Frederick The Great and His Family
by L. Muhlbach
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Wilhelmina wore an under-skirt of white satin, a red tunic, gayly embroidered and festooned with white roses; a white satin bodice, embroidered with silver, defined her full but pliant form, and displayed her luxurious bust in its rare proportions; a bouquet of red roses was fastened upon each shoulder, and held the silvery veil which half concealed the lovely throat and bosom. The long, black, unpowdered hair fell in graceful ringlets about her fair neck, and formed a dark frame for the beautiful face, glowing with health, youth, and intellect. In her hair she wore a wreath of red and white roses, and a bouquet of the same in her bosom.

She was, indeed, dazzling in her beauty, and was, perhaps, conscious of her power; her eyes sparkled, and a ravishing smile played upon her lips as she looked up at the prince, who stood dumb and embarrassed before her, and could find no words to express his admiration.

"If it is agreeable to your highness, let us join your company," said the princess, at last, anxious to put an end to this interview. She extended her hand coolly to her husband; he grasped it, and held it fast, but still stood silently looking upon her.

"Madame," said he, at last, in low and hesitating tones—"madame, I have a request to make of you."

"Command me, my husband," said she, coldly; "what shall I do?"

"I do not wish to command, but to entreat," said the prince.

"Well, then, Prince Henry, speak your request."

The prince gave the bouquet of white camelias to his wife, and said, in a faltering, pleading voice, "I beg you to accept this bouquet from me, and to wear it to-day in your bosom, although it is not your shepherd who offers it!"

"No, not my shepherd, but my husband," said the princess, removing angrily the bouquet of roses from her bodice. "I must, of course, wear the flowers he gives me."

Without giving one glance at the flowers, she fastened them in her bosom.

"If you will not look upon them for my sake," said the prince, earnestly, "I pray you, give them one glance for the flowers' sake. You will at least feel assured that no other shepherdess is adorned with such a bouquet."

"Yes," said Wilhelmina, "these are not white roses; indeed, they seem to be artificial flowers; their leaves are hard and thick like alabaster, and dazzlingly white like snow. What flowers are these, my prince?"

"They are camelias. I recently heard you speak of these rare flowers, which had just been imported to Europe. I hoped to please you by placing them in your hands."

"Certainly; but I did not know that these new exotics were blooming in our land."

"And they are not," said Prince Henry. "This bouquet comes from Schwetzingen; there, only, in Germany, in the celebrated green-houses of the Margravine of Baden can they be seen."

"How, then, did you get them?" said the princess, astonished.

"I sent a courier to Schwetzingen; the blossoms were wrapped in moist, green moss, and are so well preserved, that they look as fresh as when they were gathered six days since."

"And you sent for them for me?" said Wilhelmina.

"Did you not express a wish to see them?" replied the prince; and his glance rested upon her with such ardent passion that, blushing, she cast her eyes to the ground, and stood still and ashamed before him.

"And you have not one little word of thanks?" said the prince, after a long pause. "Will you not fasten these pure flowers on your bosom, and allow them to die a happy death there? Alas! you are hard and cruel with me, princess; it seems to me that your husband dare claim from you more of kindliness and friendship."

"My husband!" cried she, in a mocking tone. She turned her eyes, searchingly, in every direction around the room. "It appears to me that we are alone and wholly unobserved, and that it is here unnecessary for us to play this comedy and call ourselves by those names which we adopted to deceive the world, and which you taught me to regard as empty titles. It is, indeed, possible that a wife should be more friendly and affectionate to her husband; but I do not believe that a lady dare give more encouragement to a cavalier than I manifest to your royal highness."

"You are more friendly to all the world than to me, Wilhelmina," said the prince, angrily. "You have a kindly word, a magic glance, a gracious reception for all others who approach you. To me alone are you cold and stern; your countenance darkens as soon as I draw near; the smile vanishes from your lips; your brow is clouded and your eyes are fixed upon me with almost an expression of contempt. I see, madame, that you hate me! Well, then, hate me; but I do not deserve your contempt, and I will not endure it! It is enough that you martyr me to death with your cutting coldness, your crushing indifference. The world, at least, should not know that you hate me, and I will not be publicly humiliated by you. What did I do this morning, for example? Why were you so cold and scornful? Wherefore did you check your gay laugh as I entered the room? wherefore did you refuse me the little flower you held in your hand, and then throw it carelessly upon the floor?"

The princess looked at him with flashing eyes.

"You ask many questions, sir, and on many points," said she, sharply. "I do not think it necessary to reply to them. Let us join our company." She bowed proudly and advanced, but the prince held her back.

"Do not go," said he, entreatingly, "do not go. Say first that you pardon me, that you are no longer angry. Oh, Wilhelmina, you do not know what I suffer; you can never know the anguish which tortures my soul."

"I know it well; on the day of our marriage your highness explained all. It was not necessary to return to this bitter subject. I have not forgotten one word spoken on that festive occasion."

"What do you mean, Wilhelmina? How could I, on our wedding-day, have made known to you the tortures which I now suffer, from which I was then wholly free, and in whose possibility I did not believe?"

"It is possible that your sufferings have become more intolerable," said the princess, coldly; "but you confided them to me fully and frankly at that time. It was, indeed, the only time since our marriage we had any thing to confide. Our only secret is that we do not love and never can love each other; that only in the eyes of the world are we married. There is no union of hearts."

"Oh, princess, your words are death!" And completely overcome, he sank upon a chair.

Wilhelmina looked at him coldly, without one trace of emotion.

"Death?" said she, "why should I slay you? We murder only those whom we love or hate. I neither love nor hate you."

"You are only, then, entirely indifferent to me," asked the prince.

"I think, your highness, this is what you asked of me, on our wedding-day. I have endeavored to meet your wishes, and thereby, at least, to prove to you that I had the virtue of obedience. Oh, I can never forget that hour," cried the princess. "I came a stranger, alone, ill from home-sickness and anguish of heart, to Berlin. I was betrothed according to the fate of princesses. I was not consulted! I did not know—I had never seen the man to whom I must swear eternal love and faith. This was also your sad fate, my prince. We had never met. We saw each other for the first time as we stood before God's altar, and exchanged our vows to the sound of merry wedding-bells, and the roar of cannon. I am always thinking that the bells ring and the cannon thunders at royal marriages, to drown the timid, trembling yes, forced from pallid, unwilling lips, which rings in the ears of God and men like a discord—like the snap of a harp-string. The bells chimed melodiously. No man heard the yes at which our poor hearts rebelled! We alone heard and understood! You were noble, prince; you had been forced to swear a falsehood before the altar; but in the evening, when we were alone in our apartment, you told me the frank and honest truth. State policy united us; we did not and could never love each other! You were amiable enough to ask me to be your friend—your sister; and to give me an immediate proof of a brother's confidence, you confessed to me that, with all the ardor and ecstasy of your youthful heart, you had loved a woman who betrayed you, and thus extinguished forever all power to love. I, my prince, could not follow your frank example, and give a like confidence. I had nothing to relate. I had not loved! I loved you not! I was therefore grateful when you asked no love from me. You only asked that, with calm indifference, we should remain side by side, and greet each other, before the world, with the empty titles of wife and husband. I accepted this proposal joyfully, to remain an object of absolute indifference to you, and to regard you in the same light. I cannot, therefore, comprehend why you now reproach me."

"Yes! yes! I said and did all that," said Prince Henry, pale and trembling with emotion. "I was a madman! More than that, I was a blasphemer! Love is as God—holy, invisible, and eternal; and he who does not believe in her immortality, her omnipresence, is like the heathen, who has faith only in his gods of wood and stone, and whose dull eyes cannot behold the invisible glory of the Godhead. My heart had at that time received its first wound, and because it bled and pained me fearfully, I believed it to be dead, and I covered it up with bitter and cruel remembrances, as in an iron coffin, from which all escape was impossible. An angel drew near, and laid her soft, fine hand upon my coffin, my wounds were healed, my youth revived, and I dared hope in happiness and a future. At first, I would not confess this to myself. At first, I thought to smother this new birth of my heart in the mourning veil of my past experience; but my heart was like a giant in his first manhood, and cast off all restraint; like Hercules in his cradle, he strangled the serpents which were hissing around him. It was indeed a painful happiness to know that I had again a heart, that I was capable of feeling the rapture and the pain, the longing, the hopes and fears, the enthusiasm and exaltation, the doubt and the despair which make the passion of love, and I have to thank you, Wilhelmina—you alone, you, my wife, for this new birth. You turn away your head, Wilhelmina! You smile derisively! It is true I have not the right to call you my wife. You are free to spurn me from you, to banish me forever into that cold, desert region to which I fled in the madness and blindness of my despair. But think well, princess; if you do this, you cast a shadow over my life. It is my whole future which I lay at your feet, a future for which fate perhaps intends great duties and greater deeds. I cannot fulfil these duties, I can perform no heroic deed, unless you, princess, grant me the blessing of happiness. I shall be a silent, unknown, and useless prince, the sad and pitiful hanger-on of a throne, despised and unloved, a burden only to my people, unless you give freedom and strength to my sick soul, which lies a prisoner at your feet. Wilhelmina, put an end to the tortures of the last few months, release me from the curse which binds my whole life in chains; speak but one word, and I shall have strength to govern the world, and prove to you that I am worthy of you. I will force the stars from heaven, and place them as a diadem upon your brow. Say only that you will try to love me, and I will thank you for happiness and fame."

Prince Henry was so filled with his passion and enthusiasm, that he did not remark the deadly pallor of Wilhelmina's face—that he did not see the look of anguish and horror with which her eyes rested for one moment upon him, then shrank blushingly and ashamed upon the floor. He seized her cold, nerveless hands, and pressed them to his heart; she submitted quietly. She seemed turned to stone.

"Be merciful, Wilhelmina; say that you forgive me—that you will try to love me."

The princess shuddered, and glanced up at him. "I must say that," murmured she, "and you have not once said that you love me."

The prince shouted with rapture, and, falling upon his knees, he exclaimed, "I love you! I adore you! I want nothing, will accept nothing, but you alone; you are my love, my hope, my future. Wilhelmina, if you do not intend me to die at your feet, say that you do not spurn me—open your arms and clasp me to your heart."

The princess stood immovable for a moment, trembling and swaying from side to side; her lips opened as if to utter a wild, mad cry—pain was written on every feature. The prince saw nothing of this—his lips were pressed upon her hand, and he did not look up—he did not see his wife press her pale lips tightly together to force back her cries of despair—he did not see that her eyes were raised in unspeakable agony to heaven.

The battle was over; the princess bowed over her husband, and her hands softly raised him from his knees. "Stand up, prince—I dare not see you lying at my feet. You have a right to my love—you are my husband."

Prince Henry clasped her closely, passionately in his arms.


No fete was ever brighter and gayer than that of Rheinsberg. It is true, the courtly circle waited a long time before the beginning of their merry sports. Hours passed before the princely pair joined their guests in the music-saloon.

The sun of royalty came at last, shedding light and gladness. Never had the princess looked more beautiful—more rosy. She seemed, indeed, to blush at the consciousness of her own attractions. Never had Prince Henry appeared so happy, so triumphant, as to-day. His flashing eyes seemed to challenge the whole world to compete with his happiness; joy and hope danced in his eyes; never had he given so gracious, so kindly a greeting to every guest, as to-day.

The whole assembly was bright and animated and gave themselves up heartily to the beautiful idyl for which they had met together under the shadow of the noble trees in the fragrant woods of Rheinsberg. No gayer, lovelier shepherds and shepherdesses were ever seen in Arcadia, than those of Rheinsberg to-day. They laughed, and jested, and performed little comedies, and rejoiced in the innocent sports of the happy moment. Here wandered a shepherd and his shepherdess, chatting merrily; there, under the shadow of a mighty oak, lay a forlorn shepherd singing, accompanied by his zitter, a love-lorn ditty to his cruel shepherdess, who was leading two white lambs decked with ribbons, in a meadow near by, and replied to his tender pleading with mocking irony. Upon the little lake, in the neighborhood of which they had assembled, the snow-white swans swam majestically to and fro. The lovely shepherdesses stood upon the borders and enticed the swans around them, and laughed derisively at the shepherds who had embarked in the little boats, and were now driven sportively back in every direction, and could find no place to land.

Prince Henry loved this sort of fete, and often gave such at Rheinsberg, but never had he seemed to enjoy himself so thoroughly as to-day. His guests generally sympathized in his happiness, but there was one who looked upon his joyous face with bitterness. This was Louise du Trouffle, once Louise von Kleist, once the beloved of the prince.

She was married, and her handsome, amiable, and intelligent husband was ever by her side; but the old wounds still burned, and her pride bled at the contempt of the prince. She knew he was ignorant of the great sacrifice she had been forced to make—that he despised, in place of admiring and pitying her.

The prince, in order to show his utter indifference, had invited her husband and herself to court. In the pride of his sick and wounded heart, he resolved to convince the world that the beautiful Louise von Kleist had not scorned and rejected his love. In her presence he resolved to show his young wife the most lover-like attentions, and prove to his false mistress that he neither sought nor fled from her—that he had utterly forgotten her.

But Louise was not deceived by this acting. She understood him thoroughly, and knew better than the prince himself, that his indifference was assumed, and his contempt and scorn was a veil thrown over his betrayed and quivering heart to conceal his sufferings from her. Louise had the courage to accept Prince Henry's invitations, and to take part in all the festivities with which he ostentatiously celebrated his happiness. She had the courage to receive his cutting coldness, his cruel sarcasm, his contempt, with calm composure and sweet submission. With the smile of a stoic, she offered her defenceless breast to his poisoned arrows, and even the tortures she endured were precious in her sight. She was convinced that the prince had not relinquished or forgotten her—that his indifference and contempt was assumed to hide his living, breathing love. For some time past the change in the manners and bearing of the prince had not escaped the sharp, searching glance of the experienced coquette. For a long time he appeared not to see her—now she felt that he did not see her. He had been wont to say the most indifferent things to her in a fierce, excited tone—now he was self-possessed, and spoke to her softly and kindly.

"The wound has healed," said Louise du Trouffle to herself. "He no longer scorns because he no longer loves me." But she did not know that he had not only ceased to love her, but loved another passionately. This suspicion was excited, however, for the first time to-day. In the flashing eye, the glad smile, the proud glance which he fixed upon his fair young wife, Louise discovered that Henry had buried the old love and a new one had risen from its ashes. This knowledge tortured her heart in a wild storm of jealousy. She forgot all considerations of prudence, all fear, even of the king. She had been compelled to relinquish the hand of the prince, but she would not lose him wholly. Perhaps he would return to her when he knew what a fearful offering she had made to him. He would recognize her innocence, and mourn over the tortures he had inflicted during the last year. She would try this! She would play her last trump, and dare all with the hope of winning.

There stood the prince under the shadow of a large tree, gazing dreamily at his wife, who, with other shepherdesses, and her shepherd, Count Kalkreuth, was feeding the swans on the border of the lake. The prince was alone, and Louise rashly resolved to approach him. He greeted her with a slight nod, and turning his eyes again upon his wife, he said, carelessly, "Are you also here, Madame du Trouffle?"

"Your royal highness did me the honor to invite me—I am accustomed to obey your wishes, and I am here."

"That is kind," said the prince, abstractedly, still glancing at the princess.

Louise sighed deeply, and stepping nearer, she said, "Are you still angry with me, my prince? Have you never forgiven me?"

"What?" said the prince, quietly; "I do not remember that I have any thing to forgive."

"Ah, I see! you despise me still," said Louise, excitedly; "but I will bear this no longer! I will no longer creep about like a culprit, burdened with your curse and your scorn. You shall at least know what it cost me to earn your contempt—what a tearful sacrifice I was compelled to make to secure your supposed personal happiness. I gave up for you the happiness of my life, but I can and will no longer fill a place of shame in your memory. If, from time to time, your highness thinks of me, you shall do me justice!"

"I think no longer of you in anger," said the prince, smiling. "That sorrow has long since passed away."

"From your heart, prince, but not from mine! My heart bleeds, and will bleed eternally! You must not only forgive—you must do me justice. Listen, then: and so truly as there is a God above us, I will speak the truth. I did not betray you—I was not faithless. My heart and my soul I laid gladly at your feet, and thanked God for the fulness of my happiness. My thoughts, my existence, my future, was chained to you. I had no other will, no other wish, no other hope. I was your slave—I wanted nothing but your love."

"Ah, and then came this Monsieur du Trouffle, and broke your fetters—gave your heart liberty and wings for a new flight," said Prince Henry.

"No, then came the king and commanded me to give you up," murmured Louise; "then came the king, and forced me to offer up myself and my great love to your future welfare. Oh, my prince! recall that terrible hour in which we separated. I said to you that I had betrothed myself to Captain du Trouffle—that of my own free choice, and influenced by love alone, I gave myself to him."

"I remember that hour."

"Well, then, in that hour we were not alone. The king was concealed behind the portiere, and listened to my words. He dictated them!—he threatened me with destruction if I betrayed his presence by look or word; if I gave you reason to suspect that I did not, of my own choice and lovingly, give myself to this unloved, yes, this hated man! I yielded only after the most fearful contest with the king, to whom, upon my knees and bathed in tears, I pleaded for pity."

"What means could the king use, what threats could he utter, which forced you to such a step?" said the prince, incredulously. "Did he threaten you with death if you did not obey? When one truly loves, death has no terrors! Did he say he would murder me if you did not release me? You knew I had a strong arm and a stronger will; you should have trusted both. You placed your fate in my hands; you should have obeyed no other commands than mine. And now shall I speak the whole truth? I do not believe in this sacrifice on your part; it would have required more than mortal strength, and it would have been cruel in the extreme. You saw what I suffered. My heart was torn with anguish! No, madame, no; you did not make this sacrifice, or, if you did, you loved me not. If you had loved me, you could not have seen me suffer so cruelly, you would have told the truth, even in the presence of the king. No earthly power can control true love; she is self-sustained and makes her own laws. No! no! I do not believe in this offering; and you make this excuse either to heal my sick heart, or because your pride is mortified at my want of consideration; you wish to recover my good opinion."

"Alas! alas! he does not believe me," cried Louise.

"No, I do not believe you," said the prince, kindly; "and yet you must not think that I am still angry. I not only forgive, but I thank you. It is to you, indeed, Louise, that I owe my present happiness, all those noble and pure joys which a true love bestows. I thank you for this—you and the king. It was wise in the king to deny me that which I then thought essential to my happiness, but which would, at last, have brought us both to shame and to despair. The love, which must shun the light of day and hide itself in obscurity, pales, and withers, and dies. Happy love must have the sunlight of heaven and God's blessing upon it! All this failed in our case, and it was a blessing for us both that you saw it clearly, and resigned a doubtful happiness at my side for surer peace with Monsieur du Trouffle. From my soul I thank you, Louise. See what a costly treasure has bloomed for me from the grave of my betrayed love. Look at that lovely young woman who, although disguised as a shepherdess, stands out in the midst of all other women, an imperial queen! a queen of beauty, grace, and fascination! This charming, innocent, and modest young woman belongs to me; she is my wife; and I have your inconstancy to thank you for this rare gem. Oh, madame, I have indeed reason to forgive you for the past, to be grateful to you as long as I live. But for you I should never have married the Princess Wilhelmina. What no menaces, no entreaties, no commands of the king could accomplish, your faithlessness effected. I married! God, in his goodness, chose you to be a mediator between me and my fate; it was His will that, from your hand, I should receive my life's blessing. You cured me of a wandering and unworthy passion, that I might feel the truth and enjoy the blessing of a pure love, and a love which now fills my heart and soul, my thoughts, my existence for my darling wife."

"Ah, you are very cruel," said Louise, scarcely able to suppress her tears of rage.

"I am only true, madame," said the prince, smiling. "You wished to know of me if I were still angry with you, and I reply that I have not only forgiven, but I bless your inconstancy. And now, I pray you let us end this conversation, which I will never renew. Let the past die and be buried! We have both of us commenced a new life under the sunshine of a new love; we will not allow any cloud of remembrances to cast a shadow upon it. Look, the beautiful shepherdesses are seeking flowers in the meadows, and my wife stands alone upon the borders of the lake. Allow me to join her, if only to see if the clear waters of the lake reflect back her image as lovely and enchanting as the reality."

The prince bowed, and with hasty steps took the path that led to the lake.

Louise looked at him scornfully. "He despises me and he loves her fondly; but she—does the princess love him?—not so! her glance is cold, icy, when she looks upon him; and to-day I saw her turn pale as the prince approached her. No, she loves him not; but who then—who? she is young, ardent, and, it appears to me, impressible; she cannot live without love. I will find out; a day will come when I will take vengeance for this hour. I await that day!"

While Louise forced herself to appear gay, in order to meet her husband without embarrassment, and the prince walked hastily onward, the princess stood separated from her ladies, on the borders of the lake, with the Count Kalkreuth at her side. The count had been appointed her cavalier for the day, by the prince her husband; she seemed to give her undivided attention to the swans, who were floating before her, and stretching out their graceful necks to receive food from her hands. As she bowed down to feed the swans, she whispered lightly, "Listen, count, to what I have to say to you. If possible, laugh merrily, that my ladies may hear; let your countenance be gay, for I see the prince approaching. In ten minutes he will be with us; do you understand my low tones?"

"I understand you, princess; alas! I fear I understand without words; I have read my sentence in the eyes of your husband. The prince suspects me."

"No," said she, sadly bowing down and plucking a few violets, which she threw to the swans; "he has no suspicion, but he loves me."

The count sprang back as if wounded. "He loves you!" he cried, in a loud, almost threatening tone. "For pity's sake speak low," said the princess. "Look, the ladies turn toward us, and are listening curiously, and you have frightened the swans from the shore. Laugh, I pray you; speak a few loud and jesting words, count, I implore you."

"I cannot," said the count. "Command me to throw myself into the lake and I will obey you joyfully, and in dying I will call your name and bless it; but do not ask me to smile when you tell me that the prince loves you."

"Yes, he loves me; he confessed it to-day," said the princess, shuddering. "Oh, it was a moment of inexpressible horror; a moment in which that became a sin which, until then, had been pure and innocent. So long as my husband did not love me, or ask my love, I was free to bestow it where I would and when I would; so soon as he loves me, and demands my love, I am a culprit if I refuse it."

"And I false to my friend," murmured Kalkreuth.

"We must instantly separate," whispered she. "We must bury our love out of our sight, which until now has lived purely and modestly in our hearts, and this must be its funeral procession. You see I have already begun to deck the grave with flowers, and that tears are consecrating them." She pointed with her jewelled hand to the bouquet of white camelias which adorned her bosom.

"It was cruel not to wear my flowers," said the count. "Was it not enough to crush me?—must you also trample my poor flowers, consecrated with my kisses and my whispers, under your feet?"

"The red roses which you gave me," said she, lightly, "I will keep as a remembrance of the beautiful and glorious dream which the rude reality of life has dissipated. These camelias are superb, but without fragrance, and colorless as my sad features. I must wear them, for my husband gave them to me, and in so doing I decorate the grave of my love. Farewell!—hereafter I will live for my duties; as I cannot accept your love, I will merit your highest respect. Farewell, and if from this time onward we are cold and strange, never forget that our souls belong to each other, and when I dare no longer think of the past, I will pray for you."

"You never loved me," whispered the count, with pallid, trembling lips, "or you could not give me up so rashly; you would not have the cruel courage to spurn me from you. You are weary of me, and since the prince loves you, you despise the poor humble heart which laid itself at your feet. Yes, yes, I cannot compete with this man, who is a prince and the brother of a king; who—"

"Who is my husband," cried she, proudly, "and who, while he loves me, dares ask that I shall accept his love."

"Ah, now you are angry with me," stammered the count; "you—"

"Hush!" whispered she, "do you not see the prince? Do laugh! Bow down and give the swans these flowers!"

The count took the flowers, and as he gave them to the swans, he whispered:

"Give me at least a sign that you are not angry, and that you do not love the prince. Throw this hated bouquet, which has taken the place of mine, into the water; it is like a poisoned arrow in my heart."

"Hush!" whispered the princess. She turned and gave the prince a friendly welcome.

Prince Henry was so happy in her presence, and so dazzled by her beauty, that he did not remark the melancholy of the count, and spoke with him gayly and jestingly, while the count mastered himself, and replied in the same spirit.

The princess bowed down to the swans, whom she enticed once more with caresses to the borders of the lake. Suddenly she uttered a loud cry, and called to the two gentlemen for help. The great white swan had torn the camelias from the bosom of the princess, and sailed off proudly upon the clear waters of the lake.


While Prince Henry celebrated Arcadian fetes at Rheinsberg, and gave himself up to love and joy, King Frederick lived in philosophic retirement at Sans-Souci. He came to Berlin only to visit the queen-mother, now dangerously ill, or to attend the meetings of his cabinet ministers. Never had the king lived so quietly, never had he received so few guests at Sans-Souci, and, above all, never had the world so little cause to speak of the King of Prussia. He appeared content with the laurels which the two Silesian wars had placed upon his heroic brow, and he only indulged the wish that Europe, exhausted by her long and varied wars, would allow him that rest and peace which the world at large seemed to enjoy. Those who were honored with invitations to Sans-Souci, and had opportunities to see the king, could only speak of that earthly paradise; of the peaceful stillness which reigned there, and which was reflected in every countenance; of Frederick's calm cheerfulness and innocent enjoyment.

"The king thinks no more of politics," said the frolicsome Berliners; "he is absorbed in the arts and sciences, and, above all other things, he lives to promote the peaceful prosperity of his people." The balance of power and foreign relations troubled him no longer; he wished for no conquests, and thought not of war. In the morning he was occupied with scientific works, wrote in his "Histoire de mon Temps," or to his friends, and took part in the daily-recurring duties of the government. The remainder of the day was passed in the garden of Sans-Souci, in pleasant walks and animated conversation, closing always with music. Concerts took place every evening in the apartments of the king, in which he took part, and he practised difficult pieces of his own or Quantz's composition, under Quantz's direction. From time to time he was much occupied with his picture-gallery, and sent Gotzkowsky to Italy to purchase the paintings of the celebrated masters.

King Frederick appeared to have reached his goal; at least, that which, during the storm of war, he had often called his ideal; he could devote his life to philosophy and art in the enchanting retirement of his beloved Sans-Souci. The tumult and discord of the world did not trouble him; in fact, the whole world seemed to be at peace, and all Europe was glad and happy.

Maria Theresa was completely bound by the last peace contract at Dresden; besides, the two Silesian wars had weakened and impoverished Austria, and time was necessary to heal her wounds before she dared make a new attempt to reconquer the noble jewel of Silesia, which Frederick had torn from her crown. Notwithstanding her pious and Christian pretensions, she hated Frederick with her whole heart.

England had allied herself with Russia. France was at the moment too much occupied with the pageants which the lovely Marquise de Pompadour celebrated at Versailles, not to be in peace and harmony with all the world; yes, even with her natural enemy, Austria. Count Kaunitz, her ambassador at Paris, had, by his wise and adroit conduct, banished the cloud of mistrust which had so long lowered between these two powers.

This was the state of things at the close of the year 1775. Then was the general quiet interrupted by the distant echo of a cannon. Europe was startled, and rose up from her comfortable siesta to listen and inquire after the cause of this significant thunderbolt. This roar of cannon, whose echo only had been heard, had its birth far, far away in America. The cannon, however, had been fired by a European power—by England, always distinguished for her calculating selfishness, which she wished the world to consider praiseworthy and honorable policy. England considered her mercantile interests in America endangered by France, and she thirsted with desire to have not only an East India but a West India company. The French colonies in America had long excited the envy and covetousness of England, and as a sufficient cause for war had utterly failed, she was bold enough to take the initiative without excuse!

In the midst of a general peace, and without any declaration of war, she seized upon a country lying on the borders of the Ohio River, and belonging to French Canada, made an attack upon some hundred merchant-ships, which were navigating the Ohio, under the protection of the ships-of-war, and took them as prizes. [Footnote: "Characteristics of the Important Events of the Seven Years' War," by Retson.]

That was the cannon-shot which roused all Europe from her comfortable slumber and dreamy rest.

The Empress of Austria began to make warlike preparations in Bohemia, and to assemble her troops on the borders of Saxony and Bohemia. The Empress of Russia discontinued instantaneously her luxurious feasts and wild orgies, armed her soldiers, and placed them on the borders of Courland. She formed an immediate alliance with England, by which she bound herself to protect the territory of George II. in Germany, if attacked by France, in retaliation for the French merchant-ships taken by England on the Ohio River. Hanover, however, was excepted, as Frederick of Prussia might possibly give her his aid. For this promised aid, Russia received from England the sum of 150,000 pounds sterling, which was truly welcome to the powerful Bestuchef, from, the extravagant and pomp-loving minister of the queen.

Saxony also prepared for war, and placed her army on the borders of Prussia, for which she received a subsidy from Austria. This was as gladly welcomed by Count Bruhl, the luxurious minister of King Augustus the Third of Poland and Saxony, as the English subsidy was by Bestuchef.

The King of France appeared to stand alone; even as completely alone as Frederick of Prussia. Every eye therefore was naturally fixed upon these two powers, who seemed thus forced by fate to extend the hand of fellowship to each other, and form such an alliance as England had done with Russia, and Austria with Saxony.

This contract between Prussia and France would have been the signal for a general war, for which all the powers of Europe were now arming themselves. But France did not extend her hand soon enough to obtain the friendship of Prussia. France distrusted Prussia, even as Austria, England, Russia, and Saxony distrusted and feared the adroit young adventurer, who in the last fifty years had placed himself firmly amongst the great powers of Europe, and was bold, brave, and wise enough to hold a powerful and self-sustained position in their circle.

France—that is to say, Louis the Fifteenth—France—that is to say, the Marquise de Pompadour, hated the King of Prussia manfully. By his bold wit he had often brought the French court and its immoralities into ridicule and contempt.

Austria and her minister Kaunitz and Maria Theresa hated Frederick of Prussia, because of his conquest of Silesia.

Russia—that is to say, Elizabeth and Bestuchef—hated the King of Prussia for the same reason with France. Frederick's cutting wit had scourged the manners of the Russian court, as it had humiliated and exposed the court of France.

Saxony—that is to say, Augustus the Third, and his minister, Count Bruhl—hated Frederick from instinct, from envy, from resentment. This insignificant and small neighbor had spread her wings and made so bold a flight, that Saxony was completely over-shadowed.

England hated no one, but she feared Prussia and France, and this fear led her to master the old-rooted national hatred to Russia, and form an alliance with her for mutual protection. But the English people did not share the fears of their king; they murmured over this Russian ally, and this discontent, which found expression in Parliament, rang so loudly, that Frederick might well have heard it, and formed his own conclusions as to the result. But did he hear it? Was the sound of his flute so loud? Was his study hermetically sealed, so that no echo from the outside world could reach his ears?

There was no interruption to his quiet, peaceful life; he hated nobody, made no warlike preparations; his soldiers exercised no more than formerly. Truly they exercised; and at the first call to battle, 150,000 men would be under arms.

But Frederick seemed not inclined to give this call; not inclined to exchange the calm pleasures of Sans-Souci for the rude noises of tents and battle-fields. He seemed to be in peaceful harmony with all nations. He was particularly friendly and conciliating toward the Austrian embassy; and not only was the ambassador, Count Peubla invited often to the royal table, but his secretary, Baron Weingarten came also to Potsdam and Sans-Souci. The king appeared attached to him, and encouraged him to come often, to walk in the royal gardens.

Frederick was gracious and kind toward the officials of all the German powers. On one occasion, when the wife of Councillor Reichart, attached to the Saxon embassy, was confined, at Frederick's earnest wish, his private secretary, Eichel, stood as god-father to the child. [Footnote: "Characteristics of the Important Events of the Seven Years' War."]

In order to promote good feeling in Saxony, the king sent Count Mattzahn, one of the most eloquent cavaliers of the day, to the Dresden court; and so well supplied was he, that he dared compete in pomp and splendor with Count Bruhl.

Frederick appeared to attach special importance to the friendship of Saxony, and with none of his foreign ambassadors was he engaged in so active a correspondence as with Mattzahn. It was said that these letters were of a harmless and innocent nature, relating wholly to paintings, which the count was to purchase from the Saxon galleries, or to music, which Frederick wished to obtain from amongst the collection of the dead Hesse, or to an Italian singer Frederick wished to entice to Berlin.

The world no longer favored Frederick's retirement. The less disposed he was to mingle in politics, the more Maria Theresa, Elizabeth of Russia, Augustus of Saxony, and the Marquise de Pompadour agitated the subject.

France had not forgotten that the contract between herself and Prussia was about to expire. She knew also that the subsidy money between England and Russia had not yet been voted by Parliament. It was therefore possible to reap some advantages from this point. With this view, France sent the Duke de Nivernois as special ambassador to Berlin, to treat with the king as to the renewal of the old alliance.

The Duke de Nivernois came with a glittering suite to Berlin, and was received at the Prussian court with all the consideration which his rank and official character demanded. The grand master of ceremonies, Baron von Pollnitz, was sent forward to meet him, and to invite him, in the name of the king, to occupy one of the royal palaces in Berlin.

Every room of the palace was splendidly decorated for the reception of the duke, and as soon as he arrived, two guards were placed before the house—a mark of consideration which the king had only heretofore given to reigning princes.

The duke accepted these distinguished attentions with lively gratitude, and pleaded for an immediate audience, in order to present his credentials.

Pollnitz was commissioned to make all necessary arrangements, and agree with the duke as to the day and hour of the ceremony.

The king, who wished to give the French duke a proof of his consideration, intended that the presentation should be as imposing as possible, and all Berlin was to be witness of the friendship existing between the French and Prussian courts.

Upon the appointed day, a dazzling assemblage of equipages stood before the palace of the Duke de Nivernois. These were the royal festal carriages, intended for the members of the French embassy. Then followed a long line of carriages, occupied by the distinguished members of the Prussian court. Slowly and solemnly this pompous procession moved through the streets, and was received at the portal of the king's palace by the royal guard. Richly-dressed pages, in advance of whom stood the grand master of ceremonies with his golden staff, conducted the French ambassador to the White saloon, where the king, in all his royal pomp, and surrounded by the princes of his house, received him.

The solemn ceremony began; the duke drew near the throne, and, bowing his knee, handed his credentials to the king, who received them with a gracious smile.

The duke commenced his address; it was filled with flowery phrases, suited to the great occasion. Frederick listened with the most earnest attention, and his reply was kind, but dignified and laconic.

The public ceremony was over, and now came the important part of the audience, the confidential conversation. To this point the duke had looked with lively impatience; for this, indeed, had he been sent to Berlin.

The king descended from the throne, and laying aside all the solemnity of court etiquette, he approached the duke in the most gracious and genial manner, welcomed him heartily, and expressed his sincere delight at his arrival.

"Ah, sire," said the duke, with animation, "how happy will my king be to learn that his ambassador has been so graciously received by your majesty!"

The king smiled. "I thought the ceremony was all over," said he, "and that I no longer spoke with the ambassador, but with the Duke de Nivernois, whom I know and love, and whose intellectual conversation will afford me a rare pleasure. Let us, therefore, chat together innocently, and forget the stiff ceremonies with which, I think, we have both been sufficiently burdened today. Tell me something of Paris, monsieur, of that lovely, enchanting, but overbold coquette, Paris, whom the world adores while it ridicules, and imitates while it blames."

"Ah, sire, if I must speak of Paris, I must first tell you of my king—of my king, who wishes nothing more ardently than the renewal of the bond of friendship between your majesty and himself, and the assurance of its long continuance, who—"

"That is most kind of his majesty," said Frederick, interrupting him, "and I certainly share the friendly wishes of my exalted brother of France. But tell me now something of your learned men. How goes it with the Academy? Do they still refuse Voltaire a seat, while so many unknown men have become academicians?"

"Yes, sire these academicians are obstinate in their conclusions, and, as the Academy is a sort of republic, the king has no power to control them If that were not so, my exalted master, King Louis, in order to be agreeable to your majesty, would exert all his influence, and—"

"Ah, sir," interrupted the king, "it is just and beautiful that the Academy is a free republic, which will not yield to the power and influence of the king. Art and science need for their blossom and growth freedom of thought and speech. Fate ordained that I should be born a king, but when alone in my study, alone with my books, I am fully content to be republican in the kingdom of letters. I confess the truth to you when, as a wise republican, I read thoughtfully in the pages of history, I sometimes come to the conclusion that kings and princes are unnecessary articles of luxury, and I shrug my shoulders at them rather contemptuously."

"And yet, sire, the arts need the protection of princes; that the republic of letters blooms and flourishes in a monarchy is shown in Prussia, where a royal republican and a republican king governs his people, and at the same time gives freedom of thought and speech to science. France should be proud and happy that your majesty has adopted so many of her sons into your republic of letters; we dare, therefore, come to the conclusion that your majesty will not confine your interest wholly to them, but that this alliance between France and Prussia, which my king so earnestly desires and—"

"Unhappily," said the king, interrupting him eagerly, "the distinguished Frenchmen who have become my allies, are exactly those whom their strong-minded, fanatical mother, La France, has cast out from her bosom as dishonored sons. Voltaire lives in Ferney. Jean Jacques Rousseau, whom I admire but do not love, lives in Geneva, where he has been obliged to take refuge. I have also been told that the pension which, in a favorable moment, was granted to D'Alembert, has been withdrawn. Have I been falsely informed? has my friend D'Alembert not fallen into disgrace? is not my friend the encyclopaedian, regarded as a transgressor, and a high traitor because he uses the undoubted right of free thought, does not blindly believe, but looks abroad with open eyes and a clear intellect?"

The duke replied by a few confused and disconnected words, and a shadow fell upon his clear countenance; three times had Frederick interrupted him when he sought to speak of the King of France and his friendship for his brother of Prussia. The duke did not dare choose this theme for the fourth time, which was so evidently distasteful to the king; he must, therefore, submit and follow the lead of his majesty, and in lieu of alliances and state questions discuss philosophy and the arts. So soon as the duke came to this conclusion, he smoothed his brow, and, with all his amiability, animation, and intelligence, he replied to the questions of the king, and the conversation was carried on in an unbroken stream of wit and gayety.

"At the next audience I will surely find an opportunity to speak of politics," said the duke to himself. "The king cannot always be an immovable as to-day."

But the second and the third audience came, and the king was as inexplicable as the first time; he conversed with the duke kindly and freely showed him the most marked attention and personal confidence; but so often as the duke sought to introduce the subject of politics and the public interests which had brought him to Berlin, the king interrupted him and led the conversation to indifferent subjects. This lasted two weeks, and the French court looked with painful anxiety for intelligence from the Duke de Nivernois that the old alliance was renewed and fully ratified, and she had, therefore, nothing to fear from Prussia. This uncertainty was no longer to be borne, and the duke determined to end it by a coup d'etat.

He wrote, therefore, to the king, and asked for a private audience. To his great joy his request was granted; the king invited him to come the next day to Sans-Souci. "At last! at last!" said the duke, drawing a long breath; and with proud, French assurance, he added, "To-morrow, then, we will renew this contract which binds the hands of Prussia, and gives France liberty of action."


The king received the French ambassador without ceremony. There were no guards, no pages, no swarms of curious listening courtiers, only a few of his trusty friends, who welcomed the duke and conversed with him, while Pollnitz entered the adjoining room and informed the king of his arrival.

"His majesty entreats the duke to enter." said Pollnitz, opening the door of the library. The king advanced. He was dressed simply; even the golden star, which was seldom absent from his coat, was now missing.

"Come, duke," said the king, pleasantly, "come into my tusculum." He then entered the library, quickly followed by the duke.

"Well, sir," said the king, "we are now in that room in which I lately told you I was but a republican. You have crossed the threshold of the republic of letters!"

"But I see a king before me," said the duke, bowing reverentially; "a king who has vanquished his republic, and surpassed all the great spirits that have gone before him."

The king's glance rested upon the shelves filled with books, on whose back glittered in golden letters the most distinguished names of all ages.

"Homer, Tacitus, Livy, Petrarch!—ye great spirits of my republic! hear how this traitor slanders you."

"How I honor you, sire, for truly it is a great honor to be subdued and vanquished by such a king as Frederick the Second."

The king looked at him fixedly. "You wish to bewilder me with flattery, duke," said he, "well knowing that it is a sweet opiate, acceptable to princes, generally causing their ruin. But in this chamber, duke, I am safe from this danger, and here in my republic we will both enjoy the Spartan soup of truth. Believe me, sir, it is at times a wholesome dish, though to the pampered stomach it is bitter and distasteful. I can digest it, and as you have come to visit me, you will have to partake of it."

"And I crave it, sire—crave it as a man who has fasted for two weeks."

"For two weeks?" said the king, laughing. "Ah, it is true you have been here just that time."

"For two long weeks has your majesty kept me fasting and longing for this precious soup," said the duke, reproachfully.

"My broth was not ready," said the king, gayly; "it was still bubbling in the pot. It is now done, and we will consume it together. Let us be seated, duke."

If Frederick had turned at this moment, he would have seen the grand chamberlain Pollnitz advancing on tiptoe to the open door, in order to listen to the conversation. But the king was looking earnestly at the ambassador. After a few moments of silence, he turned to the duke.

"Is my soup still too hot for you?" said he, laughingly.

"No, sire," said the duke, bowing. "But I waited for your majesty to take the first spoonful. Would it not be better to close that door?"

"No," said the king, hastily; "I left it open, intentionally, so that your eyes, when wearied with the gloom of my republic, could refresh themselves on the glittering costumes of my courtiers."

"He left it open," thought the duke, "for these courtiers to hear all that is said. He wishes the whole world to know how he rejected the friendship of France."

"Well," said the king, "I will take my spoonful. We will commence without further delay. Duke de Nivernois, you are here because the contract made between France and Prussia is at an end, and because France wishes me to fancy that she is anxious for a renewal of this treaty, and for the friendship of Prussia."

"France wishes to convince you of this, sire," said the duke.

"Convince me?" said the king, ironically. "And how?"

"King Louis of France not only proposes to renew this contract, she, who he wishes to draw the bonds of friendship much closer between France and Prussia."

"And to what end?" said the king. "For you well know, duke, that in politics personal inclinations must not be considered. Were it not so, I would, without further delay, grasp the friendly hand that my brother of France extends toward me, for the whole world knows that I love France, and am proud of the friendship of her great spirits. But as, unfortunately, there is no talk here of personal inclinations but of politics, I repeat my question. To what end does France desire the friendship of Prussia? What am I to pay for it? You see, duke, I am a bad diplomatist—I make no digression, but go to the point at once."

"And that, perhaps, is the nicest diplomacy," said the duke, sighing.

"But, duke, do tell me, why is France so anxious for the friendship of Prussia?"

"To have an ally in you and be your ally. By the first, France will have a trusty and powerful friend in Germany when her lands are attacked by the King of England; by the last, your majesty will have a trusty and powerful friend when Prussia is attacked by Russia or Austria."

"We will now speak of the first," said the king, quietly. "France, then, thinks to transplant this war with England to German ground?"

"Everywhere, sire, that the English colors predominate. England alone will be accountable for this war."

"It is true England has been hard upon you, but still it seems to me you have revenged yourselves sufficiently. When England made herself supreme ruler of the Ohio, France, by the conquest of the Isle of Minorca, obtained dominion over the Mediterranean Sea, thereby wounding England so deeply, that in her despair she turned her weapons against herself. Admiral Byng, having been overcome by your admiral Marquis de la Gallissionaire, paid for it with his life. I think France should be satisfied with this expiation."

"France will wash off her insults in English blood, and Minorca is no compensation for Canada and Ohio. England owes us satisfaction, and we will obtain it in Hanover."

"In Hanover?" repeated the king, angrily.

"Hanover will be ours, sire, though we had no such ally as Germany; but it will be ours the sooner if we have that help which you can give us. Standing between two fires, England will have to succumb, there will be no escape for her. That is another advantage, sire, that France expects from the treaty with Prussia. But I will now speak of the advantages which your majesty may expect from this alliance. You are aware that Prussia is surrounded by threatening enemies; that Austria and Russia are approaching her borders with evil intentions, and that a day may soon come when Maria Theresa may wish to reconquer this Silesia which, in her heart, she still calls her own. When this time comes, your majesty will not be alone; your ally, France, will be at your side; she will repay with faithful, active assistance the services which your majesty rendered her in Hanover. She will not only render her all the assistance in her power, but she will also allow her to partake of the advantages of this victory. Hanover is a rich land, not rich only in products, but in many other treasures. The Electors of Hanover have in their residences not only their chests filled with gold and precious jewels, but also the most magnificent paintings. It is but natural that we should pay ourselves in Hanover for the expenses of this war of which England is the cause. You, then, will share with us these treasures. And still this is not all. France is grateful; she offers you, therefore, one of her colonies, the Isle of Tobago, as a pledge of friendship and love."

"Where is this isle?" said the king, quietly.

"In the West Indies, sire."

"And where is Hanover?"

The duke looked at the king in amazement, and remained silent.

The king repeated his question.

"Well," said the duke, hesitatingly, "Hanover is in Germany."

"And for this German land which, with my aid, France is to conquer, I am to receive as a reward the little Isle of Tobago in the West Indies! Have you finished, dyke, or have you other propositions to make?"

"Sire, I have finished, and await your answer."

"And this answer, duke, shall be clearer and franker than your questions. I will begin by answering the latter part of your speech. Small and insignificant as the King of Prussia may appear in your eyes, I would have you know he is no robber, no highwayman; he leaves these brilliant amusements without envy to France. And now, my dear duke, I must inform you, that since this morning it has been placed out of my power to accept this alliance; for this morning a treaty was signed, by which I became the ally of England!"

"It is impossible, sire," cried the duke; "this cannot be!"

"Not possible, sir!" said the king, "and still it is true. I have formed a treaty with England—this matter is settled! I have been an ally of Louis XV.; I have nothing to complain of in him. I love him; well, am I now his enemy? I hope that there may be a time when I may again approach the King of France. Pray tell him how anxiously I look forward to this time. Tell him I am much attached to him."

"Ah, sire," said the duke, sighing, "it is a great misfortune. I dare not go to my monarch with this sad, unexpected news; my monarch who loves you so tenderly, whose most earnest wish it is for France to be allied to Prussia."

"Ah, duke," said Frederick, laughing, "France wishes for ships as allies. I have none to offer—England has. With her help I shall keep the Russians from Prussia, and with the aid she will keep the French from Hanover."

"We are to be enemies, then?" said the duke, sadly.

"It is a necessary evil, for which there is no remedy. But Louis XV. can form other alliances," said Frederick, ironically. "It may be for his interest to unite with the house of Austria!"

The duke was much embarrassed.

"Your majesty is not in earnest," said he, anxiously.

"Why not, duke?" said Frederick; "an alliance between France and Austria—it sounds very natural. If I were in your place, I would propose this to my court."

He now rose, which was a sign to the duke that the audience was at an end.

"I must now send a courier at once to my court," said the duke, "and I will not fail to state that your majesty advises us to unite with Austria."

"You will do well; that is," said the king, with a meaning smile—"that is, if you think your court is in need of such advice, and has not already acted without it. When do you leave, duke?"

"To-morrow morning, sire."

"Farewell, duke, and do not forget that in my heart I am the friend of France, though we meet as enemies on the battle-field."

The duke bowed reverentially, and, sighing deeply, left the royal library, "the republic of letters," to hasten to Berlin.

The king looked after him thoughtfully.

"The die is cast," said he, softly. "There will be war. Our days of peace and quietude are over, and the days of danger are approaching!"


The sun had just risen, and was shedding its golden rays over the garden of Sans-Souci, decking the awaking flowers with glittering dew-drops. All was quiet—Nature alone was up and doing; no one was to be seen, no sound was to be heard, but the rustling of trees and the chirping of birds. All was still and peaceful; it seemed as if the sound of human misery and passion could not reach this spot. There was something so holy in this garden, that you could but believe it to be a part of paradise in which the serpent had not yet exercised his arts of seduction. But no, this is but a beautiful dream. Man is here, but he is sleeping; he is still resting from the toils and sorrows of the past day. Man is here—he is coming to destroy the peacefulness of Nature with his sorrows and complaints.

The little gate at the farthest end of that shady walk is opened, and a man enters. The dream is at an end, and Sans-Souci is now but a beautiful garden, not a paradise, for it has been desecrated by the foot of man. He hastens up the path leading to the palace; he hurries forward, panting and gasping. His face is colorless, his long hair is fluttering in the morning wind, his eyes are fixed and glaring; his clothes are covered with dust, and his head is bare.

There is something terrifying in the sudden appearance of this man. Nature seems to smile no more since he came; the trees have stopped their whispering, the birds cannot continue their melodious songs since they have seen his wild, anxious look. The peacefulness of Nature is broken. For man—that is to say, misery, misfortune; for man—that is to say, sin, guilt, and meanness—is there, pouring destroying drops of poison in the golden chalice of creation.

Breathlessly he hurries on, looking neither to right nor left. He has now reached the terrace, and now he stops for a moment to recover breath. He sees not the glorious panorama lying at his feet; he is blind to all but himself. He is alone in the world—alone with his misery, his pain. Now he hastens on to the back of the palace. The sentinels walking before the back and the front of the castle know him, know where he is going, and they barely glance at him as he knocks long and loudly at that little side window.

It is opened, and a young girl appears, who, when perceiving this pale, anxious countenance, which is striving in vain to smile at her, cries out loudly, and folds her hands as if in prayer.

"Hush!" said he, roughly; "hush! let me in."

"Some misfortune has happened!" said she, terrified.

"Yes, Rosa, a great misfortune, but let me in, if you do not wish to ruin me."

The young girl disappears, and the man hastens to the side door of the castle. It is opened, and he slips in.

Perfect peace reigns once more in the garden of Sans-Souci. Nature is now smiling, for she is alone with her innocence. Man is not there! But now, in the castle, in the dwelling of the castle warder, and in the room of his lovely daughter Rosa, all is alive. There is whispering, and weeping, and sighing, and praying; there is Rosa, fearful and trembling, her face covered with tears, and opposite her, her pale, woe-begone lover.

"I have been walking all night," said he, with a faint and hollow voice. "I did not know that Berlin was so far from Potsdam, and had I known it, I would not have dared to take a wagon or a horse; I had to slip away very quietly. While by Count Puebla's order my room was guarded, and I thought to be in it, I descended into the garden by the grape-vine, which reached up to my window. The gardener had no suspicion of how I came there, when I required him to unlock the door, but laughed cunningly, thinking I was bound to some rendezvous. And so I wandered on in fear and pain, in despair and anger, and it seemed to me as if the road would never come to an end. At times I stopped, thinking I heard behind me wild cries and curses, the stamping of horses, and the rolling of wheels; but it was imagination. Ah! it was a frightful road; but it is past. But now I will be strong, for this concerns my name, my life, my honor. Why do you laugh, Rosa?" said he, angrily; "do you dare to laugh, because I speak of my name—my honor?"

"I did not laugh," said Rosa, looking with terror at the disturbed countenance of her lover.

"Yes, you laughed, and you were right to laugh, when I spoke of my honor; I who have no honor; I who have shamed my name; I upon whose brow is the sign of murder: for I am guilty of the ruin of a man, and the chains on his hands are cursing my name."

"My God! He is mad," murmured Rosa.

"No, I am not mad," said he, with a heart-breaking smile. "I know all, all! Were I mad, I would not be so unhappy. Were I unconscious, I would suffer less. But, no, I remember all. I know how this evil commenced, how it grew and poisoned my heart. The evil was my poverty, my covetousness, and perhaps also my ambition. I was not content to bear forever the chains of bondage; I wished to be free from want. I determined it should no more be said that the sisters of Count Weingarten had to earn their bread by their needlework, while he feasted sumptuously at the royal table. This it was that caused my ruin. These frightful words buzzed in my ears so long, that in my despair I determined to stop them at any price, and so I committed my first crime, and received a golden reward for my treason. My sisters did not work now; I bought a small house for them, and gave them all that I received. I shuddered at the sight of this money; I would keep none of it. I was again the poor secretary Weingarten, but my family was not helpless; they had nothing to fear."

To whom was he telling all this? Certainly not to that young girl standing before him, pale and trembling. He had forgotten himself; he had forgotten her whom in other days he had called his heart's darling.

As she sank at his feet and covered his hands with her tears, he rose hastily from his seat; he now remembered that he was not alone.

"What have I said?" cried he, wildly. "Why do you weep?"

"I weep because you have forgotten me," said she, softly; "I weep because, in accusing yourself, you make no excuse for your crime; not even your love for your poor Rosa."

"It is true," said he, sadly, "I had forgotten our love. And still it is the only excuse that I have for my second crime. I had determined to be a good man, and to expiate my one crime throughout my whole life. But when I saw you, your beauty fascinated me, and you drew me on. I went with open eyes into the net which you prepared for me, Rosa. I allowed myself to be allured by your beauty, knowing well that it would draw me into a frightful abyss."

"Ah," said Rosa, groaning, "how cruelly you speak of our love!"

"Of our love!" repeated he, shrugging his shoulders. "Child, in this hour we will be true to each other. Ours was no true love. You were in love with my noble name and position—I with your youth, your beauty, your coquettish ways. Our souls were not in unison. You gave yourself to me, not because you loved me, but because you wished to deceive me. I allowed myself to be deceived because of your loveliness and because I saw the golden reward which your deceitful love would bring me."

"You are cruel and unjust," said Rosa, sadly. "It may be true that you never loved me, but I loved you truly. I gave you my whole heart."

"Yes, and in giving it," said he, harshly—"in giving it you had the presence of mind to keep the aim of your tenderness always in view. While your arms were around me, your little hand which seemed to rest upon my heart, sought for the key which I always kept in my vest-pocket, and which I had lately told you belonged to the desk in which the important papers of the embassy were placed. You found this key, Rosa, and I knew it, but I only laughed, and pressed you closer to my heart."

"Terrible! terrible!" said Rosa, trembling. "He knew all, and still he let me do it!"

"Yes I allowed you to do it—I did not wish to be better than the girl I loved: and, as she desired to deceive me, I let myself be deceived. I allowed it, because the demon of gold had taken possession of me. I took the important papers out of my desk, to which you had stolen the key, and hid them. Then the tempters came and whispered of golden rewards, of eternal gratitude, of fortune, honor; and these fiendish whispers misled my soul. I sold my honor and became a traitor, and all this for the sake of gold! So I became what I now am. I do not reproach you Rosa, for most likely it would have happened without you."

"But what danger threatens you now?" asked Rosa.

"The just punishment for a traitor," said he, hoarsely. "Give me some wine, Rosa, so that I can gain strength to go to the king at once."

"To the king at this early hour?"

"And why not? Have I not been with him often at this hour, when I had important news or dispatches to give him? So give me the wine, Rosa."

Rosa left the room, but returned almost instantly. He took the bottle from her and filled a glass hastily.

"Now," said he, breathing deeply, "I feel that I live again. My blood flows freely through my veins, and my heart is beating loudly. Now to the king!"

He stood before a glass for a moment to arrange his hair; then pressed a cold kiss upon Rosa's pale, trembling lips, and left the room. With a firm, sure tread, he hurried through the halls and chambers. No one stopped him, for no one was there to see him. In the king's antechamber sat Deesen taking his breakfast.

"Is the king up?" asked Weingarten.

"The sun has been up for hours, and so of course the king is up," said Deesen, proudly.

"Announce me to his majesty; I have some important news for him."

He entered the king's chamber, and returned in a few moments for Weingarten.

The king was sitting in an arm-chair by a window, which he had opened to breathe the fresh summer air. His white greyhound, Amalthea, lay at his feet, looking up at him with his soft black eyes. In his right hand the king held his flute.

"You are early, sir," said he, turning to Weingarten. "You must have very important news."

"Yes, sire, very important," said Weingarten, approaching nearer.

The king reached out his hand. "Give them to me," said he.

"Sire, I have no dispatches."

"A verbal message, then. Speak."

"Sire, all is lost; Count Puebla suspects me."

The king was startled for a moment, but collected himself immediately. "He suspects, but he is certain of nothing?"

"No, sire; but his suspicion amounts almost to certainty. Yesterday I was copying a dispatch which was to go that evening, and which was of the highest importance to your majesty, when I suddenly perceived Count Puebla standing beside me at my desk. He had entered my room very quietly, which showed that he had his suspicions, and was watching me. He snatched my copy from the desk and read it. 'For whom is this?' said he, in a threatening tone. I stammered forth some excuses; said that I intended writing a history, and that I took a copy of all dispatches for my work. He would not listen to me. 'You are a traitor!' said he, in a thundering voice. 'I have suspected you for some time; I am now convinced of your treachery. You shall have an examination tomorrow; for to-night you will remain a prisoner in your room.' He then locked my desk, put the key in his pocket, and, taking with him the dispatch and my copy, left the room. I heard him lock it and bolt my door. I was a prisoner."

"How did you get out?" said the king.

"By the window, sire. And I flew here to throw myself at your majesty's feet, and to beg for mercy and protection."

"I promised you protection and help in case of your detection—I will fulfil my promise. What are your wishes. Let us see if they can be realized."

"Will your majesty give me some sure place of refuge where Count Puebla's threats cannot harm me?"

"You will remain here in the dwelling of the castle-warder until a suitable residence can be found for you. What next? What plans have you made for the future?"

"I would humbly beseech your majesty to give me some position in your land worthy of my station, such as your highness promised me."

"You remember too many of my promises," said the king, shrugging his shoulders.

"Your majesty will not grant me the promised position?" said Count Weingarten, tremblingly.

"I remember no such promise," said Frederick. "Men of your stamp are paid, but not rewarded. I have made use of your treachery; but you are, nevertheless, in my eyes a traitor, and I will have none such in my service."

"Then I am lost!" said Weingarten. "My honor, my good name, my future are annihilated."

"Your honor has been weighed with gold," said the king, sternly, "and I think I have already paid more for it than it was worth. Your good name, it is true, will be from now changed into a bad one; and your mother will have to blush when she uses it. Therefore I advise you to let it go; to take another name; to begin a new existence, and to found a new future."

"A future without honor, without name, without position!" sighed Weingarten, despairingly.

"So are men!" said the king, softly; "insolent and stubborn when they think themselves secure; cowardly and uncertain when they are in danger. So you were rash enough to think that your treacherous deeds would always remain a secret? You did not think of a possible detection, or prepare yourself for it. In treading the road which you have trodden, every step should be considered. This, it seems to me, you have not done. You wish to enjoy the fruits of your treachery in perfect security; but you have not the courage to stand before the world as a traitor. Do away with this name, which will cause you many dangers and insults. Fly from this place, where you and your deeds are known. Under a different name look for an asylum in another part of my land. Money shall not fail you; and if what you have earned from me is not sufficient, turn to me, and I will lend you still more. I will not forget that to me your treachery has been of great use, and therefore I will not desert you, though I shall despise the traitor. And now, farewell! This is our last meeting. Call this afternoon upon my treasurer; he will pay you two hundred louis d'or. And now go." And with a scornful look at Weingarten's pale countenance, he turned to the window.

Weingarten hurried past the halls and chambers, and entered Rosa's room. She read in his pale, sad face that he had no good news to tell her.

"Has it all been in vain?" said she, breathlessly.

"In vain?" cried he, with a scornful smile. "No, not in vain. The king rewarded me well; much better than Judas Iscariot was rewarded. I have earned a large sum of money, and am still to receive a thousand crowns. Quiet yourself, Rosa; we will be very happy, for we will have money. Only I must ask if the proud daughter of the royal castle-warder will give her hand to a man who can offer her no name, no position. Rosa, I warn you, think well of what you do. You loved me because I was a count, and had position to offer you. From to-day, I have no position, no name, no honor, no family. Like Ahasuerus, I will wander wearily through the world, happy and thanking God if I can find a quiet spot where I am not known, and my name was never heard. There I will rest, and trust to chance for a name. Rosa, will you share with me this existence, without sunshine, without honor, without a name?"

She was trembling so, that she could barely speak.

"I have no choice," stammered she, at last; "I must follow you, for my honor demands that I should be your wife. I must go with you; fate wills it."

With a loud shriek she fainted by his side. Weingarten did not raise her; he glanced wildly at the pale, lifeless woman at his feet.

"We are both condemned," murmured he, "we have both lost our honor. And with this Cain's mark upon our foreheads we will wander wearily through the world." [Footnote: Count Weingarten escaped from all his troubles happily. He married his sweetheart, the daughter of the castle-warder, and went to Altmark, where, under the name of Veis, he lived happily for many years.]

The king, in the mean while, after Weingarten had left him, walked thoughtfully up and down his room. At times he raised his head and gazed with a proud, questioning glance at the sky. Great thoughts were at work within him. Now Frederick throws back his head proudly, and his eyes sparkle.

"The time has come," said he, in a loud, full voice. "The hour for delay is past; now the sword must decide between me and my enemies." He rang a bell hastily, and ordered a valet to send a courier at once to Berlin, to call General Winterfeldt, General Retzow, and also Marshal Schwerin, to Sans-Souci.


A few hours after the departure of the courier, the heavy movement of wheels in the court below announced to the king, who was standing impatiently at his window, the arrival of the expected generals. In the same moment, his chamberlain, opening wide the library door, ushered them into his presence.

"Ah!" said the king, welcoming them pleasantly, "I see I am not so entirely without friends as my enemies think. I have but to call, and Marshal Schwerin, that is, wisdom and victory, is at my side; and Generals Winterfeldt and Retzow, that is, youth and courage, boldness and bravery, are ready to give me all the assistance in their power. Sirs, I thank you for coming to me at once. Let us be seated; listen to what I have to say, and upon what earnest important subjects I wish your advice."

And in a few words the king first showed them the situation of Europe and of his own states, so as to prepare them for the more important subjects he had to introduce before them.

"You will now understand," said he, "why I was so willing to make this contract with England. I hoped thereby to gain Russia, who is allied to England, to my side. But these hopes have been destroyed. Russia, angry with Britain for having allied herself to Prussia, has broken her contract. Bestuchef, it is true, wavered for a moment between his love of English guineas and his hatred of me, but hate carried the day."

"But, sire," said Retzow, hastily, "if your majesty can succeed in making a reconciliation between France and England, you may become the ally of these two powerful nations. Then let Austria, Russia, and Saxony come upon us all at once, we can confront them."

"We can do that, I hope, even without the assistance of France," said the king, impetuously. "We must renounce all idea of help from France; she is allied to Austria. What Kaunitz commenced with his wisdom, Maria Theresa carried out with her flattery. All my enemies have determined to attack me at once. But I am ready for them, weapons in hand. I have been hard at work; all is arranged, every preparation for the march of our army is finished. And now I have called you together to counsel me as to where we can commence our attack advantageously."

Frederick stopped speaking, and gazed earnestly at his generals, endeavoring to divine their thoughts. Marshal Schwerin was looking silently before him; a dark cloud rested upon General Retzow's brow; but the young, handsome face of Winterfeldt was sparkling with delight at the thought of war.

"Well, marshal," said the king, impatiently, "what is your advice?"

"My advice, sire," said the old marshal, sighing; "I see my king surrounded by threatening and powerful foes; I see him alone in the midst of all these allied enemies. For England may, perchance, send us money, but she has no soldiers for us, and moreover, we must assist her to defend Hanover. I cannot counsel this war, for mighty enemies are around us, and Prussia stands alone."

"No," said Frederick, solemnly, "Prussia stands not alone!—a good cause and a good sword are her allies, and with them she will conquer. And now, General Retzow, let us have your opinion."

"I agree entirely with Marshal Schwerin," said Retzow. "Like him, I think Prussia should not venture into this strife, because she is too weak to withstand such powerful adversaries."

"You speak prudently," said Frederick, scornfully. "And now, Winterfeldt, are you also against this war?"

"No, sire," cried Winterfeldt, "I am for the attack, and never were circumstances more favorable than at present. Austria has as yet made no preparations for war; her armies are scattered, and her finances are in disorder; and now it will be an easy task to attack her and subdue her surprised army."

The king looked at him pleasantly, and turning to the other generals, said quietly.

"We must not be carried away by the brave daring of this youth; he is the youngest among us, and is, perhaps, misled by enthusiasm. But we old ones must reflect; and I wished to convince you that I had not failed to do this. But all has been in vain."

"Now is the time," said Winterfeldt, with sparkling eyes, "to convince the crippled, unwieldy Austrian eagle that the young eagle of Prussia has spread her wings, and that her claws are strong enough to grasp all her enemies and hurl them into an abyss."

"And if the young eagle, in spite of his daring, should have to succumb to the superiority of numbers," said Marshal Schwerin, sadly. "If the balls of his enemies should break his wings, thereby preventing his flight for the future? Were it not better to avoid this possibility, and not to allow the whole world to say that Prussia, out of love of conquest, began a fearful war, which she could have avoided?"

"There is no reason in this war," said General Retzow; "for, though Austria, Saxony, and Russia are not our friends, they have not shown as yet by any open act that they are our enemies; and though Austria's alliance with France surprised the world, so also did Prussia's alliance with England. Our soldiers will hardly know why they are going to battle, and they will be wanting in that inspiration which is necessary to excite an army to heroic deeds."

"Inspiration shall not be wanting, and my army as well as yourselves shall know the many causes we have for this war. The reasons I have given you as yet have not satisfied you? Well, then, I will give you others; and, by Heaven, you will be content with them! You think Austria's unkindly feelings to Prussia have not been shown by any overt act. I will now prove to you that she is on the point of acting." And Frederick, lifting up some papers from his desk, continued: "These papers will prove to you, what you seem determined not to believe, namely, that Saxony, Russia, and, France are prepared to attack Prussia with their combined forces, and to turn the kingdom of Prussia into a margraviate once more. These papers are authentic proofs of the dangers which hover over us. I will now inform you how I came by them, so that you may be convinced of their genuineness. For some time I have suspected that there was, amongst my enemies, an alliance against me, and that they had formed a contract in which they had sworn to do all in their power to destroy Prussia. I only needed to have my suspicions confirmed, and to have the proofs of this contract in my hands. There proofs were in the Saxon archives, and in the dispatches of the Austrian embassy. It was therefore necessary to get the key of these archives, and to have copies of these dispatches. I succeeded in doing both, Chance, or if you prefer it, a kind Providence, came to my aid. The Saxon chancellor, Reinitz, a former servant of General Winterfeldt, came from Dresden to Potsdam to look for Winterfeldt and to confide to him that a friend of his, Chancellor Minzel of Dresden, had informed him that the state papers interchanged between the court of Vienna and Dresden were kept in the Dresden archives, of which he had the key. Winterfeldt brought me this important message. Reinitz conducted the first negotiations with Menzel, which I then delivered into the hands of my ambassador in Dresden, Count Mattzahn. Menzel was poor and covetous. He was therefore easily to be bribed. For three years Mattzahn has received copies of every dispatch that passed between the three courts. I am quite as well informed of all negotiations between Austria and France, for the secretary of the Austrian legation of this place, a Count Weingarten, gave me, for promises and gold, copies of all dispatches that came from Vienna and were forwarded to France. You see the corruption of man has borne me good fruit, and that gold is a magic wand which reveals all secrets. And now let us cast a hasty glance over these papers which I have obtained by the aid of treachery and bribery."

He took one of the papers and spread it before the astonished generals. "You see here," he continued, "a sample of all other negotiations. It is a copy of a share contract which the courts of Vienna and Dresden formed in 1745. They then regarded the decline of Prussia as so sure an occurrence that they had already divided amongst themselves the different parts of my land. Russia soon affixed her name also to this contract, and here in this document you will see that these three powers have sworn to attack Prussia at the same moment, and that for this conquest, each one of the named courts was to furnish sixty thousand men."

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