OLD FRITZ AND THE NEW ERA
By L. Muhlbach
Translated from the German by Peter Langley
I. The Lonely King
II. Wilhelmine Enke
III. Frederick William
IV. The Drive to Berlin
V. The Oath of Fidelity
VI. The Parade
VII. The Miraculous Elixir
VIII. The Golden Rain
IX. German Literature and the King
ROSICRUCIANS AND POWERFUL GENIUSES.
X. Goethe in Berlin
XI. The Inner and the Middle Temple
XII. The Jesuit General
XIII. A Pensioned General
XIV. The King's Letter
XV. Hate and Love
XVI. Charles Augustus and Goethe
XVII. Goethe's Visits
XVIII. Farewell to Berlin
STORM AND PRESSURE.
XIX. The King and the Austrian Diplomat
XX. The King and the Lover
XXI. In Weimar
XXII. The Reading
XXIV. The Purse-Proud Man
XXV. The Elopement
XXVI. Under the Starry Heavens
XXVII. The Sacrifice
THE VISIBLES AND THE INVISIBLES.
XXVIII. Old Fritz
XXIX. Cagliostro's Return
XXX. The Triumvirate
XXXI. Future Plans
XXXII. Miracles and Spirits
XXXIII. The Return Home
XXXIV. Behind the Mask
XXXV. The Curse
XXXVI. The King and the Rosicrucians
XXXVII. The Espousals
XXXVIII. Revenge Fulfilled
I would merely say a few words in justification of the Historical Romance, in its relation to history. Any one, with no preceding profound study of history, who takes a few well-known historical facts as a foundation for an airy castle of romantic invention and fantastic adventure, may easily write an Historical Romance; for him history is only the nude manikin which he clothes and adorns according to his own taste, and to which he gives the place and position most agreeable to himself. But only the writer who is in earnest with respect to historical truth, who is not impelled by levity or conceited presumption, is justified in attempting this species of composition; thoroughly impressed with the greatness of his undertaking, he will with modest humility constantly remember that he has proposed to himself a great and sublime work which, however, it will be difficult if not impossible for him wholly and completely to accomplish.
But what is this great, this sublime end, which the Historical Romance writer proposes to attain? It is this: to illustrate history, to popularize it; to bring forth from the silent studio of the scholar and to expose in the public market of life, for the common good, the great men and great deeds embalmed in history, and of which only the studious have hitherto enjoyed the monopoly. Thus, at least, have I considered the vocation I have chosen, not vainly or inconsiderately, but with a profound conviction of the greatness of my undertaking, and with a depressing consciousness that my power and acquirements may prove inadequate for the attainment of my proposed end.
But I am also fully conscious of what was and still is my greatest desire: to give an agreeable and popular form to our national history, which may attract the attention and affections of our people, which may open their understandings to the tendencies of political movements, and connect the facts of history with the events of actual life.
The severe historian has to do but with accomplished facts; he can only record and describe, with the strictest regard to truth, that which has outwardly occurred. He describes the battles of peoples, the struggles of nations, the great deeds of heroes, the actions of princes—in short, he gives the accomplished facts. To investigate and explain the secret motives, the hidden causes of these facts, to present them in connection with all that impelled to them, this is the task of Historical Romance.
The historian presents to you the outward face, the external form of history; Historical Romance would show you the heart of history, and thus bring near to your heart what, else, would stand so far off. To enable him to do this, the writer of an Historical Romance must, indeed, make severe and various studies. He must devote his whole mind and soul to the epoch he would illustrate, he must live in it and feel with it. He must so familiarize himself with all the details, as in a manner to become a child of that epoch; for he can present a really living image of only that which is living in himself. That this requires a deep and earnest study of history is self-evident. Historical Romance demands the study of the historian, together with the creative imagination of the poet. For the free embodiment of the poet can blossom only from out the studio of the historian, as the flower from the seed; as, by a reciprocal organic action, the hyacinth is derived from the onion, and the rose from its seed-capsule, so are history and poetry combined in the Historical Romance, giving and receiving life to and from each other.
The Historical Romance has its great task and its great justification—a truth disputed by only those who either have not understood or will not understand its nature.
The Historical Romance has, if I may be allowed so to speak, four several objects for which to strive:
Its first object is, to throw light upon the dark places of history, necessarily left unclear by the historian. Poetry has the right and duty of setting facts in a clear light, and of illuminating the darkness by its sunny beams. The poetry of the romance writer seeks to deduce historical characteristics from historical facts, and to draw from the spirit of history an elucidation of historical characters, so that the writer may be able to detect their inmost thoughts and feelings, and in just and sharp traits to communicate them to others.
The second task of Historical Romance is, to group historical characters according to their internal natures, and thus to elucidate and illustrate history. This illustration then leads to the third task, which is the discovery and exposition of the motives which impel individual historical personages to the performance of great historical acts, and from outwardly, apparently insignificant events in their lives to deduce their inmost thoughts and natures, and represent them clearly to others.
Thence follows the fourth task: the illustration of historical facts by a romance constructed in the spirit of the history. This fourth and principal task is the presentation of history in a dramatic form and with animated descriptions; upon the foundation of history to erect the temple of poesy, which must nevertheless be pervaded and illuminated by historic truth. From this it naturally follows that it is of very little consequence whether the personages of the Historical Romance actually spoke the words or performed the acts attributed to them; it is only necessary that those words and deeds should be in accordance with the spirit and character of such historical personages, and that the writer should not attribute to them what they could not have spoken or done. In the Historical Romance, when circumstances or events are presented in accordance with historical tradition, when the characters are naturally described, they bear with them their own justification, and Historical Romance has need of no further defence.
Historical Romance should be nothing but an illustration of history. If the drawing, grouping, coloring, and style of such an illustration of any given historical epoch are admitted to be true, then the illustration rises to the elevation of a work of art, worthy of a place beside the historical picture, and is equally useful.
Raphael's "School of Athens," his "Institution of the Communion," and many others of his pictures, are such illustrations of history—as also the great paintings of Rubens from the life of Anna dei Medici; and then the historical pictures of Horace Vernet, of Delaroche, of Lessing, and of Kaulbach—all these are illustrations of history. What those artists present and illustrate with paint and pencil, the Historical Romancer represents in words with his pen; and when he does this successfully, he will live in the memory of his reader as imperishably as the great historical pictures of the painters in the memory of their beholders.
It would occur to no one to accuse a successful historical picture of falsehood, because the books of history do not show that the occurrence took place precisely in the manner represented, that the historical personages really so laughed or wept, or so deported themselves. If the situation and grouping of historical events are allowed to be in accordance with the general tenor of history, then the picture may be pronounced historically true, and is just as good a piece of history as the record of the special historian. It is the same with the pictures of the romancer as with those of the painter; and this is my answer to those who, on every occasion, are continually asking: "Was it really thus? Did it really occur in that manner?"
Show me from history that it could not be so; that it is not in accordance with the character of the persons represented—then I will confess that I am wrong, and you are right; then have I not presented an illustration, but only a caricature of history, faulty as a work of art, and wanting the dignity of truth.
I am conscious of having earnestly and devotedly striven for the truth, and of having diligently sought it in all attainable historical works. The author of an Historical Romance has before him a difficult task: while he must falsify nothing in history, he must poetize it in a manner that both historical and poetic truth shall be the result. To those, however, who so very severely judge Historical Romance, and would deny its historical worth, I now, in conclusion, answer with the following significant quotation from Schiller:
"I shall always prove a bad resource for any future historian who may have the misfortune to recur to me. History is generally only a magazine for my fantasy, and objects must be contented with whatever they may become under my hand."—(See Weisnar's "Musenhof," p. 93.)
This declaration of Schiller satisfies me with respect to the nature of my own creations. I desire not to be a resource for historical writers, but I shall always earnestly and zealously seek to draw from the wells of history, that nothing false or unreal may find a place in the "magazine of my fantasy."
(L. MUEHLBACH. )
BERLIN, September 22, 1866.
OLD FRITZ AND THE NEW ERA.
BOOK I. OLD FRITZ.
CHAPTER I. THE LONELY KING.
"Well, so let it be!" said the king, sighing, as he rose from his arm-chair; "I must go forth to the strife, and these old limbs must again submit to the fatigue of war. But what matters it? The life of princes is passed in the fulfilment of duties and responsibilities, and rarely is it gladdened with the sunny rays of joy and peace! Let us submit!
"Yes, let us submit!" repeated the king, thoughtfully, slowly pacing his cabinet back and forth, his hands folded upon his staff behind him, and his favorite dog, Alkmene, sleepily following him.
It was a melancholy picture to see this bowed-down old man; his thin, pale face shaded by a worn-out, three-cornered hat, his dirty uniform strewn with snuff; and his meagre legs encased in high-topped, unpolished boots; his only companion a greyhound, old and joyless as his master. Neither the bust of Voltaire, with its beaming, intelligent face, nor those of his friends, Lord-Marshal Keith and the Marquis d'Argens, could win an affectionate glance from the lonely old king. He whom Europe distinguished as the Great Frederick, whom his subjects called their "father and benefactor," whose name was worthy to shine among the brightest stars of heaven, his pale, thin lips just murmured, "Resignation!"
With downcast eyes he paced his cabinet, murmuring, "Let us submit!" He would not look up to those who were gazing down upon him from the walls—to those who were no more. The remembrance of them unnerved him, and filled his heart with grief. The experiences of life, and the ingratitude of men, had left many a scar upon this royal heart, but had never hardened it; it was still overflowing with tender sympathy and cherished memories. To Lord-Marshal Keith, Marquis d'Argens, and Voltaire, Frederick owed the happiest years of his life.
D'Argens, who passionately loved Frederick, had been dead five years; Lord-Marshal Keith one month; and Voltaire was dying! This intelligence the king had received that very morning, from his Paris correspondent, Grimm. It was this that filled his heart with mourning. The face, that smiled so full of intelligence, was perhaps distorted with agony, and those beaming eyes were now closing in death!
Voltaire was dying!
Frederick's thoughts were with the dead and dying—with the past! He recalled, when crown prince at Rheinsberg, how much he had admired, loved, and distinguished Voltaire; how he rejoiced, and how honored he felt, when, as a young king, Voltaire yielded to his request to live with him at Berlin. This intimacy, it is true, did not long continue; the king was forced to recognize, with bitter regret, that the MAN Voltaire was not worthy the love which he bestowed upon the POET. He renounced the MAN, but the poet was still his admiration; and all the perfidy, slander and malice of Voltaire, had never changed Frederick. The remembrance of it had long since faded from his noble heart—only the memory of the poet, of the author of so many hours of the purest enjoyment, remained.
Voltaire was dying!
This great and powerful spirit, who so long a time, in the natural body, had instructed, inspired, and refreshed mankind, would leave that body to rise—whither?
"Immortality, what art thou?" asked the king, aloud, and for the first time raising his eyes with an inquiring glance to the busts of his friends. "I have sought for thee, I have toiled for thee, my whole life long! Neither the researches of the learned, nor the subtleties of philosophy reveal thee to me. Is there any other immortality than fame? Any other eternal life than that which the memory of succeeding generations grants to the dead?" In this tone of thought Frederick recited, audibly, the conclusion of a poem, which he had addressed to D'Alembert:
"I have consecrated my days to philosophy, I admit all the innocent pleasures of life; And knowing that soon my course will finish, I enjoy the present with fear of the future. What is there to fear after death? If the body and the mind suffer the same fate, I shall return and mingle with nature; If a remnant of my intellectual fire escapes death, I will flee to the arms of my God." [Footnote: Posthumous works, vol. vii., p.88.]
"And may this soon be granted me!" continued the king; "then I shall be reunited to those loved ones—gone before. I must be content to tarry awhile in this earthly vale of sorrow, and finish the task assigned me by the Great Teacher; therefore, let us submit."
He sighed; pacing to and fro, his steps were arrested at a side-table, where lay a long black velvet box; it contained the flute that his beloved teacher, Quantz, had made for him. Frederick had always kept it in his cabinet as a memento of his lost friend; as this room he had devoted to a temple of Memory—of the past!
"Another of the joys, another of the stars of my life vanished!" murmured the king. "My charming concerts are at an end! Quantz, Brenda, and my glorious Graun are no more. While they are listening to the heavenly choir, I must be content with the miserable, idle chatter of men; the thunder of battle deafening my ears, to which that mad, ambitious Emperor of Austria hopes to force me!"
As the king thus soliloquized, he involuntarily drew from the box the beautiful ebony flute, exquisitely ornamented with silver. A smile played around his delicate mouth. He raised the flute to his lips, and a melancholy strain floated through the stillness—the king's requiem to the dead, his farewell to the dying!
No sound of the outer world penetrated that lonely room. The guard of honor, on duty upon the Sans-Souci terrace, halted suddenly, as the sad music fell upon his ear. The fresh spring breeze swept through the trees, and drove the laden-blossomed elder-bushes tapping against the windowpanes, as if to offer a May-greeting to the lonely king. The servant in waiting stole on tiptoe to the door of the anteroom, listening breathlessly at the key-hole to the moving melody.
Even Alkmene suddenly raised her head as if something unusual were taking place, fixed her great eyes upon her master, jumping upon his knee, and resting her fore-paws lovingly upon his breast.
Frederick neither observed nor felt the movement of his favorite; his thoughts were absent from the present—absent from the earth! They were wandering in the unknown future, with the spirits of those he longed to see again in the Elysian fields.
The wailing music of his flute expressed the lamentation of his soul, and his eyes filled with tears as he raised them to the bust of Voltaire, gazing at it with a look of pain until the melody was finished. Then abruptly turning, half unwillingly, half angrily, he returned the flute to the box, and stole away, covering his face with his hands, as if to hide his emotion from himself.
"Now we have finished with the dead, and the living claim our thoughts," sighed the king. "What an absurd thing is the human heart! It will never grow cold or old; always pretending to a spark of the fire which that shameful fellow Prometheus stole from the gods. What an absurdity! What have I, an old fellow, to do with the fire of Prometheus, when the fire of war will soon rage around me," At this instant the door gently opened. "What do you want, Muller? What do you poke your stupid face in here for?" said the king.
"Pardon me, your majesty," replied the footman, "the Baron von Arnim begs for an audience."
"Bid him enter," commanded the king, sinking back in his old, faded velvet arm-chair. Resting his chin upon his staff, he signed to the baron, who stood bowing upon the threshold, to approach. "Well, Arnim, what is the matter? What papers have you there?"
"Sire," answered Baron von Arnim, "the contract of the French actors, which needs renewing, I have to lay before your majesty; also a paper, received yesterday, from Madame Mara; still another from the singer Conciliani, and a petition from four persons from the opera."
"What stupid stuff!" growled the king, at the same time bestowing a caress upon Alkmene. "Commence with your report. Let us hear what those singers are now asking for."
"The singer Conciliani has addressed a heart-breaking letter to your majesty, and prays for an increase of salary—that it is impossible for him to live upon three thousand dollars."
"Ah! that is what is wanted?" cried the king, furious, and striking his staff upon the floor. "The fellow is mad; When he cannot live upon three thousand, he will not be able to live upon four. I want money for cannon. I cannot spend it for such nonsense. I am surprised, Von Arnim that you repeat such stuff to me."
"Your majesty, it is my duty that I—"
"What! Your duty is not to flatter them. I pay them to give me pleasure, not presumption. Remember, once for all, do not flatter them. Conciliani will get no increase of salary. If he persists, let him go to the mischief! This is my decision.—Proceed! What is Madame Mara begging for?"
"Madame Mara constantly refuses to sing the airs which your majesty commanded to be introduced into the opera of 'Coriolanus.' She has taken the liberty to address you in writing; here is the letter, if your majesty will have the grace to read it."
"By no means, sir, by no means!" cried the king; at the same instant catching the paper with his staff, he slung it like a shot arrow to the farthest corner of the room, to the great amusement of Alkmene, who, with a loud bark, sprang from her master's knee, and with a bound caught the strange bird, and tore it in pieces. "You are right, my pet," said the king, laughing, "you have written my answer with your nose to this arrogant person. Director, say to Madame Mara that I pay her to sing, not to write. She must sing both airs, or she may find herself at Spandau for her obstinacy, where her husband is, for the same reason. She can reflect, and judge for herself."
The director could scarcely repress a sigh, foreboding the disagreeable scene that he would have to encounter with the proud and passionate singer. Timidly Von Arnim alluded to the four persons from the opera. "Who are these demoiselles, and what do they want?" asked the king.
"Sire," replied the Baron von Arnim, "they are the four persons who personate the role of court ladies and maids of honor to the queens and princesses. They beg your majesty to secure to them a fixed income."
"Indeed! Go to my writing-table and bring paper and pencil; I will dictate a reply to them," said the king. "Now write, Von Arnim: 'To the four court ladies and maids of honor of the opera: You are mistaken in addressing yourselves to me; the affair of your salaries concerns YOUR emperors and kings. To them you must address yourselves.—Adieu.'"
Von Arnim could scarcely repress a smile.
"Now we come to the last affair—the salaries and pensions of the French actors," said the king; "but first tell me the news in Berlin—what report has trumpeted forth in the last few days."
"Your majesty, the latest news in Berlin, which rumor brings home to every hearth-side and every heart is, that your majesty has declared war with Austria on account of the Bavarian succession. Every one rejoices, sire, that you will humble that proud and supercilious house of Austria, and enter the lists for Germany."
"Listen!" answered the king, sternly. "I did not ask you to blow the trumpet of praise, as if your honor, inspector of the theatres, thought yourself upon the stage, and would commence a comedy with the king of lamps. So it is known then that my soldiers will enter the great theatre of war, and that we are about to fight real battles."
"It is known, sire," replied Von Arnim, bowing.
"Then what I am about to communicate to you will not surprise you. The present juncture of affairs leads us to await very grave scenes—we can well dispense with comedy. I withdraw the salaries and pensions of the French actors—your own is included. After you have dismissed the French comedians, you will be entirely at leisure to pursue your love-intrigues.—Farewell!"
"Your majesty," cried the baron, amazed, "has your highness dismissed me?"
"Are you deaf, or have you some of the cotton in your ears which I presented to you at your recall from Copenhagen?" replied the king. [Footnote: Baron von Arnim was ambassador to Copenhagen until 1754, when he begged for his recall, stating that the damp climate was injurious to his health. The king granted his request, and the baron returned to Berlin. At the first audience with the king, Frederick handed Baron von Arnim a carefully-packed box, saying, "I do not wish the government to lose so valuable a servant; in this box you will find something that will keep you warm." Arnim could scarcely await his return home, to open the box; it contained nothing but cotton. Some days afterward, however, the king increased Von Arnim's income a thousand dollars, and sent him ambassador to Dresden. Von Arnim was afterward director of the Royal Theatre until dismissed in the above manner.]
"Sire, I have heard all, but I cannot believe it."
"Yes, yes," interrupted the king, "To believe is difficult; you, I presume, never belonged to the pious and believing. Your intrigues would not admit of it; but now you have the leisure to pursue them with a right good-will. You have only to discharge, as I have said, the entire French troupe, and the whole thing is done with.—Adieu, Arnim, may you be prospered!"
Baron von Arnim muttered some incomprehensible words, and retreated from the royal presence. The door had scarcely closed, when it was again opened without ceremony by a young man, wearing a gold-laced dress.
"Your majesty," said he, hastily, in an undertone, "your majesty, she has just gone to the Palace Park, just the same hour she went yesterday."
"Is she alone?" asked the king, rising.
"No, she is not alone; at a little distance the nurse follows with the princely infant!"
The king cast an angry glance at the saucy, laughing face of the young man, who at once assumed a devoted, earnest mien. "Has your majesty any further commands?" asked he, timidly.
"I command you to hold your tongue until you are spoken to!" replied the king, harshly. "You understand spying and hanging about, as you have good ears, a quick eye, and a keen scent. I therefore make use of you, because I need a spy; but, understand that a fellow who allows himself to be used as a spy, is, indeed, a useful subject, but generally a worthless one, and to whom it is becoming to be modest and humble. I am now going to Berlin; you will accompany me. Take off your finery, so that every one may not recognize at once the peacock by his feathers. Go to the taverns and listen to what they say about the war; whether the people are much dissatisfied about it. Keep your great ears wide open, and bring me this evening all the latest news. Go, now, tell my coachman to be ready; in half an hour I shall set off."
The young man slunk away to the door, but stood without opening it, his head down, and his under-lip hanging out.
"What is the matter?" asked the king, in a milder tone, "why do you not go, Kretzschmar?"
"I cannot go away if your majesty is angry with me," muttered the servant, insolently. "I do not wish to hear or see any thing more for you when your majesty abuses me, and considers me such a mean, base fellow. Your majesty first commanded me to listen, and spy, and now that I am obeying, I am despised and scolded for it. I will have nothing more to do with it, and I wish your majesty to leave me a simple footman rather than to accord me such a mean position."
"I did not mean so badly," said the king. "I mean well enough for you; but you must not permit yourself to be arrogant or disrespectful, otherwise you may go to Tophet! You are no common spy, you are listening about a little because you know I am fond of hearing what the people are saying, and what is going on in Berlin and Potsdam. But take care that they know nothing about it, otherwise they will be careful, and you will hear nothing. Now be off, and in order to see a cheerful face on you, I will make you a present." The king drew from his vest-pocket a purse, well filled with small coin, and gave it to the young man, who took it, though he still looked angry and insolent. "Do not let your under-lip hang down so, for I may step upon it," said the king. "Put the money in your pocket, and hurry off to tell old Pfund to harness quickly, or I shall not arrive in time at the park."
"There is no danger, your majesty, for the miss seems very fond of the promenade; she remained two hours in the park yesterday, always walking in the most quiet places, as if she were afraid to meet any one. She sat a whole hour on the iron seat by the Carp Pond, and then she went to the Philosopher's Walk, and skipped about like a young colt."
"You are a very cunning fellow, and know how to use your eyes well," said the king. "Now be off, and order the carriage."
CHAPTER II. WILHELMINE ENKE.
The Palace Park was as quiet and deserted as usual. Not a voice, not a sound, disturbed the stillness of those silent walks. For this reason, undoubtedly, a young lady had sought it; at least her whole being expressed satisfaction and delight to wander unobserved through those quiet, shady alleys. She was of slight and elegant proportions, simply attired, without pretension, in a dark dress of some thin silk material. Her black silk mantle was thrown aside upon the stone seat near her, uncovering thus, in solitude, to the sun and birds, her lovely neck and arms, the beauty of which might rival the statues of the ancients. Her face was not of regular beauty, yet it possessed that expression of grace, spirit, and energy, which is oftener a more powerful and more enduring charm than regular beauty. Her large, expressive black eyes possessed a wonderful power, and her red, pouting lips wore a sweet smile; her fine Roman nose lent an air of decision, whilst her high-arched forehead led one to believe that daring, energetic thought lay hidden beneath those clusters of brown curls. She was not in the bloom of youth, but at twenty-five she appeared younger than many beauties at eighteen; and if her form no longer possessed the charm of girlhood, it was attractive from its suppleness and full, beautiful bust.
"Louisa, Louisa, where are you?" cried the young lady, stepping quickly forward toward a side-path, which led from the broad avenue, and at the end of which was a sunny grassplot.
"Here I am, miss; I am coming."
"Miss," murmured the young lady, "how dreadfully it sounds! The blush of shame rises to my face, for it sounds like bitter mockery and contempt, and brings my whole life before me. Yet, I must endure it—and I scarcely wish it were otherwise. Ah, there you are, Louisa, and there is my beautiful boy," she cried, with a glad voice, hastening toward the peasant-woman and bending fondly over her child. "How beautiful and how knowing he looks! It seems as if my little Alexander began to recognize me—he looks so earnest and sensible."
"He knows you, miss," said the nurse, courtesying, "and he knows, like other children, who loves him. Children and dogs know who love them. The children cry, and the dogs hide themselves when people are around who dislike them."
"Nonsense, Louisa!" laughed the young lady, as she bent to kiss her child—"nonsense! did not my little boy cry when his father took him yesterday? And he loves his child most tenderly, as only a father can."
"Oh, there is another reason for that," said the nurse. "He has just passed his first stupid three months, and he begins to hear and see what passes around him, and it was the first man's face that he had seen. But only look, miss, what a beautiful little dog is coming up the path." It was indeed a lovely greyhound, of the small Italian race, which came bounding joyfully toward them, and as he saw the woman barked loudly.
"Be quiet, Alkmene, be quiet!" cried a loud, commanding voice.
"Oh, Heaven! it is the king!" whispered the young lady, turning pale, and, as if stunned, retreated a few steps.
"Yes, it is really the king," cried the nurse, "and he is coming directly from the grass-plot here."
"Let us go as quickly as possible, Louisa. Come, come," and she hastily threw her mantle around her, drawing the hood over her curly head. She had only proceeded a few steps, when a loud voice bade her to remain—to stand still. She stood as if rooted to the spot, leaning upon her nurse for support; her knees sank under her, and it seemed as if the whole world turned around with her. After the first tumult of anxiety and fear, succeeded an insolent determination, and, forcing herself to calmness, she said: "It is the turning-point of my life; the next few minutes will either crush me or assure my future; let me struggle for the future, then. I will face him who approaches me as my judge." Forcing herself to composure, slowly and with effort she turned toward the king, who, approaching by the side path, had entered the avenue, and now stood before her. But as she encountered the fiery glance of the king's eye, she quailed before it, casting down her own, covered with confusion.
"Who are you?" demanded the king, with stern authority, keeping his eagle eye fixed upon her. Silent and immovable she stood; only the quick, feverish breathing and the heaving bosom told the storm that was raging within.
"Who are you?" repeated the voice, with still more severity—"who permit themselves to use my park as a nursery? What child is that? and who are its parents? They should be of high position at court, who would dare to send their child and nurse to the royal park; and with what joy they must regard the offspring of their conjugal tenderness! Tell me to whom does this child belong?"
Sobbing convulsively, the lady sank, kneeling, with uplifted arms, imploring for mercy. "Sire, annihilate me with your anger, but do not crush me with your scorn!"
"What language do you permit yourself to hold?" asked the king.
"Sire, it is the language of an unhappy, despairing woman, who knows that she stands before that great monarch whose judgment she fears more than that of her God, who sees into her heart, and reads the tortures and reproaches of her conscience; who knows what she suffers, and knows, also, that she is free from self-interest, and every base desire. I believe that God will forgive what I fear your majesty will not."
"You speak presumptuously, and remind me of the theatre princesses who represent a grand scene with a pathetic exit. Let me inform you, I despise comedians—only high tragedy pleases me. Spare yourself the trouble to act before me, but answer me—who are you? Whose child is that?"
"Sire, only God and my king should hear my reply—I beg the favor to send away the nurse and child." The king assented, slightly nodding his head, at the same time bidding her not to kneel to him as to an image.
The lady rose and sought the nurse, who, from fright, had withdrawn into the shrubbery, and stood staring at the king with wide-open eyes. "Go home, Louisa, and put the child to sleep," said she, quickly.
The nurse obeyed promptly, and when alone, the king demanded again, "Who are you? and to whom does the child belong?"
"Your majesty, I am the daughter of your chapel musician Enke, and the child is the son of Prince Frederick William of Prussia," she replied, in a firm and defiant manner.
The king's eyes flashed as he glanced at the bold speaker. "You say so, but who vouches for the truth of it? You permit yourself to use a high name, to give your child an honorable father! What temerity! what presumption! What if I should not believe you, but send you to the house of correction, at Spandau, as a slanderer, as guilty of high-treason, as a sinner and an adulteress?"
"You could not do it, sire—you could not," cried Wilhelmine Enke, "for you would also send there the honor and the name of your successor to the throne."
"What do you mean?" cried the king, furiously.
"I mean, your majesty, that the prince has holy duties toward me. I am the mother of that child!"
"You acknowledge your shame, and you dare confess it to me, your king, that you are the favorite, the kept mistress of the Prince of Prussia, who has already a wife that has borne him children? You do not even seek to deny it, or to excuse yourself?"
"I would try to excuse myself, did I not feel that your majesty would not listen to me."
"What excuse could you offer?—there is none."
"Love is my excuse," cried Wilhelmine, eagerly. "Oh! my ruler and king, do not shake your noble head so unbelievingly; do not look at me so contemptuously. Oh, Father in heaven, I implore Thee to quicken my mind, that my thoughts may become words, and my lips utter that which is burning in my soul! In all these years of my poor, despised, obscure life, how often have I longed for this hour when I might stand before my king, when I might penitently clasp his knees and implore mercy for myself and my children—those poor, nameless beings, whose existence is my accusation, and yet who are the pride and joy of my life! Oh, sire, I will not accuse, to excuse myself; I will not cast the stone at others which they have cast at me. But it is scarcely charitable to judge and condemn a young girl fourteen years of age, who did but obey the command of her parents, and followed the man who was the first and only one that ever whispered the word of love in her ear."
"I have heard that your parents sold their child to shame. Is it true?" cried the king.
"Sire, my father was poor; the scanty income of a chapel musician scarcely sufficed to educate and support four children. The prince promised my father to educate me."
"Bah! The promises of a young man of twenty-five are made without reflection, and rarely ever fulfilled."
"Sire, to the Prince of Prussia I owe all that I know, and all that I am; his promise to my dying father was fully redeemed."
"Indeed, by whom were you taught, and what have you learned?"
"Your majesty, the prince wished, before all, that I should learn to speak French. Madame Girard was my French instructress, and taught me to play the guitar and spinet also."
"Oh, I presume you have learned to jabber a little French and drum a little music," said the king, shrugging his shoulders.
"I beg pardon, sire; I have a tolerable knowledge of history and of geography. I am familiar with the ancient and modern poets. I have read a good French translation of Homer, Horace, and Virgil, with a master. I have studied the history of Brandenburg, of Germany, and of America. We have read the immortal works of Voltaire, of Jean Jacques Rousseau, and of Shakespeare, with many of our modern poets. My instructor has read all these works aloud to me, and he was much pleased when I repeated parts of what he had read to me some days afterward."
"You appear to have had a very learned instructor," remarked the king, sneeringly. "What is his name?"
"His name, sire, is Prince Frederick William of Prussia. Yes, it is he who has taught me—he who has made me an intelligent woman. However young he was when he undertook the task, he has accomplished it with fidelity, firmness, and patience. He loved me, and would make me worthy of him, in heart and mind. I shall ever be grateful to him, and only death can extinguish the love and esteem with which he in spires me."
"Suppose I command you to leave the prince? Suppose I will no longer endure the scandal of this sinful relation?"
"I shall never willingly separate myself from my dear prince and master—from the father of my two children. Your majesty will be obliged to force me from him," answered Wilhelmine, defiantly.
"Oh, that will not be necessary, mademoiselle," cried the king. "There are ways enough. I will make known my wishes to the prince; I will command him to leave you, and have no further communication with you."
"Sire," she answered, gently, "I know that the prince is an obedient and respectful subject and servant to his king in all things, but this command he would not obey."
"He would not dare to brave my commands!"
"He would not brave them, sire. Oh, no; it would be simply impossible to obey them."
"What would hinder him?"
"Love, sire; the respect which he owes to me as the mother of his two children—who has consecrated her love, her honor to him, and of whom no one can say that she has injured the fidelity which she has sworn to the prince—to the man of her first and only love—even with a word or look."
"You mean to say, that I cannot separate you from the prince but by force?"
"Yes, your majesty," cried she, with conscious power, "that is exactly what I mean."
"You will find yourself deceived; you will be made to realize it," said the king, with a menacing tone. "You know nothing of the power that lies in a legitimate marriage, and what rivals legitimate children are, whom one dares acknowledge before God—before the world. Boast not of the love of the prince, but remember that an honorable solitude is the only situation becoming to you. Such connections bear their own curse and punishment with them. Hasten to avoid them. Lastly, I would add, never dare to mingle your impure hands in the affairs of state. I have been obliged to give the order to the state councillors in appointments and grants of office, not to regard the protection and recommendation of a certain high personage, as you are the real protectress and bestower of mercy. Take care, and never let it happen again. You will never venture to play the little Pompadour here, nor anything else but what your dishonor allows you; otherwise you will have to deal with me! You say that you have read Homer; then, doubtless, you remember the story of Penelope, who, from conjugal fidelity, spun and wove, undoing at night what she had woven by day. It is true, you bear little resemblance to this chaste dame, but you might emulate her in spinning and weaving; and if you are not in future retiring, I can easily make a modern Penelope of you, and have you instructed in spinning, for which you will have the best of opportunities in the house of correction at Spandau. Remember this, and never permit yourself to practise protection. I will keep the spinning-wheel and the wool ready for you; that you may count upon. Remember, also, that it is very disagreeable to me that you visit my park, as I like to breathe pure air. Direct your promenade elsewhere, and avoid meeting me in future."
"Your majesty, I—"
"Silence! I have heard sufficient. You have nothing more to say to me. Go, hide your head, that no one may recognize your shame, or the levity of the prince. Go—and, farewell forever!" He motioned impatiently to her to retire, fastening his eyes with a fiery, penetrating glance upon her pale, agitated face, her bowed, humble attitude, and still continued to regard her as she painfully dragged herself down the walk, as if her limbs were giving way under her. Long stood the king gazing after her, resting upon his staff; and as she disappeared at the end of the walk, he still stood there immovable. By degrees his face assumed a milder expression. "He who is free from sin, let him cast the first stone at her," said the king, softened, as he slowly turned down the path which would lead to his carriage, waiting outside the park.
Frederick was lost in thought, and addressed no conversation to the equerry, Von Schwerin, who sat opposite to him. But as they drove through the beautiful street Unten den Linden, at Berlin, Frederick glanced at the equerry, and found that he had fallen asleep, wearied with the long silence and the monotony of the drive. The king spoke to Alkmene, loud and earnestly, until Herr von Schwerin, awakened and startled, glanced at the king, frightened, and trying to discover whether his fearful crime against etiquette would draw upon him the royal censure. Frederick, however, appeared not to notice his fright, and spoke kindly to him: "Did you not tell me, Schwerin, that Count Schmettau would sell his country residence at Charlottenburg?"
"At your service, your majesty, he asked me to purchase it, or find him a purchaser."
"How much is it worth?"
"Sire, Count Schmettau demands eight thousand dollars for it. There is a beautiful park belonging to it, and the house is worthy the name of a castle, so large is it."
"Why do you not buy it, if the count offered it to you?"
The equerry assumed a sad mien, and answered, sighing: "Sire, I should be the happiest of men if I could buy that charming residence, and it would be a real blessing to me if I could enjoy in summer at times the fresh air. My finances unfortunately, do not allow such expenses, as I am not rich, and have a large family."
"Then you are right not to spend money unnecessarily," said the king, quietly. "You can have as much fresh air at Potsdam as can ever enter your mouth, and it costs neither you nor I any thing. Say to Count Schmettau that you have a purchaser for his residence at Charlottenburg."
"Oh, you are really too kind," cried the equerry, in an excitement of joy; "I do not know—"
Here the carriage entered the palace court, and the concluding words were inaudible. Herr von Schwerin alighted quickly to assist the king. "Say to Schmettau to present himself to my treasurer and cabinet councillor, Menkon, tomorrow morning at twelve o'clock, at Sans-Souci."
The king nodded kindly to the equerry, and passed into the Swiss saloon, and farther on into the private rooms which he was accustomed to occupy whenever he remained at the capital. The Swiss saloon was fast filling, not alone with the generals and staff-officers of the Berlin garrison, but with the officers of the regiments from the provinces, who presented themselves at the palace according to the order of the king. The most of them were old and worn out, body and mind. They all looked morose and sorrowful. The great news of the approaching war with Austria had spread through the military. The old laurel-crowned generals of the Seven Years' War were unwilling to go forth to earn new laurels, for which they had lost all ambition. Not one dared betray his secret thoughts to another, or utter a word of disapproval. The king's spies were everywhere, and none could trust himself to converse with his neighbor, as he might prove to be one of them. There reigned an anxious, oppressive silence; the generals and staff-officers exchanged the ordinary greetings. All eyes were turned toward the door through which the king would enter, bowed down, like his generals, with the cares of life, and the burden of old age. The king slowly entered. He was, indeed, an old man, like those he came amongst, and now saluted. An expression of imperishable youth lighted up his pale, sunken face, and his eyes flashed with as much daring and fire as thirty-eight years before, when he had assembled his young officers around him in this very hall, to announce to them that he would march against Austria. How many wars, how many battles, how many illusions, victories, and defeats had the king experienced in these thirty-eight years! How little the youthful, fiery king of that day resembled the weak old man of to-day; how little in common the young King Frederick had with "Alten Fritz." And now in this feeble body dwelt the same courageous spirit. In the course of these years King Frederick II had become Frederick the Great! And great he was to-day, this little old man—great in his intentions and achievements, never heeding his own debility and need of repose. All his thoughts and endeavors concentrated on the welfare of his people and his country—on the greatness and glory of Germany. Those eyes which now glanced over the circle of generals were still flashing as those of the hero-king whose look had disarmed the lurking assassin, and confounded the distinguished savant in the midst of his eloquence, so that he stammered and was silent. He was still Frederick the Great, who, leaning upon his staff, was surrounded by his generals, whom he called to fight for their fatherland, for Germany!
"Gentlemen," said the king, "I have called you together to announce to you that we must go forth to new wars, and, God willing, to new victories. The Emperor of Austria forces me to it, for, against all laws and customs, and against all rights of kingdoms, he thinks to bring German territory into the possession of the house of Hapsburg. Charles Theodore, prince-elector, having no children, has concluded a treaty with the Emperor Joseph, that at his death the electorate of Bavaria will fall to Austria. In consequence thereof an Austrian army has marched into Bavaria, and garrisoned the frontier.—The prince-elector, Duke Charles Theodore, was not authorized to proceed thus, for, though he had no children to succeed him, he had a lawful successor in his brother's son, Duke Charles von Zweibrucken. Electoral Saxony and Mecklenburg have well-founded pretensions, even if Zweibrucken were not existing. All these princes have addressed themselves to me, and requested me to represent them to the emperor and to the imperial government—to protect them in their injured rights. I have first tried kindness and persuasion to bring back Austria from her desire of aggrandizement, but in Vienna they have repulsed every means of peaceable arbitration. I, as one of the rulers of the empire (and as I have reaffirmed the Westphalian treaty through the Hubertsburger treaty), feel bound to preserve the privileges, the rights, the liberty of the German states. I have therefore well reflected, and decided to draw the sword—that what the diplomats have failed to arrange with the pen should be settled with the sword. These are my reasons, gentlemen, which make it my duty to assemble an army; therefore I have called you together." His fiery eyes flashed around the circle, peeling into the thin, withered faces of his generals, and encountering everywhere a grave, earnest mien.
The king repressed with an effort a sigh; then continued, with a mild voice: "My feeble old age does not allow me to travel as in my fiery youth. I shall use a post-carriage, and you, gentlemen, have the liberty to do the same. On the day of battle you will find me mounted; you will follow my example. Until then, farewell!" [Footnote: The king's words.—See "Prussia, Frederick the Great," vol. iii.]
"Long live the king!" cried General von Krokow; and all the generals who formerly joined in this cry of the Prussian warrior, now repeated it in weak, trembling tones. Frederick smiled a recognition, bowing on all sides, then turned slowly away, leaning upon his staff.
When once more alone, the youthful expression faded from his eyes, and the gloomy shadows of old age settled down upon his thoughtful brow. "They have all grown old and morose," said he, mildly, "they will not show any more heroism; the fire of ambition is quenched in their souls! A warm stove must warm their old limbs. Oh! it is a pitiful thing to grow old; and still they call themselves the images of God! Poor boasters, who, with a breath of the Almighty, are overturned and bent as a blade of grass in the sand!"
"Your majesty, may I come in?" asked a gentle, happy child's voice.
The king turned hastily toward the door, so softly opened, and there stood a charming little boy, in the uniform of a flag-bearer, with the cap upon his head, and a neat little sword by his side. "Yes, you may enter," nodded the king kindly to him. "You know I sent for you, my little flag-bearer."
CHAPTER III. FREDERICK WILLIAM.
The little flag-bearer skipped into the room with graceful vivacity, and sprang, with a merry bound, up to the king, took his hand without ceremony, and pressed it to his lips. Then, raising up his head and shaking back his light-brown curls from his rosy cheeks, his bright-blue eyes sparkling, he looked him full in the face. "Your majesty, you say that you sent for me; but I must tell you that if you had not sent for me I would have come here alone, and begged so long at the door, that you would have let me come in!"
"And what if I would not have let you come in at all?" said the king, smiling.
The little flag-bearer reflected a moment, then answered with a confident air: "Your majesty, I would have forced open the door, thrown myself at your feet, and kissed your hand, saying, 'My king, my dear great-uncle, I must come in to thank you a thousand times for the flag-bearer's commission you have sent me, and for the beautiful uniform.' Then I would see if your majesty had the courage to send me away."
"Let me see, my prince—do you think my courage could fail me upon any occasion?"
"Yes, in bad things," zealously cried the prince, "and it would be bad if you would not let me thank you. I am so happy with the commission and the beautiful uniform which you so graciously sent to me! Tell me, your majesty, do I not look beautifully?" The boy straightened his elegant, slender form, and saluted the king, putting the two fingers of his right hand upon his cap.
"Yes, yes," said Frederick, "you look very nicely, my prince; but it is not enough that you look well—you must behave well. From a flag-bearer in my army I expect very different things than from any common child. Who wears my uniform must prove himself worthy of the honor."
"Your majesty," cried the prince, "I assure you, upon my word of honor, that I have no bad marks when I wear the uniform. Your majesty can ask my tutor. He came with me, and waits in the anteroom to speak with you. He will tell you that I have a good report."
"Very well, we will call him presently," said Frederick, smiling. "Now we will chat a little together. Tell me whether you are very industrious, and if you are learning anything of consequence?"
"Sire, I must learn, even if I had no inclination to; Herr Behnisch leaves me no peace. I have scarcely time to play. I am always learning to read, to write, to cipher, and to work."
"How about the geography and universal history?"
"Oh, your majesty, I wish there were no geography and history in the world, and then I should not have to study so cruelly hard, and I could play more. My mother sent me last week a new battledore and shuttlecock, but I can never learn to play with it. I no sooner begin, than Herr Behnisch calls me to study. To-day I was very cunning—oh, I was so sly! I put it in the great-pocket of my tutor's coat, and he brought it here without knowing it."
"That was very naughty," said the king, a little severely. The prince colored, and, a little frightened, said: "Sire, I could not bring it any other way. I beg pardon, the uniform is so tight, and then—then, I thought it would be dishonoring it to put a shuttlecock in the cartridge-box."
"That was a good thought, prince, and for that I will forgive you the trick upon your tutor. But what will you do with the ball here? Why did you bring it?"
"Oh, I wished to show it to your majesty, it is so beautiful, and then beg you to let me play a little."
"We will see, Fritz," said the king, much pleased. "If you deserve it, that shall be your reward. Tell me the truth, is your tutor satisfied with you?"
"Sire, Herr Behnisch is never really pleased, but he has not scolded me much lately, so I must have been pretty good. One day he wrote 'Bien' under my French exercise. Oh, I was so happy that I spent six groschen of the thaler my father gave me a little while since, and bought two pots of gilly-flowers, one for myself and one for my little brother Henry, that he should have a souvenir of my 'Bien!'"
"That was right," said the king, nodding approvingly. "When you are good, you must always let your friends and relations take part in it; keep the bad only for yourself."
"I will remember that, and I thank you for the kind instruction."
"The studies seem to go very well, but how is it with the behavior? They tell me that the prince is not always polite to his visitors; that he is sometimes very rude, even to the officers who pay their respects to him on his father's account, and on my account, not on his own, for what do they care for such a little snip as he? They go to honor Prince Frederick William of Prussia, though he is only a little flag-bearer. They tell me that you do not appreciate the honor, but that at Easter you behaved very badly."
"Sire, it is true; I cannot deny it—I did behave badly," sighed the little prince.
"What was the matter?" asked the king. "It was not from fear, I hope? I should be very angry at that. Tell me yourself, and tell me the truth."
"Your majesty can depend upon the whole truth. My tutor says that lying is despicable, and that a prince who will one day be a king should be too proud to tell a lie! I will tell you all about it. The officers came to see me at Easter, just as I had put the Easter eggs in the garden, for my little brother and some other boys whom I had invited to hunt for them. I had spent my last six groschen for the eggs, and I anticipated so much pleasure with the hide-and-seek for them. We had just begun, when the officers came."
"That was really unfortunate," said the king, sympathizingly.
"Yes, sire, very disagreeable, and I could not possibly feel kindly. While the officers were talking, I was always wishing they would go. But they stayed and stayed—and when Major von Werder began to make a long speech to me, and I thought there was no end to it, I became impatient and furious—and—"
"Why do you hesitate?" asked the king, looking tenderly at the frank, glowing face of the boy. "What happened?"
"Something dreadful, sire! I could not keep in any longer. The major kept on talking, and looked at me so sharply, I could not help making an abominable face. It is unfortunately true—I ran my tongue out at him—only just a little bit—and I drew it back in an instant; but it was done, and a dreadful scene followed. The major did not say any thing, my tutor was red as fire, and I was thunderstruck!"
"That was excessively rude, my little flag-bearer," cried the king.
The young prince was so ashamed, and was looking down so penitently, that he did not see the smile on Frederick's face, and the affectionate look with which he regarded the youthful sinner.
"Do you know that you deserve to be imprisoned fourteen days, and live on bread and water, for insubordination?"
"I know it now, sire. I beg pardon most humbly," said the prince, with quivering voice and with tears in his eyes. "I have been punished enough, without that. Herr Behnisch would not let me go to the garden again, and I have never seen the eggs which I spent my last groschen for, nor the boys whom I had invited. I was made to stay in my room all Easter week, learn twenty Latin words every day, and write three pages of German words in good handwriting. It was a hard punishment, but I knew that I deserved it, and did not complain. I only thought that I would do better in future."
"If you thought so, and you have already been punished, we will say no more about it," said the king. "But tell me, how did you get on at Whitsuntide, when the officers paid you their respects again?"
"Your majesty," answered the prince, "it was a great deal better; I behaved tolerably well, except a very little rudeness, which was not so bad after all. [Footnote: The little prince's own words.—See "Diary of Prince Frederick William," p. 18.] Herr Behnisch did not punish me; he only said, another time, that I should do better, and not be so taciturn, but greet the gentlemen in a more friendly manner. I must tell you, sire, that when Herr Behnisch does not scold, it is a sure sign that I have behaved pretty well; and this time he did not."
"Fritz, I believe you," said the king, "and you shall have the reward that you asked for—stay here and play a little while. Go, now, and call your tutor; I have a few words to say to him."
The little prince sprang toward the door, but suddenly stopped, embarrassed.
"What is the matter?" asked the king. "Why do you not call your tutor?"
"Sire, I am very much troubled. Herr Behnisch will be very angry when you tell him about the shuttlecock. I beg you not to betray me!"
"Yes, but if you will play before me, you must get the plaything which you say is in his pocket."
"Sire, then I had rather not play," cried the prince.
"On the contrary," said the king, "your punishment shall be, to take the plaything as cleverly out of the pocket as you put it in. If you do it well, then I will say nothing about it; but, if your tutor discovers you, then you must submit to the storm. It lies in your own hands. Whilst I am conversing with the tutor, try your luck. Now call him in."
The prince obeyed thoughtfully, and the tutor entered. He stood near the door, and made the three prescribed bows; then he waited with a submissive air for further commands.
The king was sitting opposite the door, his hands folded upon his staff and his chin resting upon his hands, looking the tutor full in the face. Herr Behnisch bore it calmly; not a feature moved in his angular, wooden face. Near the tutor stood the little prince, his graceful, rosy, childlike face expressing eager expectation.
"Approach!" said the king.
Herr Behnisch stepped forward a little, and remained standing. The prince glided noiselessly after him, keeping his eyes fixed on the tails of the flesh-colored satin coat with which the tutor had adorned himself for this extraordinary occasion. The prince smiled as he saw the pocket open and the feathers of the shuttlecock peeping out. He stretched out his little hand and crooked his fingers to seize it.
"Come nearer! Herr Behnisch," said Frederick, who had observed the movement of the little prince, and who was amused at the thought of keeping him in suspense a little longer.
Herr Behnisch moved forward, and the prince, frightened, remained standing with outstretched hand. He menaced the king with a glance of his bright blue eyes. Frederick caught the look, smiled, and turned to the tutor.
"I believe it is three years since you commenced teaching the little prince?" said the king.
"At your service, your majesty, since 1775."
"A tolerably long time," said the king—"long enough to make a savant of a child of Nature. You have been faithful, and I am satisfied. The copybooks which you sent me according to my orders are satisfactory. I wished to acquaint you myself of my satisfaction, therefore I sent for you."
"Your majesty is very condescending," said the tutor, and his sharp, angular face brightened a little. "I am very happy in the gracious satisfaction of your royal highness. I wished also to make known to you personally my wishes in regard to the petition for the little prince's pocket-money; he should learn the use of money."
"Very well," said the king, nodding to the prince, who stood behind the tutor, holding up triumphantly the shuttle cock.
Yet, the most difficult feat remained to be accomplished. The battledoor was in the very depths of the pocket; only the point of the handle was visible.
"Your majesty," cried Herr Behnisch, who had taken the approving exclamation of "very well" to himself—"your majesty, I am very happy that you have the grace to approve of my petition for pocket-money."
"Yes, I think it well," said the king, "that the prince should learn not to throw money out of the window. I will send you, monthly, for the prince, two Fredericks d'or, and, before you hand it over to him, change it into small pieces, that there may be a great pile of it." [Footnote: The king's own words—See "Confidential Letters."]
Just at that moment the prince tried to seize the battle door. Herr Behnisch felt the movement, and was on the point of turning around, when Frederick stopped him, by saying, "I believe it is time to commence a regular course of instruction for the prince. At eight years of age the education of an heir to the throne must progress rapidly, and be regulated by fixed principles. I will write out my instructions, that you may always have them before you."
"It will be my most earnest endeavor to follow your majesty's commands to the letter," answered the tutor, who saw not the little prince, with beaming face, behind him, swinging the battledoor high in the air.
"I am about to enter upon a new war; no one knows if he will ever return from a campaign. I dare not spare my life, when the honor and fame of my house are at stake. Our life and death, however, are in God's hands. Before we risk our lives, we should put every thing in order, and leave nothing undone which it is our duty to do. I will write my instructions to-day, and send them to you. Promise me, upon your word of honor as a man, that you will act upon them, as long as you are tutor to Prince Frederick William, even if I should not return from the campaign."
"I promise it to your majesty," answered the tutor. "I will, in all things, according to the best of my ability, follow your majesty's instructions."
"I believe you; I take you to be an honorable man," said the king. "You will always be mindful of the great responsibility which rests upon you, as you have a prince to educate who will one day govern a kingdom, and upon whom the weal and woe of many millions are dependent. And when those millions of men one day bless the king whom you have educated, a part of the blessing will fall upon you; but when they curse him, so falls the curse likewise upon your guilty head, and you will feel the weight of it, though you may be in your grave! Be mindful of this, and act accordingly. Now you may depart. I will write the instructions immediately, so that you may receive them to-day."
Herr Behnisch bowed, backing out toward the door.
"One thing more," cried the king, motioning with his Staff to the tutor. "In order that you may ever remember our interview, I will present you with a souvenir."
He opened the drawer of his private writing-table, and took out a gold snuff-box, with his initials set in brilliants upon the cover; handing it to Herr Behnisch, he motioned him to retire, and thus spare him the expression of his gratitude.
"Your majesty," stammered Herr Behnisch, with tears in his eyes, "I—"
"You are an honest man, and so long as you remain so, you can count upon me. Adieu!—Now," said the king, as the door closed, "have you recovered the plaything?"
"Here it is, your majesty," shouted the prince, as he held up triumphantly the battledoor and shuttlecock high in the air.
"You deserve your reward, and you shall have it. You can stay with me and play with it here. Take care and not make too much noise, as I wish to write."
The king now seated himself, to draw up the instructions for Herr Behnisch. While he was thus occupied, the little prince tossed his shuttlecock, springing lightly after it on tiptoe to catch it; sometimes he missed it, and then he cast an imploring look at the king, as it fell upon the furniture; but he observed it not. He was absorbed in writing the instructions for the education of the future king, Frederick William III. The physical education of the prince was his first care. He dwelt upon the necessity of the frequent practice of dancing, fencing, and riding, to give suppleness, grace, and a good carriage—through severe training, to make him capable of enduring all hardships. The different branches of study next occupied the king. "It is not sufficient," he wrote, "that the prince should learn the dates of history, to repeat them like a parrot; but he must understand how to compare the events of ancient times with the modern, and discover the causes which produced revolutions, and show that, generally, in the world, virtue is rewarded and vice punished. Later, he can learn a short course of logic, free from all pedantry; then study the orations of Cicero and Demosthenes, and read the tragedies of Racine. When older, he should have some knowledge of the opinions of philosophers, and the different religious sects, without inspiring him with dislike for any one sect. Make it clear to him that we all worship God—only in different ways. It is not necessary that he should have too much respect for the priests who instruct him."
The shuttlecock fell, at this instant, upon the paper upon which the king was writing. Frederick was too much occupied to look up, but he threw it upon the floor, continuing to write:
"The great object will be to awaken a love of learning in the prince, to prevent any approach to pedantry, and not to make the course of instruction too severe at the commencement. We now come to the chief division of education, that which concerns the morals. Neither you nor all the power in the world would be sufficient to alter the character of a child. Education can do nothing further than moderate the violence of the passions. Treat my nephew as the son of a citizen, who has to make his own fortune. Say to him that, when he commits follies, and learns nothing, the whole world will despise him. Let him assume no mannerisms, but bring him up simply. The—"
It was the second time the shuttlecock fell upon the paper. The king looked up censuringly at the prince, who stood speechless with fright and anxiety. The king again threw it upon the floor, and wrote on:
"The prince must be polite toward every one; and if he is rude, he must immediately make an apology. Teach him that all men are equal—that high birth is a myth when not accompanied with merit. Let the prince speak with every one, that he may gain confidence. It is of no consequence if he talks nonsense; every one knows that he is a child. Take care in his education, above all things, that he is self-reliant, and not led by others; his follies, as well as his good qualities, should belong to himself. It is of very great importance to inspire him with a love for military life; and for this reason say to him, and let him hear others say it, that every man who is not a soldier is a miserable fellow, whether noble or not. He must see the soldiers exercise as often as possible; and it would be well to send for five or six cadets, and have them drill before him. Every thing depends upon cultivating a taste for these things. Inspire him with a love of our country, above all things. Let no one speak to him who is not truly patriotic."
Again the shuttlecock fell upon the paper. The little prince uttered a cry of horror, staring at the plaything. This time the king did not receive the interruption so calmly. He looked at the speechless boy as if very angry; then took it and put it in his pocket. Casting another angry glance at the prince, he continued:
"The officers who dine with the prince shall tease and annoy him, that he may become confident."
"Your majesty," said the prince, timidly and imploringly, "I beg pardon a thousand times for being so awkward. I am sorry, and I will be more careful in the future."
The king paid no attention to him, but continued to write: "When you understand him better, try to learn his chief passion to uproot it, but to moderate it." [Footnote: This entire instruction is an exact translation of the original, which Frederick drew up in French, and which is included in his "Complete Works."]
"My dear lord and king," began the prince again, "I beg you will have the goodness to give me my shuttlecock."
The king was silent, and with apparent indifference commenced reading over what he had written.
Prince Frederick William waited a long time, but, on receiving no answer, and understanding that his pleading was in vain, his face grew red with anger, and his eyes flashed. With an irritated, determined manner, he stepped close up to the king, his hands resting upon his hips. "Your majesty," cried he, with a menacing tone, "will you give me my ball or not?"
The king now looked up at the prince, who regarded him in an insolent, questioning manner. A smile, mild as the evening sunset, spread over the king's face; he laid his hand lovingly upon the curly head of the prince, saying: "They will never take away Silesia from you. Here is your shuttlecock." He drew it from his pocket, and gave it to the little prince, who seized his hand and pressed it to his lips.
CHAPTER IV. THE DRIVE TO BERLIN.
Wilhelmine Enke passed the remainder of the day, after her meeting with the king, in anguish and tears. She recalled all that he had said to her, every word of which pierced her to the heart. Her little daughter of seven years tried in vain to win a smile from her mamma with her gentle caresses. In vain she begged her to sing to her and smile as she was wont to do. The mother, usually so kind and affectionate, would today free herself from her child, and sent her away with quivering lip, and tears in her eyes, to listen to her nurse's stories.
Once alone, Wilhelmine paced her room with rapid strides and folded arms, giving vent to her repressed anguish. She reviewed her life, with all its changing scenes. It was a sad, searching retrospection, but in it she found consolation and excuse for herself. She thought of her childhood; she saw the gloomy dwelling where she had lived with her parents, brothers, and sisters. She recalled the need and the want of those years—the sickly, complaining, but busy mother; the foolish, wicked father, who never ceased his constant exercise of the bugle, except to take repeated draughts of brandy, or scold the children. Then she saw in this joyless dwelling, in which she crouched with her little sisters, a young girl enter, and greet them smilingly. She wore a robe glittering with gold, with transparent wings upon her shoulders. This young girl was Wilhelmine's older sister, Sophie, who had just returned from the Italian opera, where she was employed. She still had on her fairy costume in which she had danced in the opera of "Armida," and had come, with a joyous face, to take leave of her parents, and tell them that a rich Russian count loved her, and wanted to marry her; that in the intervening time he had taken a beautiful apartment for her, where she would remove that very evening. She must bid them farewell, for her future husband was waiting for her in the carriage at the door.
Sophie laughed at her grumbling father, shook hands with her weeping mother, and bent to kiss the children. Wilhelmine, in unspeakable anguish, sprang after her, holding her fast, with both hands clinching the crackling wings. She implored her sister to take her with her, while the tears ran in streams down her cheeks. "You know that I love you," she cried, "and my only pleasure is to see you every day. Take me with you, and I will serve and obey you, and be your waiting-maid." Wilhelmine held the wings firmly with a convulsive grasp, and continued to weep and implore, until Sophie at last laughingly yielded.
"Well, come, if you will be my waiting-maid; no one combs hair as well as you, and your simple style of arranging it suits me better than any other. Come, come, it shall be arranged, you shall be my waiting-maid."
The pictures of memory changed, and Wilhelmine saw herself in the midst of splendor, as the poor little maid, unnoticed by her brilliant sister, the beloved of the Russian Count Matuschko. Joy and pleasure reigned in the beautifully gilded apartment where Sophie lived. She was the queen of the feasts and the balls. Many rich and fine gentlemen came there, and the beautiful Sophie, the dancer, the affianced of Count Matuschko, received their homage. No one observed the sad little waiting-maid, in her dark stuff dress, with her face bound up in black silk, as if she had the toothache. She wore the cast-off morning dresses of her sister, and, at her command, bound her face with the black silk, so that the admirers of her sister should not see, by a fugitive glance, or chance meeting, the budding beauty of the little maid.
Wilhelmine dared not enter the saloon when visitors were there; only when Sophie was alone, or her artistic hand was needed to arrange her sister's beautiful hair, was she permitted to stay with the future countess. Every rough touch was resented with harsh words, blows, and ill-treatment. The smiling fairy of the drawing-room, was the harsh, grim mistress for her sister, whose every mistake was punished with unrelenting severity. In fact, she was made a very slave; and now, after long years, the remembrance of it even cast a gloomy shadow over Wilhelmine's face, and her eyes flashed fire.
Another picture now rose up before her soul, which caused her face to brighten, as a beautiful beaming image presented itself, the image of her first and only love! She lived over again the day when it rose up like a sun before her wondering, admiring gaze, and yet it was a stormy day for her. Sophie was very angry with her, because in crimping her hair she had burnt her cheek, which turned the fairy into a fury. She threw the weak child upon the floor, and beat and stamped upon her.
Suddenly a loud, angry voice commanded her to cease, and a strong, manly arm raised the trembling, weeping girl, and with threatening tone bade Sophie be quiet. Prince Frederick William of Prussia took compassion on the poor child. The sister had not remarked him in her paroxysm of rage; had never heard him enter. He had been a witness to Wilhelmine's ill-treatment. He now defended her, blaming her sister for her cruelty to her, and declared his intention to be her future protector. How handsome he looked; how noble in his anger; how his eyes flashed as he gazed upon her, who knelt at his feet, and kissed them, looking up to him as her rescuer!
"Wilhelmine, come with me; I do not wish you to remain here," said he; "your sister will never forgive you that I have taken your part. Come, I will take you to your parents, and provide for you. You shall be as beautiful and accomplished a lady as your sister, but, Heaven grant, a more generous and noble-hearted one! Come!"
These words, spoken with a gentle, winning voice, had never died away in her heart. Twelve years had passed since then, and they still rang in her ear, in the tumult of the world as well as in the quiet of her lonely room. They had comforted her when the shame of her existence oppressed her; rejoiced her when, with the delight of youth and happiness, she had given herself up to pleasure. She had followed him quietly, devotedly, as a little dog follows his master. He had kept his word; he had had her instructed during three years, and then sent her to Paris, in order to give her the last polish, the tournure of the world, however much it had cost him to separate from her, or might embarrass him, with his scanty means, to afford the increase of expense. A year elapsed and Wilhelmine returned a pleasing lady, familiar with the tone of the great world, and at home in its manners and customs.
The prince had kept his word—that which he had promised her as he took her from her sister's house, to make her a fine, accomplished lady. And when he repeated to her now "Come," could she refuse him—him to whom she owed every thing, whom she loved as her benefactor, her teacher, her friend, and lover? She followed him, and concealed herself for him in the modest little dwelling at Potsdam. For him she lived in solitude, anxiously avoiding to show herself publicly, that the king should never know of her existence, and in his just anger sever the unlawful tie which bound her to the Prince of Prussia. [Footnote: "Memoirs of the Countess Lichtenau," p. 80.] Wilhelmine recalled the past seven years of her life, her two children, whom she had borne to the prince, and the joy that filled his heart as he became a father, although his lawful wife had also borne him children. She looked around her small, quiet dwelling, arranged in a modest manner, not as the favorite of the Prince of Prussia, but as an unpretending citizen's wife; she thought how oft with privations, with want even, she had had to combat; how oft the ornaments which the prince had sent her in the rare days of abundance had been taken to the pawnbrokers to provide the necessary wants of herself and children. Her eyes flashed with pride and joy at the thought which she dared to breathe to herself, that not for gold or riches, power or position, had she sold her love, her honor, and her good name.
"It was from pure affinity, from gratitude and affection, that I followed the husband of my heart, although he was a prince," she said.
Still the shame of her existence weighed upon her. The king had commanded her to hide her head so securely that no one might know her shame, or the levity of the prince.
"Go! and let me never see you again!"
Did not this mean that the king would remove her so far that there would not be a possible chance to appear again before him? Was there not hidden in these words a menace, a warning? Would not the king revenge on her the sad experiences of his youth? Perhaps he would punish her for what Doris Ritter had suffered! Doris Ritter! She, too, had loved a crown prince—she, too, had dared to raise her eyes to the future King of Prussia, for which she was cruelly punished, though chaste and pure, and hurled down to the abyss of shame for the crime of loving an heir to the throne. Beaten, insulted, and whipped through the streets, and then sent to the house of correction at Spandau! Oh, poor, unhappy Doris Ritter! Will the king atone to you—will he revenge the friend of his youth on the mistress of his successor? The old King Frederick, weary of life, thinks differently from the young crown prince. He can be as severe as his father, cruel and inexorable as he.
"Doris Ritter! Thy fate haunts me. On the morrow I also may be whipped through the streets, scorned, reviled by the rabble, and then sent to Spandau as a criminal. Did not the king threaten me with the house of correction, with the spinning-wheel, which he would have ready for me?"
At the thought of it a terrible anguish, a nameless despair, seized her. She felt that the spinning-wheel hung over her like the sword of Damocles, ready at the least occasion to fall upon her, and bind her to it. She felt that she could not endure such suspense and torture; she must escape; she must rescue herself from the king's anger.
"But whither, whither! I must fly from here, from his immediate proximity, where a motion of his finger is sufficient to seize me, to cause me to disappear before the prince could have any knowledge of it, before he could know of the danger which threatened me. I must away from Potsdam!"
The prince had arranged a little apartment in Berlin for the winter months, which she exchanged for Potsdam in the spring. This seemed to offer her more security for the moment, for she could fly at the least sign of danger, could even hide herself from the prince, if it were necessary to save him and herself. Away to Berlin, then! That was the only thought she was able to seize upon. Away with her children, before misfortune could reach them!
She sprang to the door, tore it open, rushing to the nurse, upon whose knees the baby slept, near whom her little daughter knelt. With trembling hands she took her boy and pressed him to her heart. "Louisa, we must leave here immediately; it is urgent necessity!" said she, with quivering lip. "Do not say a word about it to any one, but hasten; order quickly a wagon, bargain for the places, and say we must set off at once. The wagon must not be driven to the door, but we will meet it at the Berlin Gate. We will go on foot there, and get in. Quick, Louisa, not a word—it must be!"
The servant did not dare to oppose her mistress, or contradict the orders, but hastened to obey them.
"It is all the old king's fault," said Louisa to herself, as she hurried through the street. "Yes, the king has ordered mistress to Berlin. He looked so furious, the old bear! His eyes flashed so terribly, one might well fear him, and I thanked Heaven when mamselle sent me home from the park. It is coming to a bad end at last; I should have done better not to have taken the place at all. Oh, if we were only away from here; if I only could find a wagon to take us!"