THE MERCHANT OF BERLIN
An Historical Novel
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY AMORY COFFIN, M.D.
CHAP. I.—The Festival
II.—The Workman's Holiday
III.—Brother and Sister
IV.—Feodor von Brenda
V.—Mr. Kretschmer, of the "Vossian Gazette"
VI.—The Cowards' Race
VII.—The Interrupted Festival
VIII.—The Leader of the People
IX.—The Russian is at the Gates
XI.—The Night of Horrors
XII.—Russians and Austrians
XIII.—A Maiden's Heart
XIV.—A Faithful Friend
XV.—An Unexpected Meeting
XVIII.—The Two Cannoneers
* * * * *
CHAP. I.—The Two Editors
II.—The Chief Magistrate of Berlin
III.—The Russian, the Saxon, and the Austrian, in Berlin
VII.—The Horrors of War
IX.—Mistress or Maid?
X.—An Unexpected Ally
XI.—The Jew Ephraim
XII.—The Russian General and the German Man
XIV.—Bride and Daughter
XVII.—The Banquet of Gratitude
XVIII.—A Royal Letter
* * * * *
CHAP. I.—Frederick the Great at Meissen
II.—The Winter-quarters in Leipsic
III.—The Friend in Need
IV.—Gratitude and Recompense
V.—Four Years' Labor
VI.—Days of Misfortune
VIII.—The Russian Prince
IX.—Old Love—New Sorrow
X.—The Magistracy of Berlin
XI.—The Jews of the Mint
XII.—The Leipsic Merchant
XIII.—Ephraim the Tempter
Feodor's Visit to the Garden The Merchant draws Feodor from his Hiding-place The Rich Jews appeal to Gotzkowsky The Great Frederick examining the Porcelain Cup
The sufferings of the long war still continued; still stood Frederick the Great with his army in the field; the tremendous struggle between Prussia and Austria was yet undecided, and Silesia was still the apple of discord for which Maria Theresa and Frederick II. had been striving for years, and for which, in so many battles, the blood of German brothers had been spilt.
Everywhere joy seemed extinguished; the light jest was hushed; each one looked silently into the future, and none could tell in whose favor this great contest would finally be decided, whether Austria or Prussia would be victorious.
The year 1760, the fifth of the war, was particularly sad for Prussia; it was marked in the history of Germany with tears and blood. Even Berlin which, up to that time, had suffered but little from the unhappy calamities of war, assumed now an earnest, mournful aspect, and it seemed as if the bright humor and sarcastic wit which had always characterized the inhabitants of this good city had now entirely deserted them. Going through the wide and almost empty streets there were to be met only sad countenances, women clothed in black who mourned their husbands or sons fallen in one of the many battles of this war, or mothers who were looking with anxiety into the future and thinking of their distant sons who had gone to the army.
Here and there was seen some wounded soldier wearily dragging himself along the street, but hearty, healthy men were seldom to be met, and still more seldom was seen the fresh countenance of youth.
Berlin had been obliged to send not only her men and youths, but also her boys of fourteen years to the army, which, according to the confession of Frederick the Great, consisted, in the campaign of the year 1760, only of renegades, marauders, and beardless boys.
For these reasons it seemed the more strange to hear at this time issuing from one of the largest and handsomest houses on the Leipsic Street the unwonted sounds of merry dance-music, cheerful singing and shouting, which reached the street.
The passers-by stopped and looked with curiosity up to the windows, at which could be seen occasionally a flushed joyous man's face or pretty woman's head. But the men who were visible through the panes evidently did not belong to the genteeler classes of society; their faces were sunburnt, their hair hung down carelessly and unpowdered upon the coarse and unfashionable cloth coat, and the attire of the maidens had little in common with the elegance and fashion of the day.
"The rich Gotzkowsky gives a great feast to his workmen to-day," remarked the people in the street to one another; and as they passed on they envied with a sigh those who were able at the same time to enjoy a merry day in the rich and brilliant halls of the great manufacturer, and admire the splendor of the rich man's house.
The mansion of Gotzkowsky was indeed one of the handsomest and most magnificent in all Berlin, and its owner was one of the richest men of this city, then, despite the war, so wealthy and thriving. But it was not the splendor of the furniture, of the costly silver ware, of the Gobelin tapestry and Turkish carpets which distinguished this house from all others. In these respects others could equal the rich merchant, or even surpass him.
But Gotzkowsky possessed noble treasures of art, costly paintings, which princes and even kings might have envied. Several times had he travelled to Italy by commission from the king to purchase paintings, and the handsomest pieces in the Royal Gallery had been brought from the land of art by Gotzkowsky. But the last time he returned from Italy the war of 1756 had broken out, and the king could then spare no money for the purchase of paintings: he needed it all for his army. Therefore Gotzkowsky was obliged to keep for himself the splendid originals of Raphael, Rubens, and other great masters which he had purchased at enormous prices, and the wealthy manufacturer was just the one able to afford himself the luxury of a picture gallery.
The homely artisans and workmen who this day had dined in Gotzkowsky's halls felt somewhat constrained and uncomfortable, and their countenances did not wear a free, joyous expression until they had risen from table, and the announcement was made that the festival would continue in the large garden immediately adjacent to the house, to which they at once repaired to enjoy cheerful games and steaming coffee.
Bertram, Gotzkowsky's head book-keeper, had been commissioned by him to lead the company, consisting of more than two hundred persons, into the garden, where Gotzkowsky would follow them, having first gone in search of his daughter.
With lively conversation and hearty laugh the people retired, the halls were emptied, and now the deep silence of these state-apartments was only interrupted by the gentle ticking of the large clock which stood over the sofa on its handsomely ornamented stand.
When Gotzkowsky found himself at last alone, he breathed as if relieved. The quiet seemed to do him good. He sank down into one of the large chairs covered with gold-embroidered velvet, and gazed earnestly and thoughtfully before him. The expression of his countenance was anxious, and his large dark eyes were not as clear and brilliant as usual.
John Gotzkowsky was still a handsome man, despite his fifty years; his noble intellectual countenance, his tall proud figure, his full black hair, which, contrary to the custom of that period, he wore unpowdered, made an imposing and at the same time pleasing impression.
And certainly it was not because of his personal appearance that Gotzkowsky, notwithstanding the early death of his wife, had never contracted a second marriage, but had preferred to remain a solitary widower. Nor did this occur from indifference or coldness of heart, but solely from the love for that little, helpless, love-needing being, whose birth had cost his young wife her life, to whom he had vowed at the bedside of her dead mother to stand in stead of that mother, and never to make her bend under the harsh rule of a step-mother. Gotzkowsky had faithfully fulfilled his vow; he had concentrated all his love on his daughter, who under his careful supervision had increased in strength and beauty, so that with the pride and joy of a father he now styled her the handsomest jewel of his house.
Where then was this daughter whom he loved so dearly? Why was she not near him to smile away the wrinkles from his brow, to drive with light chat serious and gloomy thoughts from his mind? She it was, doubtless, whom his wandering glance sought in these vast, silent rooms; and finding her not, and yearning in vain for her sweet smiles, her rosy cheeks, he sighed.
Where was she then?
Like her father, Gotzkowsky's daughter sat alone in her room—her gaze, as his, fixed upon empty space. The sad, melancholy expression of her face, scarcely tinged with a delicate blush, contrasted strangely with her splendid dress, her mournful look with the full wreath of roses which adorned her hair.
Elise was the daughter of the wealthiest man in Berlin, the world proclaimed her the handsomest maiden, and yet there she sat solitary in her beautiful chamber, her eyes clouded with tears. Of a sudden she drew a golden case from her bosom and pressed it with deep feeling to her lips. Looking timidly at the door she seemed to listen; convinced that no one approached, she pressed a hidden spring of the medallion; the golden cover flew open and disclosed the portrait of a handsome man in Russian uniform.
The young girl contemplated this portrait with a strange mixture of delight and melancholy, and then, completely overpowered by its aspect, she approached it to her lips. "Feodor!" murmured she, so softly that it sounded almost like a sigh, and stretching out the hand which held the medallion, in order to be able better to contemplate the picture, she continued—
"Feodor, why did we meet, to be separated forever again? Why did not Fate allow me to be born as a poor serf upon one of thy estates, giving to thee the right to possess me, to me the sweet duty of loving thee? O Heaven, why art thou an enemy of my country, or why am I a German? Men call me happy; they envy me my father's wealth; they know not how wretched and forsaken I am."
She bowed her head upon her breast and wept bitterly. Suddenly steps were heard quite close to her door. She started, and concealed the medallion quickly in her breast. "My father," murmured she, and drying her tears she arose to open the door. She was right, it was her father. He held out his hand to her. She took it and pressed it to her lips respectfully, but she did not see the look of almost passionate tenderness with which he regarded her, for she had cast down her eyes and did not dare to look at him.
"I have come, Elise, to lead you to our garden festival. You will go with me, my child?"
"I am ready," said she, taking her hat and shawl.
"But why in such a hurry, my child?" asked her father. "Let us leave these good people yet a little while to themselves. We will still be in time to witness their games. I would like to stay a quarter of an hour with you, Elise."
Without answering, she rolled an arm-chair to the window, and laid aside her hat and shawl.
"It is very seldom, father, that you make me such a present," said she.
"What present, my child?"
"A quarter of an hour of your life, father."
"You are right," said he, thoughtfully. "I have little time for pleasure, but I think so much the more of you."
She shook her head gently.
"No," said she, "you have no time to think of me. You are too busy. Hundreds of men claim your attention. How could you have time, father, to think of your daughter?"
Gotzkowsky drew a dark-red case from his breast pocket and handed it to her.
"Look, Elise! see if I have not thought of you. To-day is your birthday, and I have celebrated it as I have done every year by giving my workmen a festival, and endowing a poor bridal pair who on this day become betrothed. Their prayers and tears constitute the most beautiful thank-offering to you, and being happy they bless you, the authoress of their happiness. But how is this? You have not yet opened the case. Are you so little like other girls that diamonds cause you no pleasure?"
She opened the case, and contemplated the jewels with weary looks and scarcely concealed indifference.
"How wonderfully they shine and sparkle, and what tempting promises their brilliant colors hold forth! But this is a princely present, father; your poor Elise it not worthy to wear this diadem and collar."
"Oh, you are worthy to wear a crown!" cried her father with tender pride. "And let me tell you, my child, you have only to choose whether you will place on this beautiful hair an earl's coronet or a prince's diadem. And this, my child, is the reason of my visit to-day."
"On business," murmured she, almost inaudibly, with a bitter smile.
"Young Count Saldem applied to me yesterday for your hand."
"Count Saldem?" asked Elise. "I hardly know him. I have only spoken to him twice in the saloon of Countess Herzberg."
"That does not prevent him from loving you ardently," said Gotzkowsky, with scarcely perceptible irony. "Yes, Elise, he loves you so ardently that he would overcome all obstacles of rank and make you a genuine countess, if I will only promise to endow you with half a million."
The habitually pale countenance of Elise suddenly assumed life and color. She drew herself up and threw her head proudly back.
"Do you wish to sell me, father? Do you wish to give some value to this noble nonentity by the present of half a million, and will his lordship be kind enough in return to take the trifling burden of my person into the bargain?"
Her father gazed at her glowing countenance with eyes beaming with joy; but he quickly suppressed this emotion, and reassumed a serious air.
"Yes," he said, "the good count, in consideration of half a million, will consent to raise the manufacturer's daughter to the rank of a countess. But for a whole million we can obtain still more; we can rise yet higher in the scale. If I will advance his uncle, Prince Saldem, half a million to redeem his mortgaged estates, the prince promises to adopt the nephew, your suitor, as his son. You would then be a princess, Elise, and I would have the proud satisfaction of calling a prince my son."
"As if the king would consent to a nobleman thus demeaning himself!" cried Elise; "as if he would graciously allow the count so far to degrade himself!"
"Oh, the king will consent," continued her father in a light tone. "You know that he is fond of me. Only say whether you consent to become Countess Saldem."
"Never!" cried she proudly. "I am no chattel to be bartered, and this miserable title of princess has no charms for me. You can command me, father, to renounce the man I love, but you can never compel me to give my hand to a man I do not love, were he even a king!"
Her father clasped her vehemently in his arms.
"That is blood of my blood, and spirit of my spirit," cried he. "You are right, my child, to despise honors and titles; they are empty tinsel, and no one believes in them any longer. We stand at the portal of a new era, and this era will erect new palaces and create new princes; but you, my child, will be one of the first princesses of this new era. Manufactories will be the new palaces, and manufacturers the new princes. Instead of the sword, money will rule the world, and men will bow down before manufacturers and merchants as they are wont to do before generals. Therefore I say you are right in refusing Prince Saldem's offer, for I promise you, you shall be a princess, even without the title, and the great and noble shall bow as low before your riches as if they were a ducal diadem."
Elise shook her head with a melancholy smile: "I have no desire for such homage, and I despise the base metal with which you can buy everything."
"Despise it not!" cried her father, "prize it rather! Gold is a holy power; it is the magic wand of Moses which caused springs to gush forth from the sterile rock. See, my child—I, who despise all the rank and honors which the world can offer me, I tell you gold is the only thing for which I have any respect. But a man must perceive and understand the secret of this magic power. He who strives for wealth only to possess it is a heartless fool, and his fate will be that of Midas—he will starve in the midst of his treasures. But he who strives for wealth for the purpose of giving, he will discover that money is the fountain of happiness; and in his hands the dead metal is transformed into a living blessing. You may believe your father, who knows the world, and who has drunk the bitter cup of poverty."
"You were once poor?" asked Elise, looking at her father with astonishment.
Gotzkowsky smiled, and sank back in his chair, musing and silent. After a pause he resumed: "Yes, I was poor. I have endured all the horrors of poverty. I have hungered and thirsted, suffered misery and privation, even as a little boy. Thus lay I once, wretched and forsaken, in a ditch by the highway, and raised my hands to God on high, praying but for a drop of water, but for a morsel of bread. Ah! so strong was the belief of the goodness of God in my heart, that I was convinced He would open the heavens, and reach to me with His own hand the food for which I prayed. I waited and waited, in despairing anxiety, but the heavens were not opened, and not even a drop of rain came to cool my parched lips. But the cloud, which I had looked for in vain in the sky, was seen at last on the highway, and, as I saw this whirling cloud of dust, in the midst of which a splendid equipage came rolling on, I said to myself: 'Here comes God!' and then I found strength enough to raise myself from my knees, to hurry toward the rapidly passing vehicle, and to cry with a voice which was almost overpowered by the noise of the wheels, 'Pity! pity! give me a morsel of bread, a drop of water! Have pity on me!' A hand was stretched toward me out of the cloud of dust, and I saw a small, brightly shining object drop. The carriage rolled on, and disappeared in its cloud. But I sank on my knees and searched the dust for the piece of money, for in this coin lay for me life, health, and strength. I was obliged to hunt in the dust for a long time with hands tremulous with anxiety, and finally, when I found it, I rejoiced aloud and thanked God. Then I hurried with fleet steps toward the neighboring town, to the same baker's shop near the gate, where, shortly before, they had refused to my entreaties a bit of bread. Now, willingly and with smiles, they handed me a loaf, for I had money to pay for it. In that hour I said to myself: 'I must seek money, even if I have to grovel in the dust for it; for money is life, and poverty is death!' The hand which, from the cloud of dust threw me that piece of money, decided my whole future, for it taught me that even dust was not to be despised, as therein money might be found; but it taught me something more—it taught me compassion and charity. Then, as I crouched down with bleeding feet at the street-corner and devoured my loaf, I vowed to myself that I would become rich, and when I had grown rich, to be to each poor and needy one the helping hand stretched forth out of the cloud of dust."
Elise had listened to her father with deep emotion, and in the depth of her heart she at this moment absolved him from many a silent reproach, and many a suspicion, which her soul had harbored against him.
"You have kept your word, my father!" cried she. "How did you contrive to become a rich man from a beggar?"
Gotzkowsky laughed. "How did I contrive that?" said he. "I worked, that is the whole secret—worked from sunrise until late in the night, and by work alone have I become what I am. But no, I had one friend who often helped me with his sympathy and valuable counsel. This friend was the king. He protected me against my malicious enemies, who envied me every little piece of fortune. He cheered me on. Frederick's eye rested on me with pleasure, and he was delighted to see my manufactories thrive and increase. The king's satisfaction was for many years the only spur to my exertions, and when he looked on me with smiling benevolence, it seemed to me as if a sunbeam of fortune shone from his large blue eyes into my heart. I have learned to love the king as a man, and because I love mankind I love the king. It is said that he likes the French better than he does us, and prefers every thing that comes from them; but, indeed, he was the first to supply his wants from my manufactories, and in that way to encourage me to new undertakings. Mankind, in general, do not like to see others favored by fortune in their enterprises and they hate him who succeeds where they have failed. I have experienced that often in life. I knew that men hated me because I was more fortunate than they were, and yet I saw how they cringed before me, and flattered me. Oh, my child, how many bitter and painful experiences do I not owe to my wealth! In wealth lies Wisdom, if one would only listen to her. It has humbled and subdued me, for I said to myself, 'How quickly would all these men who now surround me with attention and flattery, disappear if I became suddenly poor!' These princes and counts, who now invite me as a guest to their tables, would no longer know me if I appeared before them as a poor man. Wealth is rank and worth; and no prince's title, no star of honor, shines so brightly as golden coin. But we must learn how to use it, and not convert the means of fortune into the end. We must also learn to despise men, and yet to love mankind. My philosophy may be condensed into a few sentences. Strive for gold; not to take, but to give. Be kind and faithful to all men; most faithful, however, to thyself, thy honor, and thy country."
Elise looked at him with a strange expression: "You love all mankind! Do you then include our country's enemies?"
"The enemies of our country are the only men whom I hate," cried Gotzkowsky quickly.
"Even were they noble and good?" asked Elise with reproachful tone.
Gotzkowsky looked at her with astonishment and curiosity, and a cloud flitted across his brow. Then, as if shocked at his own thoughts, he shook his head, and murmured in a low tone, "No, that were too terrible!" He rose and paced the room in thoughtful mood. Suddenly a burst of lively music and gleeful shouts were heard from the garden. Gotzkowsky's brow brightened immediately, and he extended his hand with a tender look.
"Come, my child," exclaimed he, "come, and see how happy you have made men! Come, and see the power of wealth!"
[Footnote 1: "Gotzkowsky founded the first large velvet and silk manufactories in Berlin. He was also the first to attend the Leipsic fair with domestic goods, and thus open the commerce with Poland and Russia."—History of a Patriotic Merchant of Berlin, 1768, pages 10-12.]
* * * * *
THE WORKMAN'S HOLIDAY.
The garden, which stretched from behind Gotzkowsky's house to the limits of the city, was really of artistic beauty, and he had spent thousands in creating a park out of this dead level of sand. Now, his work was completed, and all Berlin spoke with praise and admiration of this garden, which ranked among the lions to be visited by every traveller. The most splendid groups of trees were seen here and there, interspersed among green plats of grass, ornamented by marble statues or graceful fountains; in other places, trimmed hedges stretched along, and from the conservatories exotic plants filled the air with perfume.
On this day, however, the garden presented a peculiarly lively spectacle. On the lawn, the young girls and lads were dancing to the music of a fiddle and bass-viol, while the older workmen and their wives had seated themselves around tables, on which all kinds of refreshments were spread.
At the largest of these tables, ornamented with flowers, was seated the betrothed couple, the workman Balthazar and Gretchen his young bride, who bashfully and affectionately clung to his side. They had loved each other long and faithfully in silence, but without hope, for they were both poor, and had to support themselves and their parents by the work of their hands. But Gotzkowsky had come to them as a helping benefactor; he had given Balthazar a considerable sum of money, and his daughter Elise had bestowed a dower upon the bride. On this day, Elise's eighteenth birthday, was to be celebrated the marriage of the happy couple. No wonder, then, that they regarded Gotzkowsky with feelings almost of adoration, and that this young girl appeared to them as a benevolent angel.
Elise had just come into the garden with her father, and had taken her seat at the table of the bridal pair. Next to her sat a young man, whose mild and noble countenance seemed to be lighted up with happiness and adoration whenever he looked upon her. He followed every one of her motions with watchful eyes, and the most trifling shade, the slightest change in the expression of her countenance, did not escape him. At times he sighed, reading perhaps in her features the secret thoughts of her soul, and these thoughts saddened him, and clouded his bright clear eye.
This young man, who sat at Elise's side, was Bertram, Gotzkowsky's head book-keeper. From his earliest youth he had been in the house of the rich manufacturer, who had adopted the poor orphan, and treated him as a tender father would have done, and Bertram loved him with all the affection of a son. And never by the lips of a true son was the name of father pronounced with more warmth and tenderness than by this son, adopted and won by deeds of generosity.
But Bertram, who called Gotzkowsky father, had never ventured to call Gotzkowsky's daughter sister. Brought up together, they had in their childhood shared their games, their childish joys and sorrows with one another; he had been a protecting brother to her, she an affectionate sister to him. But ever since Bertram had returned from a journey of three years, which Gotzkowsky had caused him to make, all this had changed. Elise, whom he had left almost a child, he found on his return a blooming young woman, and a feeling of joyous emotion flashed through him as he stood blushing before her; while she, perfectly collected, with a quiet look bade him welcome.
Under the charm of this look he had lived several weeks of rapture and yet of anxiety. He soon felt that he loved this young girl passionately, but he also felt that she returned his passion with the lukewarm affection of a friend or a sister, and that she had no suspicion of the tumult and pain, the joy and ecstasy which filled his breast. And yet he had a right to strive for the prize of her love; and if he raised his eyes to the daughter of his benefactor, it was not presumption, it was Gotzkowsky himself who emboldened him to do so. He had said to him, "Seek to win the love of my daughter, and I will cheerfully bid you welcome as my son, for I know that in your hands Elise's happiness is safe."
Thus he had the consent of her father, but Elise's love was wanting, and how could he ever deserve this love, how win this heart which shone as bright and clear, as hard and cold as rock crystal? Of what avail was it that he worked indefatigably in the service of his benefactor? how did it help him that the money, which Gotzkowsky had given to him as a boy, had borne rich interest and made him a man of means, and even, if he chose, of independence? What did it profit him that all men loved him, if this one being, by whom he so ardently longed to be loved, always remained the same, unchanged toward him, always affectionate and friendly, always open and candid, never abashed, never blushing, never casting her eyes down before him?
"It must at last be decided," thought Bertram, as he sat next Elise; "I must at last know whether she returns my love, or whether that be true which I have heard whispered since my return. I must at least have certainty, even if it annihilates all my wishes."
At this moment there sounded near him merry shouts and laughter. Gotzkowsky had accosted the bridal pair with a jest, and the grateful audience had taken up this jest with delight.
"Long life to the bridal pair!" cried he, raising his glass on high. "Health, wealth, and happiness to them!" A perfect uproar followed this appeal, and brought tears of delight into the eyes of the blushing little bride, who stood up with the bridegroom and bowed her thanks.
Balthazar laughed, and, as soon as every thing had become quiet, replied: "There, that will do! you have hurrahed enough. I don't wish for wealth; health, happiness, and content are enough for me with my little Gretchen; but for these blessings I have to thank, we have all to thank, our lord and master, our father Gotzkowsky. Therefore, you boys up there, stop your clatter and dancing, and listen to what I have to say to you."
Balthazar's loud clear voice overpowered the music which now ceased, and the lads and maidens crowded around him.
"Balthazar is going to make a speech!" cried one with hearty laughter, in which the others joined lustily. "Silence, silence! Balthazar is going to make a speech. Come, Balthazar, out with it! It's a failing he has."
"Well, why shouldn't I?" said Balthazar, laughing; "many a great lord does nothing else all his life but make pretty speeches. Why shouldn't I play the great lord on this my wedding-day?" He drew himself up, cleared his throat, and continued: "I want to talk to you about our master, who turned us from good-for-nothing drones into industrious workmen, who gave us bread when nobody else had bread for us. Nobody, I say, not even our mayor, who is a very good mayor, but who cannot help the poor, feed the hungry, and give bread and work to hands willing to work. Who is able to do that, and who does it? Who in Berlin is the rich, the good man, who gives work to all, and in his large and celebrated mills procures us food and wages? Who is it?"
"Gotzkowsky, our father Gotzkowsky!" cried the crowd unanimously.
Balthazar waved his hat joyfully in the air. "Therefore, say I, long live Gotzkowsky our father!" cried he with stentorian voice. And loud shouts and cheers followed this appeal. Men and women surrounded Gotzkowsky and offered him their hand, and thanked him with those simple and plain words which never fail to reach the heart, because they come from the heart. All hailed him as friend and father, benefactor and master. Gotzkowsky stood in their midst, proud and erect. A deep emotion was evident in his noble features, and he raised his beaming, radiant face to heaven, thanking God in the humbleness of his heart for the proud joy of this hour.
"Long live Gotzkowsky, our father!" reiterated the happy multitude.
He lowered his eyes, and glanced with friendly looks at the cheerful assemblage.
"Thank you, my children," said he, "but I beg you not to overrate my merits. You are of as much service to me as I am to you. He who gives work is nothing without the worker; the one has need of the other, to increase and thrive. Of what avail would my looms and my money be if I had not your industrious hands and your good will to serve me? Money alone will not do it, but the good will and love of the workmen carry the day. I thank you all for your good will and your love; but above all," continued he, turning to Bertram, "above all things I must thank you, my friend. You have stood by me and helped me bravely, and it is full time that I should try to reward you. Children, one more surprise have I in reserve for you to-day. I appoint Mr. Bertram my partner and sole director of the silk factory." "That's right, that's noble!" cried the workmen.
Bertram said nothing. He only turned his eyes, clouded with tears, toward Gotzkowsky, and the latter read in his looks his deep emotion and affectionate gratitude.
"My son," said he, opening his arms.
"My father, oh my dear, noble father," cried the young man, throwing himself, with streaming eyes, on Gotzkowsky's breast. The workmen stood round, deeply moved, and in silence; and in their hearts they sent up quiet prayers to God on high for their employer. At last Gotzkowsky raised himself from Bertram's arms and sought his daughter with his eyes. She was still sitting, silent and pensive, at the table, and did not appear to have observed what was going on around her. A light cloud crossed his brow as he took Bertram's hand and approached Elise.
"Well, Elise, have you no word of congratulation for him?"
She shuddered, as if awaking from a dream. "Oh," said she, "my good brother Bertram knows that I rejoice in his fortune."
"Brother! still brother?" murmured Gotzkowsky impatiently.
"And why should she not give me that sweet name?" asked Bertram, quickly. "Have you not often called me son, and allowed me to call you father?"
"Oh, I would like indeed to be your father, my son, without Elise's having to call you brother. But we will speak of this another time," said he, interrupting himself; and turning to his workmen, continued: "Come, let us be merry, and of good cheer. Who knows how long Heaven will grant us sunshine? Come, you young folks, I have caused a target to be set up in the court. Let us go there. He who makes the best shot shall get a new coat. Come, bride Greta, take my arm; I will be your groomsman to-day. Bertram, you and Elise follow us. Now, music, strike up a song for the bride."
Gotzkowsky offered his arm to the bride and led her out. Cheerfully the motley crowd followed him, and soon there was heard in the distance their happy laughter and the merry sound of the music.
* * * * *
BROTHER AND SISTER.
Elise did not follow the joyous multitude. She still sat musing, unaware that Bertram was standing opposite to her, considering her attentively. At last he ventured to pronounce her name softly. She looked up at him with perfect composure.
"You do not go with them, Elise?" asked he. "Do you not take any part in the general rejoicing?"
She tried to smile. "Oh yes," said she, "I am glad to see how much these good people love my father. And he deserves it too. The welfare of his workmen is his only thought, and the only fame for which he strives."
"You are too modest in your estimate of your father, Elise," cried Bertram. "Gotzkowsky's fame extends far beyond the walls of this town. All Germany, yes, even Holland and England, are familiar with his name, and the Prussian merchant is as much a hero on "'Change' as the Prussian king is on the battle-field."
"Only my father's victories are less bloody," said Elise, smiling.
A pause ensued. Both felt anxious and embarrassed, and neither dared to break the silence. It was the first time, since Bertram's return from his grand tour, that she had found herself in his presence without witnesses, for she had carefully avoided being alone with him. This had not escaped Bertram's notice, and he had therefore determined to take advantage of the present opportunity to have his fate decided. But yet he did not venture to speak, and the words died away on his lips as he remarked her silent, indifferent composure. As he contemplated her, memories of former days rose up before him. He saw her as, half child, half maiden, she clung trustingly and affectionately to his side, and with charming blushes listened to the teasing jokes of her father. Then her whole soul lay open and clear before him; then she disclosed to him the entire treasure of her pure, full heart, and all the fanciful and dreamy thoughts of her young virgin soul were perceptible; then he had participated in her joys, her little sorrows, every feeling which agitated her breast.
And now, why was it all so different?
A deep, painful melancholy took possession of him, and made him overcome his fear of her decision. He sat down resolutely at her side, and took her hand.
"Elise," said he, "do you still remember what you said to me three years ago, as I took leave of you?"
She shook her head and turned her eyes toward him. These eyes were full of tears, and her countenance was agitated with painful emotion.
Bertram continued: "You then said to me, 'Farewell, and however far you may travel my heart goes with you, and when you return I will be to you the same loving, faithful sister that I now am.' These were your words, Elise; you see that I have preserved them in my memory more faithfully than you, my sister."
Elise shuddered slightly. Then she said, with a painfully subdued voice, "You were so long absent, Bertram, and I was only a child when you left."
"The young woman wishes, then, to recall the words spoken by the child?"
"No, Bertram, I will always love you as a sister."
Bertram sighed. "I understand you," said he, sadly; "you wish to erect this sisterly love into an impassable barrier separating me from you, and to pour this cool and unsubstantial affection like a soothing balm upon my sufferings. How little do you know of love, Elise; of that passion which desires every thing, which is satisfied with nothing less than extreme happiness, or, failing that, extreme wretchedness, and will accept no pitiful compromise, no miserable substitute!"
Elise looked at him firmly, with beaming eyes. She too felt that the decisive hour had come, and that she owed the friend of her youth an open and unreserved explanation.
"You are mistaken, Bertram," said she. "I know this love of which you speak, and for that very reason, because I know it, I tell you I will always love you as a sister. As a true sister I bid you welcome."
She offered him her hand; but as she read in his pale face the agony which tormented his soul, she turned her eyes away and drew her hand back.
"You are angry with me, Bertram," said she, sobbing.
He pressed his hand convulsively to his heart, as if he would suppress a cry of agony, then held it firmly to his eyes, which were scalded by his hot tears. He wrestled with his sufferings, but he wrestled like a hero and a man who would not be subjugated, but is determined to conquer. As his hand glided from his face his eyes were tearless, and nothing was visible in his countenance but an expression of deep earnestness.
"Well, then," said he, recovering himself, "I accept this sisterly love as a sick man accepts the bitter medicine which he will not cast away lest he commit suicide. I accept you as my sister, but a sister must at least have confidence in her brother; she must not stand before him like a sealed book whose contents he is ignorant of. If I am to be your brother, I demand also the rights of a brother. I demand truth and trust."
"And who says that I will deny you either?" asked she, quickly.
"You, yourself, Elise; your whole conduct, your shyness and reserve, the manner in which you avoid me, the intentional coldness with which you meet me. Oh! even at this moment you would withdraw from me, but I will not let you, Elise; I will compel your heart to reveal itself to me. I will move you with my devotion, my tender anxiety, so that the cruel crust will fall from your gentle and pure heart, and you will become again my candid and confiding sister. Oh, Elise, have compassion on me! tell me what secret, mysterious charm has suddenly seized you; what wicked, hurtful demon has suddenly converted this bright ingenuous girl into a pale, sad, serious woman. Have courage and trust me, and let me read as in those happier days."
Elise looked at his noble countenance with a deep and painful emotion, and met his inquiring look with unabashed eye.
"Well, then," said she, "I will trust you, Bertram. I will tell you what I have confided to no human ear. Know, then, that my heart also has felt the pains which affect yours. Know that an ardent, hopeless love burnt my soul."
"A hopeless love?" asked Bertram.
"Yes, hopeless," said she, firmly; "for never can I hope for my father's blessing on this love, and never, without it, will I leave my father's house to follow the man I love."
"The man you love!" cried Bertram, painfully. "Does he also then love you, and does he know that you love him?"
She looked at him with astonishment. "Can one then love without being beloved?" asked she, with the unconscious pride of a young girl.
"You are right," said Bertram; "I was a fool to ask this question of you. But why do you doubt your father's consent? Why do you not go confidingly to him and confess your love? But how? Is this love such that it dare not face the light, and must conceal itself from the eyes of your father?"
"Yes, Bertram, it is such a love; but yet you must not doubt me, you must not think that this love which conceals itself from the eyes of my father need therefore fear the light of the world. My father would, perhaps, if he knew my secret, declare me unworthy of him; but never, be assured, never would I commit any act unworthy of myself, and for which I would have to blush. It is possible that not only my father but the whole world would pronounce me guilty if it knew my love; but, believe me, that in the consciousness of my rectitude I would have the courage to brave the verdict of the whole world, provided that my own heart acquitted me, and that I am guilty of no other crime than this accidental one, which fate, and not my own will and trespass, imposes on me. Love allows itself neither to be given nor taken, and when it cannot command fortune, it can at least lighten misfortune. More I cannot tell you, my brother, and what is the use of words? Only depend on what I assure you, I will never be faithless to my honor nor my love. You may think," continued she, proudly and passionately, "that my love is a crime, but never that I could love unworthily, or that I could bow my head under the disgrace of a dishonorable love."
She looked beautiful in her proud, flashing maidenhood; and Bertram felt, as he looked on her handsome, glowing countenance, that he had never loved her so sincerely, and at the same time so painfully, as at this moment.
"Elise," said he, grasping her hand, "will you not have entire confidence in your brother? Will you not tell me the name of your lover?"
She shook her head earnestly. "Only God and my heart dare know it."
"Elise," continued he more urgently, "shall I tell you what has been whispered in my ear as I returned from a long absence? Shall I tell you what your enemies—for your youth and beauty and your father's wealth have made you enemies—shall I tell you what your enemies whisper to each other with malicious joy?"
"No, no!" said she anxiously, "how would it help me to know it?"
Bertram continued inexorably, "They say that the captive Russian, General Sievers, was welcomed by your father into his house as a friend, and that he overwhelmed the noble prisoner with kind attention."
Elise breathed more freely. "It was with the consent and by the wish of the king that my father was kind to the captive Russian general."
"And was it also by the wish of the king that Gotzkowsky's daughter accepted the homage of the Russian general's adjutant?"
A slight shudder ran through Elise's whole frame, and her cheeks became crimson.
"Ah," cried Bertram sadly, "I see you understand me. You will not tell me the name of your lover—let me tell it to you. It is Feodor von Brenda."
"No, no!" cried Elise, looking around in alarm, and fearful lest some treacherous ear had heard the dangerous secret.
"Yes," said Bertram, "his name is Feodor von Brenda; he serves as a colonel in the Russian army; he fights against our brothers and our king; he is the enemy of our country."
"You have no pity on me," cried Elise, wringing her hands, her eyes streaming with tears. "You wish to kill me with your cruel words."
"I wish to show to the daughter of the noblest and truest patriot, I wish to point out to the young, inexperienced, credulous maiden, to my sister, that she stands at the edge of an abyss. I wish to open her eyes that she may be aware of the danger which threatens her. I wish to draw her back from this abyss which threatens to engulf her."
"It is too late," said Elise, rising proudly and drying her tears. "I know it all, Bertram; I stand at the edge of this abyss with open eyes, conscious of the danger; but I will not, cannot draw back, for my heart holds me fast."
Elise took leave of him with a sad smile, and hurried rapidly down the dark walk which led to the retired and unfrequented parts of the garden.
Bertram looked after her until her pink dress disappeared behind the dark foliage of the hedge.
"She loves him," murmured he, letting his head drop upon his breast, "it is certain she loves him."
* * * * *
FEODOR VON BRENDA.
Elise directed her hasty steps toward the now retired parts of the garden. She longed to be alone. Her soul, agitated by painful emotions, required silence and solitude, in order to settle down again gently to rest and peace. Slowly, and with bowed head, she traversed the dark, silent garden-walks. Her thoughts wandered afar off, and she sought some little comfort, some relief from the privations of the present, in the sweet and blissful recollections of bygone days.
"What can keep him?" asked she of herself; and as she thought of him, her countenance assumed a cheerful, almost happy expression. "He swore to brave every danger, every difficulty, in order to let me hear from him; and now, alas! ten weeks have passed, and no news, no token, from him. My God! is it possible that in all this long time he could have found no opportunity to write to me?—or perhaps his love has not survived the test of separation and silence."
At this thought she stopped, as if stunned, and pressed her hand to her breast. A sharp pain shot through her, and her heart seemed to cease to pulsate. But, in a moment, her countenance brightened up, and she murmured, with a gentle smile, "Oh, to doubt his love were a greater treason than to love my country's enemy. Oh, no! Feodor, my heart does not doubt you; and notwithstanding your silence, I know that your heart answers mine, and that we are forever and inseparably united."
With rapid step and cheerful mind she continued her wandering. She had now arrived at the darkest and most secluded part of the garden. Nothing stirred around her, and there was only heard the rustling of the dark fir-tree moved by the wind, or the melodious note of some bird hidden in the foliage.
The garden, elsewhere so carefully and artistically tended, stretching from the Leipsic Street to the Palisades, which surrounded the town in lieu of a wall at that time, was here overgrown with underwood, protecting the more beautiful parts like a quickset hedge. But this bush was, besides, surrounded by a high wall, running immediately next to the Palisades, and bounding the whole back part of the garden. It was seldom that any one wandered in this neighborhood, and Elise was certain, therefore, that no inquisitive eye could watch her, no treacherous ear listen to her half-whispered words.
She seated herself on a bench under a tree, not far from the wall, and looked up dreamingly and thoughtfully at the patches of blue sky visible through the tree-tops. Her whole soul was sunk in reminiscence. Ah, how often had she sat here, but not alone—not with this painful longing in her heart, but in the fullest contentment of happiness, listening with delighted ear to words spoken by him who sat next to her, holding her hand in his, and gazing on her with looks which made her heart tremble with happiness! Here, on this spot, he had taken leave of her, and since then it had become, as it were, the temple of her recollections, to which she daily made her pilgrimage to offer up her devout, sincere, and ardent prayer of love.
She sat and looked up to heaven, and her ear, dwelling on words which had died away long ago, did not hear sounds which were perceptible on the other side of the wall. It appeared as if some one were striving to climb it, and indeed there could be now seen a hand feeling about, and then a man's figure rising above the wall.
Cautiously spying around, large flashing eyes looked into the garden. One moment the figure rested upon the wall, as if exhausted by the exertion, or listening for some sound. It was a young man, in the garb of a peasant, who sat upon the wall; but the heavy, black mustache little suited this peaceful dress, and his bold air, verging on insolence, seemed to challenge the dangers which surrounded him.
He rested for a moment on the wall, and listened attentively. Then he drew a pistol from his breast, and examined carefully its lock and barrel. He then cocked it, and holding it in one hand, began carefully and noiselessly to descend. With one leap he sprang to the ground; the leaves rustled under his feet, and again he stood motionless in a listening attitude. His glance was as keen and bright as that of an eagle, and it seemed to penetrate the dark foliage. Suddenly a light flashed across his countenance, and a smile of delight played about his lips. He had seen the young girl, who was seated on the bench lost in deep thought, and that he had recognized her was betrayed by his animated expression. Quietly, carefully, he drew nearer, ever and again standing still and listening. Then he stood close behind her at the tree. Again he listens, but every thing is silent and hushed. Now he calls her softly by name, and whispers almost inaudibly, "Elise!"
She started and looked up, but saw no one, and as she recovered herself, she sighed gently, and said: "I was mistaken, it was only the wind."
But again he whispered: "Start not, Elise; do not utter a word or cry!"
"O God!" murmured she in a low tone, trembling in all her limbs. An ardent embrace, a glowing kiss upon her brow, and a well-beloved voice whispered her name.
"Feodor!" uttered she faintly. Overcome by the sudden violence of her feelings, her head dropped languidly on his breast. Then, drawing herself up, she gazed at him, and her eager, loving look encountered his flashing eye. She was, as it were, fascinated—happy as in a dream, and yet conscious of the most delicious waking.
"Do you know me, Elise? Do you recognize your Feodor in spite of his disguise?"
"Oh, speak again," said she as he ceased. "It is so long since I have heard your voice!"
"Ten weeks have passed," said he, pressing her still closer to his heart, "without my being able to see you or convey to you any information. I could endure it no longer. I said to myself, 'God is the friend of lovers,' and so I disguised myself as you see me, and ventured here."
Elise started up and gazed at him anxiously. Awaking from her ecstasy of delight, she just began to be conscious of the present.
"Good heavens!" she cried, "danger threatens you."
"Death, if I am found here!" said he, solemnly—"death, if it is known in the Russian camp why I came here!"
She uttered a cry, and clung anxiously to him. "You should not have come here," said she, trembling. "My God, if my father should find you here! It was cruel of you to come."
"It would have been more cruel," said he, smiling, "if being so near you, I had not come at all. I have watched and yearned so long for this meeting; I have longed so to read in your eyes that you have not forgotten me! Why do you cast them down, Elise?"
"Because, Feodor, you have already read too much in them, more than my father would ever forgive."
"Your father was always kind and friendly toward me but at that time I was his prisoner, now he regards me only as the enemy of his country; and yet, Elise, my object here is any thing but that of an enemy. It is not only the desire but also the anxiety of love which brings me here. Listen to me—my time is limited, and I am lost if I linger too long; but I had to see you to warn you, to avert the danger which threatens you, and all of you. Listen, therefore. Your father is the most powerful and influential man in Berlin. His influence will go far with the council and the citizens. Entreat him, Elise, to use all his influence to avert a terrible bloodshed from this city."
Elise shook her head seriously and sadly. Her sweet dream was dissipated; she was now no longer the dreaming, loving girl, but a conscious, reasoning, collected woman.
"How can my father do that?" said she, doubtingly.
"He must persuade the citizens to yield without fighting."
"That my father will never do," said she, warmly.
"Yes, he will do it," replied her lover, "when he learns that all fighting is useless. Let him have compassion on his native town, on himself. You are all lost if you fight. Already twelve thousand of our men, under General Tottleben, stand before the gates. At this moment, while I am speaking, Tschernitscheff, with twenty thousand regulars, is approaching from the other side. Count Lacy, too, with his Austrians, is drawing near. All this tell your father. Tell him, also, that General Tottleben has promised our Empress Elizabeth to take Berlin, if he has to lay it in ruins and ashes. Use all your influence, implore him to do all in his power to persuade the citizens to a peaceful surrender."
"I have no influence over my father," said she, sadly, "and if I had I would not abuse it. Such a surrender, without a fight, would be cowardice."
"But a fight, with the assured certainty of defeat, would be madness. Your father does not know the number of troops massed around Berlin. Do you tell him."
She looked at him mournfully. "And shall I tell him, too, from whom I received this information?"
After a little reflection, he replied: "Yes, if it cannot be otherwise, tell him. Your father will not betray me."
"No, but he will curse his daughter," cried Elise, painfully—"curse her for having had intercourse with our country's enemy, while the Russian cannon threaten our town. No, no, Feodor, it were no use to warn him. My father would not listen to me."
"So Berlin will run toward its ruin, and I cannot prevent it," said the colonel, sadly. "I have done all in my power. I wish to requite your father for all the kindness he has shown me, and for that reason I risked my life in order to warn him."
"Believe me, Feodor, I will never forget you for it," said she, offering him both her hands. "However angry my father may be, my heart still remains yours. Love does not recognize any national hatred. It yields itself without reserve to him who has won it."
She leaned her head upon his breast, and he imprinted a kiss upon her forehead.
"Thank you for these words," said he; "wherever I go they shall be my talisman."
"Are you going already?" asked she, anxiously.
"I must go, Elise," replied he.
"Oh, Feodor, I dare not bid you stay. I tremble at the thought of my father seeing you," sighed she; "but when, my beloved, when shall we see each other again?"
He looked at her a long time with a steady, piercing glance. He then exclaimed, almost rudely: "You have sworn me love and constancy till death. Do you remember it?"
"I remember it, and never will I be faithless to my vow," whispered she, smiling through her tears.
"You swore to me never to belong to any one but me. Have you forgotten that?"
"No, I have not."
"Well, then," said he, rising, "we shall soon see each other again."
"When, Feodor, when?"
"When Berlin is in our hands," said he, smiling proudly; "when we enter your gates as conquerors."
She shuddered painfully. He saw it, and a hateful, mocking expression passed across his features; but this lasted only a moment, and his changeable countenance appeared again bright and loving. He took Elise's hand and pressed it to his lips.
"Will you, even at such a time, allow me to see you? Will you, faithful to your vow, remember that my Elise has sworn by God and her love never to turn a deaf ear to my call? Will you expect me?" asked he, coaxingly.
"I will," answered she, in a low voice.
"And I will come," cried he, passionately, "if the way to you leads over mountains of dead bodies!"
She threw herself into his open arms, and nestled like a timid dove on his breast.
"Oh!" cried she, "when danger threatens you, then I think I would like to be a man to share it with you."
He covered her lips and eyes with kisses. "Farewell, farewell, Elise; and if it is God's will, we will meet again."
One last kiss, one last embrace, and he tore himself from her arms and hurried toward the wall. Now he climbs it, and throws his last greetings to her, then descends on the other side.
"He is gone, he is gone!" she shrieked, and, falling on her knees, raised her hands to heaven. "O God, have mercy on me, have pity on my love!"
It seemed as if God did grant her prayer, for a thick veil sank over her eyes, and a swoon robbed her of consciousness.
* * * * *
MR. KRETSCHMER, OF THE VOSSIAN GAZETTE.
The editor of the Vossian Gazette, Mr. Kretschmer, sat at his desk, busily writing. That he was a learned man was seen by his earnest, care-worn forehead, his large, well-powdered wig, and above all by the disorder and confusion which reigned in the whole room. Besides which, Mr. Kretschmer wore a dressing-gown, thickly sprinkled with ink-spots, the official robe of his literary dignity. And whosoever beheld him in this robe, his long pipe in his mouth, filling the room with a thick blue smoke, seated on his high tripod before his desk, could not but believe that Mr. Kretschmer was a learned man.
But more than this, he was a great politician. Thereto testified the numerous journals which lay scattered about on the floor, but more especially the nineteen quarto volumes, which stood above on the book-shelf, lettered in gold on the back, "VOSSIAN GAZETTE," and under that the number of the year, from 1740 to 1759. The Vossian Gazette was then a young, blooming rose, of scarcely nineteen summers. It could still pass for a vigorous, handsome, and perhaps even innocent young maiden; and Mr. Kretschmer was the editor of the Vossian Gazette. Had he not, then, a right to be regarded as a great politician?
Mr. Kretschmer was at this moment occupied in writing an article for the next morning's paper, and as he had just received news "by special courier" of another battle, subsequent to that of Liegnitz, which had resulted favorably for the Prussians, he was composing, with the courage of a lion, an extra, which fairly glowed with ardent hatred against the oppressors and cannibals, namely, the Russians and the Austrians; and declared that the salvation of all Germany depended on the supreme dominion of Prussia.
The bold editor of the Vossian Gazette in this article called upon the people to fly to arms against the "incendiary oppressors of Freedom and the people's rights," as he called the Russians; he exhorted even the women and girls to fight, and called upon them to grasp the sword in their tender hands instead of the needle. Finally, he entreated all Berlin, if ever the incendiary enemy should approach the gates, rather to let the whole city be destroyed by fire, and bury themselves in the ruins before they submitted to the foe.
Mr. Kretschmer then laid his pen down, and revised with a satisfied look what he had written.
"That will have an effect," said he, rubbing his hands together, delighted. "When his majesty, our heroic king, returns victorious to Berlin, I will send him this sheet of the Vossian Gazette, and I know that he will be satisfied with my heroism."
He looked again at the paper. "Beautiful, beautiful!" exclaimed he, with a self-satisfied smile. "My pen has shot nothing less than bomb-shells and grape, and my ink has turned into whole streams of the enemy's blood. And why should I not be bold, it being perfectly safe, since the king must certainly be victorious, and the enemy has no idea of visiting Berlin? Tschernitscheff and Tottleben are quietly encamped on the other side of the Oder; Soltikoff with his army is near Frankfort; and Count Lacy with his Austrians is waiting an opportunity to give battle to our king. Thus, as I said, I can safely exhort the good citizens of Berlin to defend themselves heroically against the infamous spoiler. How beautifully this peroration sounds: 'People of Berlin! rather let yourselves be buried under the ruins of your burning city than submit to an incendiary enemy!'—Incendiary," repeated he thoughtfully, "that is rather a strong expression, and if the Russians do come, they will revenge themselves for it; but, pshaw! the Russians are not coming, and I can safely send this article to the press. And, furthermore, did not the king himself stigmatize the Russians as such? Yes, I remember last year, after the unfortunate invasion of the Russians, he looked down from the steeple in Frankfort upon the devastation of the country, and cried out with angry indignation, 'Incendiaries! incendiaries!' The expression is at least official, and can therefore remain."
Mr. Kretschmer seized the bell-rope, and began to ring violently. Immediately the door opened, and a small boy entered with a portfolio under his arm.
"Devil," said Mr. Kretschmer, majestically, "here is my article; run as fast as you can to the printing-office with it, and impress upon the compositor the necessity of haste, and, above all things, not to make such mistakes as he did lately, when, in speaking of the Russians, he put 'friends' instead of 'fiends,' which was an unpardonable and most treasonable error of expression."
The little boy took the paper and laid it in his portfolio.
"The printer told me to ask you," said he, "if you had written nothing yet for the 'Miscellaneous.' Spener's Journal had yesterday such a beautiful 'Miscellaneous,' and told about a woman who had four children at a birth, and a stork which had arrived and built its nest, although it was the month of October."
Mr. Kretschmer frowned. "Spener's Journal always has some wonderful news, and amuses the Berlin people with all kinds of stupid gossip," grumbled he. "The rivalry of such a paper is unbearable."
"Well, how about the miscellaneous intelligence?" asked the printer's boy.
Mr. Kretschmer stamped his foot angrily. "Go to the devil!" said he.
At this moment there was heard a loud crying and shouting; and while the printer's boy pitched out of the door, Mr. Kretschmer hurried to the window to find out the cause of the uproar.
A heaving, noisy crowd filled the street below, and had halted right under the editor's window. In the midst thereof was seen the tall, lank figure of a man, whose extraordinary appearance enchained the attention of the multitude, and excited afresh their shouts and derisive laughter. And, in fact, nothing could be more striking or fantastic than this man. Notwithstanding the cool October weather, his gigantic figure was clothed from head to foot in gray linen, harmonizing strangely with the gray color of his skin and hair, which latter fell in long locks from his uncovered head down on his shoulders, and gave to the apparition the semblance of a pyramidical ash-heap, out of which his eyes shone like two burning coals. Around his shoulders hung a long cloak of gray linen, which, in addressing the multitude, he sometimes threw around him in picturesque folds, sometimes spread out wide, enveloping his long arms in it, so that he looked like an expanded bat.
"Ah! it is Pfannenstiel, our prophetic linen-weaver," said Mr. Kretschmer, smiling, as he opened his window, and exchanged a look of recognition with the man who was gazing up at him.
The linen-weaver and prophet had rapidly acquired some renown in Berlin by his prophecies and predictions. The people believed in his mystic words and soothsayings and mistaken fanaticism. He related to them his visions and apparitions; he told about the angels and the Lord Jesus, who often visited him; about the Virgin Mary, who appeared in his room every night, and inspired him with what he was to say to the people, and gave him pictures whose mystic signification he was to interpret to them. The prophet possessed more than a hundred of these pictures, given him by celestial apparitions. He had them carefully pasted together, and rolled up always with him. These pictorial sheets, roughly painted on coarse paper, served the linen-weaver in lieu of cards or coffee-grounds, for the purpose of prophesying to the people and announcing the future to them; and the good folks of Berlin believed in these prophecies with firm faith, and listened with devout confidence to the words of their prophet.
Pfannenstiel was in the act of unrolling his pictures, and the multitude, which, just before, had been shouting and screaming, became suddenly silent, and gazed up at the weaver with intense expectation. A breathless silence ensued, and, far down the street, sounded the prophet's loud and sonorous voice. He pointed to the last of his pictures, which, in coarse, clumsy drawing, represented a town, from the houses of which flames arose in the most variegated colors.
"Behold! behold!" cried the prophet, "and fall on your knees and pray! Yes, pray! for I tell you the Holy Ghost appeared to me, His wings dripping with blood, and in His burning and flaming beak He held this picture which I now show you."
"Well, then, how is it that the picture is not burnt too, if the Holy Ghost held it in His burning beak?" asked an impudent shoemaker's boy.
A low laugh ran through the crowd, but this was soon suppressed by angry, threatening voices, commanding silence and quiet.
The prophet turned with an air of majestic composure toward the questioner: "Why was not this picture burnt? Because God wished to perform a miracle, to manifest Himself to me in His glory, and to prove to me that this vision was from Him, and not from the devil. Yes, indeed, God gave me this picture that we might be warned—not to terrify us. Listen, therefore, to my voice, and learn what God announces to you from my mouth."
"I would like indeed to hear what the stupid rascal is going to announce to these poor foolish devils," muttered Mr. Kretschmer, leaning out of the window and listening attentively.
Pfannenstiel continued: "Behold these columns of fire rising from the houses of this town. This town is Berlin, and the fire will burst out of the roofs of your houses. Woe! woe! will sound in your streets, and weeping and lamentation will fill the air. I say unto you, watch and pray! Strew ashes on your heads, and fall down on your knees and pray to God for mercy, for the enemy is before your gates, and ere the sun sets the Russians will enter your town! I say unto you, verily I say unto you, God spoke to me in a voice of thunder, and said, 'The Russians are coming!' Fall down and pray, for the Russians are coming!"
"The Russians are coming!" cried the terrified multitude and some among them turned pale. The weeping women folded their hands in prayer; the men looked around timidly, and the frightened children clung to their mothers in dread of the Russians, whose name was synonymous with that of savages and cannibals. Even Kretschmer could not help feeling somewhat terrified. He drew back thoughtfully from the window, muttering with a shudder, "The Russians are coming!"
The people crowded around the prophet in still narrower circles, and in more piercing tones wept and cried out: "What shall we do? What shall we do to be saved? Have mercy, O God! Have mercy on Berlin, for the Russians are coming!"
"Yes, they are coming!" cried Pfannenstiel. "God told me so in the roll of His thunder and the lightning of His eyes; and he said to me: 'Go and say to the people of Berlin, "The Russians are coming!" and thou shalt see in the same hour how their hearts will shrink, and how cast down they will be; how their eyes will run tears, and their lips utter prayers, for the Russian is the sworn enemy of the Berlin people; and as often as the cry, "The Russians are coming," sounds through the streets of Berlin, there will be wailing and lamentation in every house and every heart; and they will bow down in timid contrition and abject obedience. Speak, therefore, to them, and say, "The Russians are coming!" that they may become humble and quiet; that the proud word may be silenced on their lips, and that they may submit in peace.'"
"What shall we do?" asked the people. "Help us, advise us, for thou art our prophet."
Pfannenstiel drew himself up to his utmost height, and an expression of triumphant cunning sparkled in his eyes. "Do you not understand the voice of God? God commands you to withdraw in silence and peace to your own dwellings, to weep and pray. Go, then! Let the word of your mouth and the rebelliousness of your hearts be silent. Go home to your huts, shut the doors and windows, and do not venture out, for without, death and the Russians await you!"
Obedient to the voice of their prophet, the crowd separated in different directions, and dispersed quietly.
Pfannenstiel looked after them with a smile of scorn; then silently rolled up his pictures, threw his gray cloak over his shoulders, and, casting a serious and significant look up at Mr. Kretschmer's window, strode down the street slowly and with an air of majestic dignity.
* * * * *
THE COWARDS' RACE.
The warning sounded loud and threatening in Mr. Kretschmer's ears—"The Russians are coming!" A cold chill ran through him, and he could not prevent an involuntary shudder. But he tried to rouse himself from this despondency, and laughed at himself for this credulous fear.
"This Pfannenstiel is a fool, and I would he a greater one if I believed his nonsense," said he. "No, no, my information is warranted and authentic. The king has had a sharp skirmish with the Russians near Reitwan, and driven them back, and then proceeded quietly to Meissen. Thus there is no ground for anxiety, and I can safely let off my bomb-shells against the Russians."
Mr. Kretschmer felt his courage return and his heart grow warm.
"Now I see the whole game," cried he, laughing. "Pfannenstiel wishes the Vossian Gazette to take notice of him. He wants to be talked about, and wishes the newspapers to spread his reputation. For that reason he stationed himself right under my window, for that reason he cast such significant looks at me, for that reason he addressed the crowd and poured forth his nonsense right here. Yes, that's it! He wishes to prove to me how great his power is over this people which believes in him, even when he utters the most incredible and unheard-of things. Well, we can help the man," continued he, laughing, as he stepped to his desk. "The desired article for the 'Miscellaneous' is found, and I think that the prophetic linen-weaver, Pfannenstiel, is well worth more than the four children at a birth and the miserable stork's nest of yesterday's Spener's Journal. Let's write it off quickly."
Kretschmer began to write most industriously, when he was suddenly interrupted by a violent knocking at the door. It opened, and a stately old gentleman entered, with well-powdered wig and long queue.
"Mr. Krause, my worthy colleague!" exclaimed Kretschmer, jumping up and hastening toward the old man. But Mr. Krause had no word of greeting. He sank sighing into a chair.
"Do you know the news?" asked he, in a whining tone, folding his trembling hands, and looking at Kretschmer timidly, as he stood before him.
"Know what?" demanded the latter in reply, feeling his heart sink.
"The Russians are coming!" sighed Mr. Krause.
"That is a silly tale," cried Kretschmer peevishly, with an impatient gesture.
"Would to God it were!" groaned Krause; "but the news is, alas, but too true, and it can no longer be doubted!"
"Man of misfortune," cried Mr. Kretschmer, "who told you so?"
"Pfannenstiel?" repeated Kretschmer, laughing heartily; "oh, yes! Pfannenstiel prophesied it just now in the streets, under my window. Now don't distress yourself, dearest friend and colleague. That was only a clumsy trick of the scoundrel to get me to write an article about him in the Vossian Gazette. I have already gratified his wish."
"You are mistaken," said Krause, mournfully. "I sent Pfannenstiel into the streets, to quiet the people, and to admonish them to behave peaceably and soberly, even if the Russians should come."
"Oh! you believe in all these dreams of Pfannenstiel?"
"I believe in the truth, and in what I know!" exclaimed Krause emphatically. "Pfannenstiel has for a long time been my agent, and for a considerable stipend, paid every month, informs me of all that happens, is talked and thought of in the town. He is a very useful man, peculiarly suited to this service."
"The approach of the Russians is then town-talk, and nothing more?" asked Kretschmer, who was still anxious to throw doubt on the bad news.
"No, it is a fact," said Krause seriously. "Pfannenstiel is, as you know, not only a prophet, but also a quack doctor, and his herbs and decoctions are certainly often of astonishing efficacy. He always gathers the plants for his mixtures himself, and roams about in search of them in the neighborhood of Berlin for days together. Last evening he was outside the town, on one of these tramps, intending to pass the night sleeping under a tree. He was awoke by the sound of troops marching, and as he looked carefully around, he could plainly distinguish in the bright moonlight the uniforms of the Russian army. It was a long column of many thousand men. They halted not far from the place where Pfannenstiel lay, and he crept carefully nearer. He then ascertained from their conversation that this was only a small division of the army, which had advanced by forced marches from Frankfort, and was commanded by General Tottleben."
"By Tottleben!" cried Kretschmer in dismay.
"Yes, by Tottleben," whimpered Krause, and they both looked in silence on the ground. "Yes, his vengeance will be terrible," said Krause, after a long and anxious pause. "Have you not heard," continued he in whisper—"have you not heard the sad story of what occurred last year in Erlangen? The editor of the Erlangen Gazette admitted into his columns an article abusive of our great king. A Prussian officer came in person to Erlangen to call the editor to account. And what do you think he did? He caused the unfortunate and pitiable journalist to be beaten with cudgels, and then gave him a receipt for the bastinado he had gotten."
"Horrible!" cried Mr. Kretschmer, wringing his hands.
Mr. Krause continued: "When a refined Prussian, officer can behave in this way, what have we to expect from these rough, uncivilized enemies, the Russians? Oh! they will murder us, for we, too, have ventured to write boldly and energetically against them."
"Yes, you particularly," said Mr. Kretschmer quickly. "Do you recollect the famous article in your paper, in which you called General Tottleben a notorious adventurer, who had deserted to the enemy after having enjoyed the unmerited favor of our king? This was, certainly, rather strong; it might even be called indiscreet."
"Not as indiscreet as your 'Earnest and Confidential Country Talk,'" cried Krause sharply.
"I never avowed myself the author of that pamphlet," said Kretschmer quickly.
"But every one knows that you are, and you never denied it," replied Krause maliciously. "This 'Country Talk' is more than indiscreet, it is foolhardy. In it you nicknamed Maria Theresa, Aunt Tilla; the Elector of Saxony, Brother Osten; the Empress of Russia, Cousin Lizzy; and our king, Neighbor Flink. And don't you remember what words you put into Cousin Lizzie's mouth, and how you made neighbor Flink ridicule her? Ah, I am afraid you will pay dearly for this" piece of boldness."
"It is not quite so bad as your calling Tottleben a notorious adventurer; for the princes are not here, but Tottleben is before the gates of Berlin, and will revenge himself."
"I am afraid our prospects are equally bad, and for that reason I have come to you, that we might consult together as to what we had best do, to avert this threatening blow from our heads."
"You are right," said Kretschmer, drawing nearer to his brother editor. "Let us consider. Above all things, no exciting calls, no appeals to the people to perform deeds of heroic valor. Berlin is too weak for defence; why, then, should we irritate the enemy by useless opposition?"
"You, too, are right," said Krause thoughtfully; "let us rather advise the citizens of Berlin to be quiet; let us wheel boldly round, and speak in our journals with respect and deference of our worthy enemy."
"Besides which, it would be well to consult with some of the principal men who have an influence on the people. For example, let us go to Gotzkowsky," said Kretschmer.
"Gotzkowsky gives a great holiday to his workmen to-day."
"So much the better, for then he can immediately use his influence on his workmen. Come, let us go at once to Gotzkowsky, this Croesus of Berlin, who bought for our king three hundred thousand dollars' worth of pictures in Italy, without having been paid for them up to this day, and yet is able to take a contract for commissary stores to the amount of eight millions. Let us go to him; and, hark ye! it would be as well to take Pfannenstiel with us to back us."
"Yes," said Krause, raising himself quickly by the arm of his younger friend, "let us go to Gotzkowsky with Pfannenstiel, and preach mildness and submission to him and his workmen."
They both prepared to go. Suddenly Kretschmer stopped as if struck by lightning, and sank down on a chair stunned. "My article, my article!" moaned he. "I am a lost man!"
"What article do you mean, my dearest friend?"
"The leading article in tomorrow's paper," whimpered Kretschmer. "Oh, it was a beautiful article, full of inspiration, but it is not suitable to the times or the circumstances. I wrote it under the erroneous impression that our armies had gained a victory, and in it I spoke with great contempt of the incendiary enemy."
"My God, what rashness!" exclaimed Krause, clasping his hands in despair.
Kretschmer flew from his stool, and grasped his hat. "My article! I must have my article back. The printer must give it up to me. Wait for me in the street. I come either with my article or not at all."
Bidding Krause a hasty farewell, he hurried out.
* * * * *
THE INTERRUPTED FESTIVAL.
Gotzkowsky had as yet received no intelligence of the danger which threatened the town, and was enjoying the festival in his garden in the midst of his people.
They were all collected on a grass-plat for target-shooting. In the midst of the plat rose a pole with a target. The women and girls were standing around, attentively and curiously watching the men, who, collected under a tent, were shooting with crossbows at the target. Every lucky shot was greeted with a cheer, every unlucky one with derisive laughter; and the prizes which were assigned to the fortunate marksmen only served to increase the joy and merriment of the happy crowd.
Suddenly loud cries of weeping and lamentation were heard from a distance. The people looked at each other with anxiety and alarm. The dismal noise came nearer and still nearer, and then appeared at the entrance gate near by the strange and wild figure of the linen-weaver, accompanied by the two editors, Krause and Kretschmer.
"Pfannenstiel! it is Pfannenstiel, our prophet!" shouted the crowd, while they hastened with joyous laughter and words of greeting toward their beloved seer.
The linen-weaver strode forward with a serious and majestic air, answering the greetings of the workmen with patronizing nods, and from time to time stretching out his hand as if to bless them. The multitude crowded around him, and seemed to look upon the advent of the prophet as part of the programme of the entertainment. But Gotzkowsky hastened toward the two editors with a cheerful smile, bidding them a courteous welcome. They responded to his friendly greeting with a solemn earnestness, and requested a conference with a mysterious and important air. Gotzkowsky looked at them with astonishment; but as he read in their countenances an expression of deep and anxious concern, he motioned to them and preceded them to a summer-house on the other side of the lawn.
"Here we can talk without being observed," said he, casting a look across at his workmen. "You see my guests are still busy with the scarecrow which you brought here; and what business has this man, indeed, among merry people?"
"He maintains that God ordered him to come to you, to warn you in His name, and call upon you to protect Berlin," said Krause.
"Yes," continued Kretschmer, "and he entreated us to accompany him, trusting to our influence with our dear friend."
Gotzkowsky looked at both of the men with astonishment. "Tell me, my worthy friends, which of us is crazy?" asked he, smiling, partly in derision, partly in pity. "I am called on to protect Berlin, and from what?"
"Because the Russians are coming," said Mr. Krause, solemnly.
Gotzkowsky shrugged his shoulders. "That is an idle rumor," said he; "two days ago they were still in Frankfort. You see, therefore, that some wag has amused himself by teasing you and frightening you a little for the thunderbolts which you two, and particularly the Vossian Gazette, have launched against the Russians."
Mr. Kretschmer shuddered and turned pale. "I beg you," cried he, "do not speak of it! Good Heavens! the Vossian Gazette is the organ of the popular mind, and it is its duty to take each day the exact tone of public opinion. I abused the Russians, therefore, because—"
"Because they were still a hundred miles from Berlin. Oh, yes! we know you, gentlemen of the press. You are full of courage as long as no enemy is in the field, but as soon as you scent him and see the points of his lances, you become quite humble and mild; and when he comes threateningly down upon you, assure him of your respect and swear to him that you love him," interrupted Gotzkowsky.
"You are pleased to jest," said Mr. Krause, casting a rapid glance of hatred at Gotzkowsky; "it is well, indeed, that the rich and powerful Gotzkowsky is so cheerful. I will notice it in my journal. It is news for 'Change, and the funds will rise when people hear that Gotzkowsky has laughed."
Gotzkowsky's countenance became sad and serious. "You may tell the world," said he, "that my lips laugh; but how my heart feels, that you gossips and newspapers know nothing about."
"God be praised," said Kretschmer, ironically, "you are now talking earnestly, and I can request you to listen to our serious representations. It is no idle rumor that I have told you. The Russians are already at the gates of Berlin. They have hurried thither by forced marches. This news is no longer a secret. All Berlin knows it, and it is only accidentally that you have not learned it earlier."
"Oh, Heavens!" sobbed Krause, wringing his hands, "what a terrible fate awaits our unfortunate town!"
Gotzkowsky looked at him with a gloomy frown. "You are, it is true, an old man," said he, "but even old men should, at such a time, possess some manhood. But you, Mr. Kretschmer, are young and hearty; what do you say to this approach of the Russians?"
"I say," replied Kretschmer, sharply, "I say that it would be madness to excite the wrath of the enemy by resistance. I say, that those citizens who call on the people to fight are rash fools."
"Oh!" cried Gotzkowsky, joyfully, "if there be any such rash fools, then all is not lost!"
"Can you comprehend such madness?" whispered Krause, "to wish to oppose an overwhelming force while all our capable men and youths are with the army in Silesia, and we have no troops but the sick and maimed; no artillery save two old rusty cannon?"
"A people willing to fight for liberty," cried Gotzkowsky, "such a people have the strength of a giant even without cannon and bayonets. God has given them hands and paving-stones. If we cannot shoot down the enemy who threatens our liberty, we can beat him down."
"What do you say?" stammered Krause, looking with amazement at Gotzkowsky's glowing countenance.
"I say," said Gotzkowsky, "that you have mistaken your man. I will not advise the brave Berlin people to yield without having at least fought for their freedom."
"But only reflect!" exclaimed Kretschmer, while Krause paced up and down, wringing his hands and moaning in a low tone; "have you forgotten that the Russian generals have proclaimed that the empress has commanded them to leave nothing but air and earth to the inhabitants of every conquered town and province of Prussia?"
"Oh, pshaw!" cried Gotzkowsky, laughing, "they will have to conclude to leave us something more."
"And did you hear London's terrible threat? He has said his soldiers should massacre every one, and not spare even the child in its mother's womb."
"And did you not hear the brave Schwerin's answer to this Austrian bravado?" asked Gotzkowsky. "He said, 'My soldiers are not with child, neither am I.' Well, our men of Berlin are not with child, and therefore they need not be afraid."
"But you must be afraid!" whined Krause. "It is disgraceful madness not to be afraid. How! You can be so unreasonable as to advise war? But war is the most bitter enemy of prosperity, and threatens property above all things."
"Then shame on the proprietors," cried Gotzkowsky, "if their property is to make cowardly poltroons of them! Liberty is our greatest possession, and all else must yield to it."
At this moment loud cries and sounds of wailing were heard in the garden from the collected workmen, who surrounded the prophet in a dense group, and listened to his prophecies with anxious wonder as he uttered them from a high bench.
Gotzkowsky frowned. "Ah, I understand!" said he, "this good linen-weaver is your accomplice, my brave gentlemen, and as you wish to convert me, so does he wish to convert my honest workmen into old women. Let us see first in what sort of gibberish he preaches his wisdom to these good people."
Without taking any further notice of the two editors, Gotzkowsky left the summer-house rapidly and approached the listening multitude.
* * * * *
THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE.
The inspired prophet stood on a bench, and, as he unrolled his pictures, he endeavored to explain these mystical paintings to his devout gazers and listeners in equally mystical language. Gotzkowsky hastened toward this group, and pressed in silent observation close up to Pfannenstiel's side.
The linen-weaver, wholly possessed by his prophetic god, had in the mean while unrolled another picture, and holding it up high with solemn countenance, exclaimed with a screaming voice: "The day of judgment is at hand, and destiny is at your door! In my dream I saw a face like unto no other face, and I heard a voice, and the voice was like unto no other voice!"
"And yet you heard it! What ears you must have!" said Gotzkowsky, laughing.
The prophet answered calmly, "Yes! for then were seen invisible things, and then were heard inaudible sounds!" And showing a fresh picture to the crowd, he continued: "Look at this picture, which I found this morning on my sheet. It contains the history of your future, and God announced it to me as I sat at my loom weaving. I heard a voice crying, 'Pfannenstiel, my beloved son, dost thou hear me?' And I fell on my knees and answered, 'Yes, I hear.' 'Dost thou know what thou art weaving?' asked the voice. 'Yes,' said I, 'it is linen shirting for the almshouse.' 'No,' said the voice, 'it is a cloth of weeping for the town of Berlin, for the daughters of your fathers will shed tears, and there will be moaning and weeping.'"
These last words he accompanied with a sobbing and plaintive howl, in which his trembling hearers joined. They assured each other in uncomfortable whispers that Pfannenstiel's prophecies usually came true, and that, even before the war, he had predicted the coming of this day of terror.
But soon Pfannenstiel raised his voice, and its hoarse croaking sounded above the loud conversation and anxious cries of the multitude. "Woe unto Berlin!" cried he, with shrieking pathos. "Blood will flow within her walls! The voice said unto me, 'I will look upon red, but it will not be a scarlet cloak, and when the red banner waves thrones will tremble, and there will be no end to the lamentation. And the cock will crow, and the heavens will shine blood-red, and everywhere and in all places men will cry, "Blood! blood is the drink of new life; blood makes young what is old; blood wipes out sworn debts; blood makes the proud humble. Let us drink blood!"'"