preparations are complete, and the thunder-cloud is ready to burst over Russia if Alexander should persist in his obstinacy. Like the waves of the tempestuous ocean, my armies are rolling toward the shores of Russia. They can still be stopped by a suppliant word from Alexander. If he refuses, let his destiny be fulfilled, and let the roar of my cannon inform him that his hour has struck, and that the end of his imperial power draws nigh. It was his own will. He himself has brought destruction upon his head! He—"
A loud noise above his head, making the walls tremble and the windows rattle suddenly interrupted the stillness. The emperor rose from his seat and shouted "Roustan!" The door of the adjoining room opened and the Mameluke appeared on the threshold.
"What was it?" asked Napoleon hastily.
"Sire, it was as if a wall fell in above us; the noise was as loud as though a cannon were fired in the palace. I rushed immediately into the corridor, but every thing there was quiet. Only the castellan of the palace appeared in the utmost haste in his night- gown, and asked whether an accident had happened in the rooms of the emperor."
"Where is the castellan now?"
"Sire, when I told him that the noise was on the upper floor, he immediately went thither in order to see what had occurred."
"Go and bring him to me," ordered Napoleon; and when Roustan had withdrawn, the emperor fixed his eyes steadfastly on the door, and his compressed lips quivered with impatience.
Finally, the door opened again; Roustan appeared, followed by the castellan, pale and trembling, behind the Mameluke, and clinging with his hands to the door to support himself.
Napoleon cast upon him one of his quick glances. "What was this noise, and why do you tremble so violently?"
"Pardon me, your majesty," faltered Schluter, "but my terror—the surprise—I am afraid I have lost my senses. I have just seen something so unheard of, so incredible, that I—"
"What have you seen?" asked Napoleon. "Speak! What was this noise?"
The castellan slowly raised his head, and stared with terrified eyes at the emperor. "Your majesty," he said, solemnly, "the White Lady made the noise!"
Napoleon started, and his brow grew clouded. "But did they not tell me that the miserable spectre never haunted this part of the palace?" he asked. "Did I not issue orders that rooms should be given me where I should not be disturbed by this apparition?"
"Your majesty, she has hitherto never entered these rooms," exclaimed Schluter. "Never before has the White Lady directed her steps hither, and this afternoon her portrait stood quietly in a cabinet of the other wing of the palace. I can take an oath that this is true."
"What portrait do you refer to?" asked Napoleon, impatiently.
"The portrait of the White Lady," said Schluter. "I saw it this very day in the cabinet on the other side; all the doors were locked, and now I suddenly find this large painting in the room above you; it was lying on the floor as if in walking it had stumbled over something and fallen. It is the first time that the White Lady appears in this wing of the palace; her portrait has come from the other side, and Heaven alone knows how it has happened. Whenever we wished to convey the painting, with its enormous wooden frame, from one room to another, no less than six men were required to carry it, and now it is here as though it had flitted through the air: and it is lying on the floor as if struck down by lightning."
"And you think the fall of the painting produced the noise?"
"I feel convinced of it. If your majesty wishes me to do so, I will get a few men, go up-stairs to raise the painting, and let it fall again, that your majesty may judge whether it is the same noise or not."
"Ah, you do not feel much respect for your walking portrait," exclaimed the emperor, smiling. "You want to abuse it, and make experiments with it. We will suppose that the fall of the painting was the sole cause of the noise. Now, that it is on the floor, I believe it will lie still and disturb us no longer, unless it be that your portrait should fall asleep and snore. What do you know about that?"
"Your majesty," said Schluter, gravely, "the White Lady never sleeps!"
The emperor cast a searching glance upon him, and then turned away, folded his hands, and slowly paced the room. Suddenly he stood in front of the castellan.
"What about this White Lady?" he asked, hastily. "Who was she, and what is her history?"
"Ah, sire, it is a long and melancholy history concerning the ancestors of the Margraves of Brandenburg," said Schluter, sighing.
"You know the history?"
"Yes, your majesty, I know it well."
"Tell it to me, but very briefly," said Napoleon, throwing himself on the easy-chair in front the fireplace, and ordering Roustan, by a wave of his hand and the word "Fire!" to add fresh fuel.
"Now, tell me all about it."
"Your majesty," replied Schluter, hesitatingly, "I do not know how to narrate a story in fine words, and you must pardon me if I do not acquit myself very satisfactorily."
"Who was this White Lady?"
"Sire, her name was Cunigunda, Countess von Plassenburg. Her parents had compelled her to marry the old Count von Plassenburg, and when her husband died, after two years of unhappy wedded life, the Countess Cunigunda of Orlamunde and Plassenburg was a young widow, twenty-four years of age, heiress of the splendid Plassenburg, and mother of two children. She was a gay-spirited lady, and looked around for another husband. Her eyes fell on the Burgrave of Nuremberg, the distinguished nobleman Albert the Handsome. The whole German people called him so; and all the girls, far and near, daughters of the nobility, as well as those of the citizens of Nuremberg, loved the fine-looking Burgrave of Nuremberg, who was the ancestor of the House of Hohenzollern. But the noble Count Albert loved only one young lady, beautiful Beatrice of Hainault, and would marry none but her. The Countess Cunigunda of Orlamunde, however, was not aware of this, and sent him a message, asking him whether he would not like to marry her. She would give him, besides her hand, the splendid Plassenburg and all her other property. Burgrave Albert the Handsome smiled when he heard the message; shrugging his shoulders, he said: 'Tell your countess I regard her as very amiable, and should like to marry her, provided four eyes were not in existence. But as it is, I cannot do so.' The burgrave referred to the eyes of his parents, who did not like the Countess of Orlamunde, and he wished to make them responsible for his refusal, so as not to offend the beautiful widow. But Cunigunda interpreted the words differently, and thought the four eyes, which the Burgrave said were in the way of their marriage, were those of her two children. She loved the handsome Burgrave so intensely, that she henceforth hated the children, because she believed them to be the sole obstacles to her marriage. The Evil One and her passion whispered into her ear, 'Go and kill your children.' So Cunigunda rose from her couch; in a long white night-dress, her head covered with a black veil, she crept to the bed of her children, and, drawing from her raven hair a long golden pin, set with precious stones (a gift which she had once received at the hands of Burgrave Albert), she pierced the heads of her children, penetrating the brain to the vertebra."
"Medea!" ejaculated Napoleon, staring into the fire. "This, then, is the history of the Medea of the Hohenzollern."
"No, sire, the name of the countess was not Medea, but Cunigunda," said Schluter, respectfully.
Napoleon smiled. "Proceed," he said.
"On the following morning there was great wailing at the Plassenburg, for the two sweet little children lay dead in their bed; not a vestige of violence was to be seen, and the physician of the countess decided that a stroke of apoplexy had killed them. The Countess of Orlamunde sent a mounted messenger to Nuremberg to Burgrave Albert the Handsome, requesting him to come and see her. And when the burgrave came she met him in a white bridal dress, and looked at him with radiant eyes; in her uplifted right hand she had the golden hair-pin, and said, 'The four eyes are no longer in existence. For your sake I have stabbed my two children with this pin, your first love-gift; the four eyes are extinguished forever. Now, marry me!' But the burgrave recoiled in terror, and pushed back the murderess, who was about to embrace him. He then dragged her through the rooms to the dungeon of the castle. She begged and cried, but the burgrave had no mercy upon the infanticide, and hurled her down into the dungeon. He then informed the courts of the crime that had been committed. The Countess von Orlamunde, the last member of her family, was put on trial, and sentence of death passed upon her. The burgrave of Nuremberg sent the first executioner from the city to the Plassenburg, and the countess was beheaded in the presence of the burgrave, and in the same room in which she had murdered her children. Before putting her head on the block she glanced at the handsome burgrave, raised both her arms toward heaven, and took a fearful oath that she would avenge herself on him and his house; that, whenever one of his descendants was at the point of death, she would be present, as the burgrave himself was now present at her death; that she would never rest in her grave, but live and walk, though the burgrave had her executed, and that, as she was before him now at her last hour, she would appear to him at his last hour. After uttering these words, she put her head calmly on the block. The burgrave then had her buried at the convent of Himmelskron, and, by virtue of an old treaty, the Burgraves of Nuremberg now succeeded to the fiefs of the Counts of Orlamunde, whose line had become extinct. The Plassenburg, with Baireuth and Burgundy, and all the possessions of the Counts of Orlamunde, therefore passed into the hands of Burgrave Albert the Handsome. He did not enjoy the inheritance a long time, for, a few years afterward, shortly after he had married the beautiful Countess Beatrice of Hainault, he died very suddenly. His wife was awakened by a loud cry he uttered. He then exclaimed, 'Cunigunda, do you come already to take me away? Woe to me! Woe to me!' All became still; the countess called for the servants and a light. They rushed into the room with torches. Burgrave Albert the Handsome lay in his bed dead. That, your majesty, is the history of the White Lady of Baireuth."
"This lady, then, followed the Hohenzollern from the Plassenburg to Baireuth and Berlin?" asked Napoleon. "For she appears sometimes at Berlin, does she not?"
"At Berlin, and all places where members of the house of Hohenzollern, the descendants of the Burgraves of Nuremberg, are about to die."
"Oh, the dear lady, then, appears only to the family of the Hohenzollern," exclaimed Napoleon, smiling. "Is it not so?"
"No, your majesty, at times she appears also to others," said Schluter; "she walks about the palace, and if there is any one in her way whom she dislikes, she tells them so, and angrily orders him away. She forgets no insult heaped upon her house, and she is terrible in her wrath."
"I have heard of it," exclaimed the emperor, gloomily. "My generals complained vehemently of the annoyances they had suffered here in 1806, owing to the movements of this lady. You were here at that time, were you not?"
"I was, sire, and so I was when General d'Espagne, in 1809, established his headquarters at this palace."
"Ah, I remember," said Napoleon to himself. "Duroc told me the horrible story at that time. Tell me what was it that befell General d'Espagne here?"
"Sire, the general had arrived late at night, and, being weary, had immediately retired. In the night terrible cries were heard in his room. The orderlies hastened into it; the general's bed, which, when he retired for the night stood at the wall, was now in the middle of the room; it was upset, and, having fainted, he lay under it. He was placed on a couch, and a doctor sent for, who bled him, and, when he awoke, gave him sedative powders. The general declared that the White Lady had appeared to him, and tried to kill him. While struggling with her, his bed was upset, and, when about to succumb, he uttered loud cries for assistance. He described all the particulars of the countenance, form, and dress of the apparition, and, at his express request, I had to conduct him to her portrait. As soon as he saw it, he turned pale, and almost sank to the floor, muttering, 'It is she! She looked exactly like that when she appeared to me! Her apparition, doubtless, indicated my impending death!' His officers tried to dissuade him from this belief, but he adhered to his conviction, and left the palace that very night in order to establish his headquarters at the 'Fantaisie,' the king's little villa near the city. On the following morning General d'Espagne sent a large detachment of soldiers to this palace; they had to open the floor under the direction of their officers, and take down the wall-paper, in order to see whether there were any secret trap-doors or hidden entrances. [Footnote: Vide Minutoli, "The White Lady," p. 17.] But they found nothing, for the White Lady needs no theatrical apparatus; she goes where she pleases, and walls and locked doors open to her. General d'Espagne, however, was unable to overcome his horror. He left Baireuth on the following day, and when he rode out of the gate he said, 'I heard my own death-knell here at Baireuth. I shall soon die!'"
"And he really died shortly after, for he was killed at the battle of Aspen," [Footnote: Ibid., p.17.] said Napoleon to himself, staring gloomily into the fire. A pause ensued; suddenly the emperor rose. "It is all right," he said. "Go! Your story of the White Lady was quite entertaining. I hope she will keep quiet now. Go!—And you, too, Roustan! I will afterward call you!" Long after the two had withdrawn, the emperor walked slowly up and down the room. He stood at length in front of the fireplace, and stared moodily into the blazing flames. His face was pale and gloomy. "Foolish stories, which no man of sense can believe! but which, nevertheless, are fulfilled now and then," he added, in a lower voice. "Was it not predicted to Josephine that she would become an empress; and that not death, but a woman, would hurl her from the throne? The prophecy was fulfilled! Poor Josephine! I had to desert you, and, at your lonely palace of Malmaison, you are perhaps praying for me at this hour, because you know I am about to brave new dangers. Poor Josephine!—you were my good angel, and, since you are no longer at my side—no matter!" the emperor interrupted himself; "I will retire to rest." He advanced several steps toward the door leading into his bedroom, where Roustan and Constant were waiting for him, but stopping said, "No, I will first arrange my plans, and fight my decisive battles with the Emperor Alexander." He returned with rapid steps to the table covered with maps, and resumed his seat in the easy-chair. The tapers were burning dimly; the flames in the fireplace flickered, shedding a dark-red lustre on the marble face of the emperor, who, bending over the map, sat motionless. Perhaps it was the heat, or the profound silence, that lulled him to sleep. His head fell back into the chair, and his eyes closed. The emperor slept, but his sleep was not calm, and his features, which when awake were so firm and motionless, were restless, and expressive of various emotions. Once he exclaimed in a tender voice, "My father! Do you at last come to me? Oh, welcome, father!" And a joyous expression overspread the countenance of the sleeper; but it soon faded away, and he appeared angry, and his lips quivered. "No, no," he said, with a faltering tongue, impeded by sleep, "no, father, you are mistaken! my luck does not resemble the changing seasons; I am not yet in autumn, when the fruits drop from the trees and winter is at hand." He paused again, and his face assumed the expression of an attentive listener. "What!" he then exclaimed in a loud voice, "you say my family will leave me, and betray me in adversity? No, that is impossible, I have lavished kindnesses on them, I—" He paused, and seemed to listen again. "Ah," he exclaimed, after a short interval, starting violently, "that is too much! All Europe is unable to overthrow me. My name is more powerful than Fate!"
Awakened, perhaps, by the loud sound of his own voice, he opened his eyes and looked around uneasily. "Ah," he said, putting his hand on his moist forehead, "what a terrible dream it was! My father stood before me, and predicted what would befall me. He prophesied my ruin! He cautioned me against my relatives, and the ingratitude of my marshals! [Footnote: "Le Normand." vol. ii, p. 421.] It is the second time that this is predicted to me, and just as I now saw and heard my father in my dream, the old sorceress spoke to me by the pyramids of Egypt." And the emperor, absorbed in his reflections, muttered in a hollow voice: "'You will have two wives,' said the Egyptian sorceress to me; 'your first wife you will unjustly desert. Your second wife will bear you a son, but your misfortunes will nevertheless begin with her. You will soon cease to be prosperous and powerful. All your hopes will be disappointed; you will be forcibly expelled, and cast upon a foreign soil, hemmed in by mountains and the sky. Beware of your relatives! Your own blood will revolt against you!' [Footnote: This prophecy is historical. Vide "Le Normand," vol. ii., p. 487.] Nonsense," exclaimed the emperor, quickly raising his head; "all this is folly. The palace, with its weird traditions, has infected me, and I scent ghosts in the air, and transform my dreams into prophecies. I will retire!"
For the second time he approached the door of the bedroom, but suddenly recoiled and stood with dilated eyes. In front of it appeared a tall female figure, her arms spread out before the door, as if she wished to prevent the emperor from passing out. A long white dress covered her slender form, a black veil concealed her bosom and her erect head; but behind the transparent tissue of the veil was a pale, beautiful face, the eyes of which were flashing like swords' points. Breathless with horror, he fixed his eyes steadfastly on the apparition, that approached him now with uplifted arms. Trembling in spite of himself, he drew back, and, putting his hand on the back of the easy-chair, gazed searchingly at the approaching figure.
"You dare set your foot into the house of the Hohenzollerns?" asked the spectre in a hollow, menacing voice. "You come hither to disturb the repose of the dead? Flee, audacious man—flee, for destruction is pursuing you; it will seize and destroy you! Your last hour has come! Prepare to stand before your Judge!"
"Ay, you will kill me, then, beautiful lady?" asked Napoleon, sneeringly. "You will revenge the defeats I have inflicted on the descendants of Burgrave Albert the Handsome, on the battle-fields of Jena, Eylau, and Friedland? In truth, I should have thought that beautiful Cunigunda of Orlamunde would rather welcome me as a friend, for was it not I who avenged her on the faithless house of Hohenzollern?"
"You try to mock me," said the spectre, "for your heart is filled with doubt, and your soul with pride. But beware, Bonaparte—beware, I tell you for the last time—your hour has come, and every step you advance is a step toward your ruin. Turn back, Bonaparte, if you intend to be saved, for ruin awaits you on the battle-fields of Russia! Turn back, for the souls of your victims cry to God for vengeance, and demand your blood for theirs—your punishment for the ruthlessly destroyed happiness of whole nations! Bonaparte, escape from the soil of Germany, and dare no longer to set foot upon it, for disgraceful defeats are in store for you! Return to France, and endeavor to conciliate those who are cursing you as a perjurer and renegade!"
"Who are they who dare call me a perjurer and renegade?" asked Napoleon, hastily.
"Who are they?" repeated the spectre, advancing a step toward the emperor and fixing her menacing eyes upon him. "The men to whom you once vowed eternal fidelity, and whom you called your brethren— Philadelphians!"
The emperor started in terror, and his cheeks turned livid. His features, which had hitherto had a sneering, scornful air, were now gloomy, and he stared with an expression of undisguised fear at the lady who stood before him in an imposing attitude, with her arm lifted in a menacing manner.
"The Philadelphians?" asked Napoleon, timidly. "I do not know them."
"You do!" said the spectre, solemnly. "You do know that the invisible ones are watching you, and will punish you because you have broken your oath!"
"I know of no oath!"
"Woe to you if you have forgotten it. I will repeat it to you! It was in 1789, at the forest of Fontainebleau, that you appeared at the meeting of the brethren and requested to be initiated. The Philadelphians admitted you into their league and received your oath. Shall I repeat this oath to you?"
"Do so if you can!"
"You swore that never again should a freeman obey kings, and that death to tyrants under all titles and in all governments is justifiable."
"That was the formality of the oath of every club and secret society at that time," exclaimed Napoleon, contemptuously.
"But the Philadelphians demanded still another written oath of you. It read as follows: 'I consent that my life be taken if I ever become reconciled to royalty. In order to contribute to its eradication in Europe, I will make use of fire and sword, and, when the society to which I belong asks me to do so, sacrifice even what is most precious to me.' You wrote this and affixed your name to it with your blood." [Footnote: "Le Normand" vol. ii., p. 516.]
"It is true, I did!" muttered Napoleon. "I was a fool, dreaming, like all the others, of the possibility of a republic."
"You were a believer, and have become a renegade," exclaimed the spectre, in a threatening voice. "The invisible ones will judge and punish you, unless you make haste to conciliate them. You have forgotten that you stand under the yoke of the Philadelphians. The Emperor Napoleon believes that he has power to blot out with the blood of subjugated nations the words of the sacred oath which Lieutenant Bonaparte swore to the Philadelphians in the forest of Fontainebleau."
"And I HAVE the power to do so!" exclaimed Napoleon, proudly. "I stretch out my arm over Europe, and she bows before me."
"But the Philadelphians will break your arm, and convert your crowns into dust, unless you make haste to conciliate them," exclaimed the spectre. "Turn back, for it is yet time. Return to France, renounce conquests: France wants no more wars; she is cursing the tyrant who refuses peace to her and to Europe. There has been bloodshed enough. Take an oath at this hour that you will renounce your ambition, and no longer pursue a career of crime and blood! Swear that you will return to France to-morrow!"
"Never!" ejaculated Napoleon, vehemently, and coloring with anger.
"Swear that you will return, or I will kill you!" cried the spectre. "I will kill you as a wolf. Swear that you will return!"
"Ah, you will not swear—you prefer to die, then," and at a bound she was by the Emperor's side, grasped him with iron hands, and threw him down on the easy-chair. "You prefer to die!" she repeated wildly, tearing the black veil from her head and showing her face unveiled. It was livid as that of a corpse, the bloodless lips quivering, and her red eyes flaming with rage.
"You prefer to die!" exclaimed the spectre, for the third time. "Well, die!" And her arms encircled Napoleon's breast like iron rings, her glance seemed to pierce his face, her lips opened and exhibited terrible teeth, as if ready to tear his breast. The emperor was unable to breathe; he felt his strength giving way, and, with a last effort, he uttered a shrill cry calling for help.
"Sire, sire, awake!" cried an anxious voice by his side. Napoleon started up, and violently pushed back the hand which touched his arm. "Who is there?" he asked, angrily.
"Sire, it is I—Constant!" said the faithful valet de chambre. "I heard in the antechamber your majesty's groans and cries; I rushed in and saw you writhing on the easy-chair. A bad dream seemed to torment your majesty, and I therefore ventured to awaken you."
"And I am glad you did, Constant," said the emperor. "Ah, my friend, what a terrible dream it was! The White Lady was here; she threw herself upon me like a tigress; she wanted to tear me and drink my heart's blood."
"Your majesty had once before a similar dream," said Constant, smiling.
"Where—where was it?" asked Napoleon, hastily, wiping the cold sweat from his brow.
"Sire, it was at Erfurt, when the Emperor Alexander was there." [Footnote: Constant, "Memoires," vol. iv., p. 79.]
"Yes, I remember," said the emperor, in a low voice. "It seems this bad dream returns as soon as I approach Alexander. Does Fate intend to warn me? Is he to be the wolf that will one day lacerate my breast? Ah, it was an awful dream, indeed, and even now it seems to me as really seen and heard." He glanced around the gloomy room. Every thing was in precisely the same condition as when he had entered it. The maps lay undisturbed on the table before him; the colored pins stood in long rows like little armies, and opposite each other, drawn up in line of battle. But the tapers had burned, down, and the fire was nearly extinguished. Napoleon rose shudderingly from his easy-chair. "I will go to rest," he said.
Constant, taking a candlestick, preceded the emperor, and opened the door of the adjoining room. Fifteen minutes afterward Napoleon was in bed, and Constant and Roustan had withdrawn into the antechamber.
But this sleep was not to be of long duration. A loud cry, uttered by his master, awakened Constant, and caused him to rush into the bedroom. The emperor had raised himself in bed. "Constant," he said, "it was no dream this time. The White Lady was here—I saw her distinctly—I had not fallen asleep, my eyes and all my senses were awake. I saw the tall, white figure, her head covered with the black veil, at the wall there, as though she had grown from the ground. At a bound she was at my bedside, and raised her hands. I quickly seized her and called for you. She then glided from my fingers and disappeared. Like General d'Espagne, I say there must he a trap-door somewhere in this room. Call Roustan, take lights, and examine the walls and the floor."
The valet de chambre hastened to fetch Roustan: they took lights and made a thorough examination, but in vain. The oaken planks of the floor were firmly joined, and the dark velvet hangings glued to the walls.
"Well, then, the White Lady has fooled me in another dream," said the emperor. "Go! Let us sleep." The two servants withdrew.
About an hour had elapsed, when another cry, uttered by the emperor, called Constant back into the bedroom. Seized with dismay, he halted at the door. The bed was in the middle of the room; the table which stood beside it was upset, and the night-lamp lay thrown on the floor.
"I hope that no accident has befallen your majesty," said Constant, rushing toward the emperor.
"No," said Napoleon. "But this accursed white spectre was here again. It wanted to treat me like General d'Espagne; to upset my bed and throttle me. I awoke just when this horrible monster of a woman pushed the bed with the strength of a giant into the middle of the room. I called for you, and she disappeared. As the White Lady apparently does not like several persons to be in the room, you and Roustan must remain here to-night."
"And, with your majesty's leave, each of us will hold a pistol in his hand, that we may fire at the apparition if it return."
"Ah, my friend, you know little of the power of spectres," said Napoleon, smiling. "When you have fired at them, they laugh scornfully, throw the bullet back to you and pass on entirely uninjured. That is their fashion. But you may take your pistols, and if she has still a human heart in her breast, she will feel some respect for it."
And the White Lady really seemed to have a human heart. Constant and Roustan, who sat on the floor beside the emperor's bed with cocked pistols, waited in vain for the return of the apparition. Every thing remained quiet; nothing stirred in the room, where the emperor, guarded by his faithful servants, now at last enjoyed repose.
When he rose on the following morning, his face was even paler and gloomier than usual. He who generally on being dressed conversed in an affable manner with his servants, remained silent and grave that day, and muttered only occasionally, "The accursed palace! The miserable spectre-hole!" [Footnote: Historical.—Vide Minutoli, "The White Lady," p. 17.]
Constant and Roustan, having finished the emperor's toilet, were about leaving the room, when he called them back by a gesture. "You will not mention any thing about what happened here last night!" he said, imperiously. "If I find out that you disobey my order, I shall be very angry. Go!" And the emperor went into the Gallery of Palms in order to receive the reports of his suite and give the usual audiences. With a nod and a dismal look he greeted Count Munster, who inquired, with the fawning smile of a true courtier, whether his majesty had passed an agreeable night.
"Your castellan, then, has not informed you of the horrible noise last night in the palace?" asked Napoleon, angrily. "You ought to get better nails, count, to hang up paintings, so that they do not fall down. He who wants to hang anybody or any thing, even though it be but a painting, ought to have at least a substantial gallows."
"Sire," faltered Count Munster, "I do not comprehend—this palace—"
"Is not even fit to be a gallows, for it drops those who have been hung in it," exclaimed Napoleon, vehemently. "It is an accursed place, and the air in it as sultry and oppressive as in a rat-hole. Have the carriages brought to the door. Let us depart!" He did not deign the count another glance, and returned into the adjoining room, whither none but the grand marshal and his adjutants were permitted to follow.
Fifteen minutes afterward, the emperor, with his numerous suite, left the palace of Baireuth and set out for Plauen, where he intended to join the Empress Maria Louisa, who had stopped there over night, and continue with her the journey to Dresden. The streets of Baireuth, which had presented so animated a spectacle the day before, were at this early hour quiet and deserted; all the windows were closed; only here and there a wondering, inquisitive face appeared behind the panes and looked at the carriages that rolled through the streets, and at the melancholy countenance of the emperor, who sat in his open calash. When out of the gate, he turned again, and cast an angry glance on the palace, whose high gray walls were brightened by the morning sun. "An accursed old palace!" he muttered to himself. "I shall never spend there another night." [Footnote: Napoleon's own words.—Vide Minotoli, p. 17.] And leaning back in a corner of the carriage he gazed in silence at the sky.