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Frederick The Great and His Family
by L. Muhlbach
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While the generals were engaged in reading these papers, the king leaned back in his arm-chair, gazing keenly at Retzow and Schwerin. He smiled gayly as he saw Schwerin pressing his lips tightly together, and trying in vain to suppress a cry of rage, and Retzow clinching his fists vehemently.

When the papers had been read, and Schwerin was preparing to speak, the king, with his head thrown proudly back, and gazing earnestly at his listeners, interrupted him, saying:

"Now, sirs, perhaps you see the dangers by which we are surrounded. Under the circumstances, I owe it to myself, to my honor, and to the security of my land, to attack Austria and Saxony, and so to nip their abominable designs in me bud, before their allies are ready to give them any assistance. I am prepared, and the only question to be answered before setting our army in motion, is where to commence the attack to our advantage? For the deciding of this question, I have called you together. I have finished and now, Marshal Schwerin, it is your turn."

The old gray warrior arose. It may be that he was convinced by the powerful proofs and words of the king, or that knowing that his will was law it were vain to oppose him, but he was now as strongly for war as the king or Winterfeldt.

"If there is to be war," said he, enthusiastically, "let us start to-morrow, take Saxony, and, in that land of corn, build magazines for the holding of our provisions, so as to secure a way for our future operations in Bohemia."

"Ah! now I recognize my old Schwerin," said the king, gayly pressing the marshal's hand. "No more delay! 'To anticipate' is my motto, and shall, God willing, be Prussia's in future."

"And our army," said Winterfeldt, with sparkling eyes, "has been accustomed, for hundreds of years, not only to defend themselves, but also to attack. Ah, at last it is to be granted us to fight our arch-enemies in open field, mischief-making Austria, intriguing Saxony, barbarous Russia, and finally lying, luxurious France, and to convince them that, though we do not fear their anger, we share their hatred with our whole hearts."

"And you, Retzow," said the king, sternly, turning to the general, who was sitting silently with downcast head; "do your views coincide with Schwerin's? Or do you still think it were better to wait?"

"Yes, sire," said Retzow, sadly; "I think delay, under the present threatening circumstances, would be the wisest course; I—"

He was interrupted by the entrance of a valet, who approached the king, and whispered a few words to him.

Frederick turned smilingly to the generals. "The princes, my brothers, have arrived," said he; "they were to be here at this hour to hear the result of our consultation. And, it strikes me, they arrive at the right moment. The princes may enter."



CHAPTER IX. THE KING AND HIS BROTHERS.

The door was thrown open and the princes entered. First came the Prince of Prussia, whose pale, dejected countenance was to-day paler and sadder than usual. Then Prince Henry, whose quick bright eyes were fixed inquiringly on General Retzow. The general shrugged his shoulders, and shook his head. Prince Henry must have understood these movements, for his brow became clouded, and a deep red suffused his countenance. The king, who had seen this, laughed mockingly, and let the princes approach very close to him, before addressing them.

"Sirs," said he, "I have called you here, because I have some important news to communicate. The days of peace are over and war is at hand!"

"War! and with whom?" said the Prince of Prussia, earnestly. "War with our enemies!" cried the king. "War with those who have sworn Prussia's destruction. War with Austria, France, Saxony, and Russia!"

"That is impossible, my brother," cried the prince, angrily. "You cannot dream of warring against such powerful nations. You cannot believe in the possibility of victory. Powerful and mighty as your spirit is it will have to succumb before the tremendous force opposed to it. Oh! my brother! my king! be merciful to yourself, to us, to our country. Do not desire the impossible! Do not venture into the stormy sea of war, to fight with your frail barks against the powerful men of war that your enemies, will direct against you. We cannot be victorious! Preserve to your country your own precious life, and that of her brave sons."

The king's eyes burned with anger; they were fixed with an expression of deep hatred upon the prince.

"Truly, my brother," said he, in a cold, cutting tone, "fear has made you eloquent. You speak as if inspired."

A groan escaped the prince, and he laid his hand unwittingly upon his sword. He was deadly pale, and his lips trembled so violently, that he could scarcely speak.

"Fear!" said he, slowly. "That is an accusation which none but the king would dare to bring against me, and of which I will clear myself, if it comes to this unhappy war which your majesty proposes, and which I now protest against, in the name of my rights, my children, and my country."

"And I," said Prince Henry, earnestly—"I also protest against this war! Have pity on us, my king. Much as I thirst for renown and glory, often as I have prayed to God to grant me an occasion to distinguish myself, I now swear to subdue forever this craving for renown, if it can only be obtained at the price of this frightful, useless war. You stand alone! Without allies, it is impossible to conquer. Why, then, brave certain ruin and destruction?"

The king's countenance was frightful to look at; his eyes were flashing with rage, and his voice was like thunder, it was so loud and threatening.

"Enough of this!" said he; "you were called here, not to advise, but to receive my commands. The brother has heard you patiently, but now the King of Prussia stands before you, and demands of you obedience and submission. We are going to battle; this is settled; and your complaints and fears will not alter my determination But all those who fear to follow me on the battle-field, have my permission to remain at home, and pass their time in love idyls. Who, amongst you all, prefers this? Let him speak, and he shall follow his own inclinations."

"None of us could do that," said Prince Henry, passionately "If the King of Prussia calls his soldiers, they will all come and follow their chieftain joyfully, though they are marching to certain death. I have already given you my personal opinion; it now rests with me to obey you, as a soldier, as a subject. This I will do joyfully, without complaining."

"I also," said Prince Augustus William, earnestly. "Like my brother, I will know how to subdue my own opinions and fears, and to follow in silent obedience my king and my chieftain."

The king threw a glance of hatred upon the pale, disturbed countenance of the prince.

"You will go where I command you," said he, sharply; and not giving the prince time to answer, he turned abruptly to Marshal Schwerin.

"Well, marshal, do you wish for a furlough, during this war? You heard me say I would refuse it to no one."

"I demand nothing of your majesty, but to take part in the first battle against your enemies. I do not ask who they are. The hour for consultation is past: it is now time to act. Let us to work, and that right quickly."

"Yes, to battle, sire," cried Retzow, earnestly. "As soon as your majesty has said that this war is irrevocable, your soldiers must have no further doubts, and they will follow you joyfully, to conquer or to die."

"And you, Winterfeldt," said the king, taking his favorite's hand tenderly; "have you nothing to say? Or have the Prince of Prussia's fears infected you, and made of you a coward?"

"Ah, no! sire," said Winterfeldt, pressing the king's hand to his breast; "how could my courage fail, when it is Prussia's hero king that leads to battle? How can I be otherwise than joyous and confident of victory, when Frederick calls us to fight against his wicked and arrogant enemies? No! I have no fears; God and the true cause is on our side."

Prince Henry approached nearer to the king, and looking at him proudly, he said:

"Sire, you asked General Winterfeldt if he shared the Prince of Prussia's fears. He says no; but I will beg your majesty to remember, that I share entirely the sentiments of my dear and noble brother."

As he finished, he threw an angry look at General Winterfeldt. The latter commenced a fierce rejoinder, but was stopped by the king. "Be still, Winterfeldt," he said; "war has as yet not been declared, and till then, let there at least be peace in my own house." Then approaching Prince Henry, and laying his hand on his shoulder, he said kindly: "We will not exasperate each other, my brother. You have a noble, generous soul, and no one would dare to doubt your courage. It grieves me that you do not share my views as to the necessity of this war, but I know that you will be a firm, helpful friend, and share with me my dangers, my burdens, and if God wills it, also my victory."

"Not I alone will do this," cried Prince Henry, "but also my brother, Augustus William, the Prince of Prussia, whose heart is not less brave, whose courage—"

"Hush, Henry! I pray you," said the Prince of Prussia, sadly; "speak not of my courage. By defending it, it would seem that it had been doubted, and that is a humiliation which I would stand from no one"

The king appeared not to have heard these words. He took some papers from the table by which he was standing, and said:

"All that remains to be told you now, is that I agree with Marshal Schwerin. We will commence the attack in Saxony. To Saxony, then, gentlemen! But, until the day before the attack, let us keep even the question of war a secret."

Then, with the paper under his arm, he passed through the saloon and entered his library.

There was a long pause after he left. The Prince of Prussia, exhausted by the storm which had swept over his soul, had withdrawn to one of the windows, where he was hid from view by the heavy satin damask curtains.

Prince Henry, standing alone in the middle of the room, gazed after his brother, and a deep sigh escaped him. Then turning to Retzow, he said:

"You would not, then, fulfil my brother's and my own wishes?"

"I did all that was in my power, prince," said the general, sighing. "Your highness did not wish this war to take place; you desired me, if the king asked for my advice, to tell him that we were too weak, and should therefore keep the peace. Well, I said this, not only because you desired it, but because it was also my own opinion. But the king's will was unalterable. He has meditated this war for years. Years ago, with Winterfeldt's aid, he drew all the plans and made every other arrangement."

"Winterfeldt!" murmured the prince to himself, "yes, Winterfeldt is the fiend whose whispers have misled the king. We suspected this long ago, but we had to bear it in silence, for we could not prevent it."

And giving his passionate nature full play, he approached General Winterfeldt, who was whispering to Marshal Schwerin.

"You can rejoice, general," said the prince, "for now you can take your private revenge on the Empress of Russia."

Winterfeldt encountered the prince's angry glance with a quiet, cheerful look.

"Your highness does me too much honor in thinking that a poor soldier, such as I am, could be at enmity with a royal empress. What could this Russian empress have done to me, that could call for revenge on my part?"

"What has she done to you?" said the prince, with a mocking smile. "Two things, which man finds hardest to forgive! She outwitted you, and took your riches from you. Ah! general, I fear this war will be in vain, and that you will not be able to take your wife's jewels from St. Petersburg, where the empress retains them."

Winterfeldt subdued his anger, and replied: "You have related us a beautiful fairy tale, prince, a tale from the Arabian Nights, in which there is a talk of jewels and glorious treasures, only that in this tale, instead of the usual dragon, an empress guards them. I acknowledge that I do not understand your highness."

"But I understand you perfectly, general. I know your ambitious and proud plans. You wish to make your name renowned. General, I consider you are much in fault as to this war. You were the king's confidant—you had your spies everywhere, who, for heavy rewards, imparted to you the news by which you stimulated the king."

"If in your eyes," said Winterfeldt, proudly, "it is wrong to spend your gold to find out the intrigues of your own, your king's, and your country's enemies, I acknowledge that I am in fault, and deserve to be punished. Yes, everywhere I have had my spies, and thanks to them, the king knows Saxony's, Austria's, and Russia's intentions. I paid these spies with my own gold. Your highness may thus perceive that I am not entirely dependent on those jewels of my wife which are said to be in the Empress of Russia's possession."

At this moment the Prince of Prussia, who had been a silent witness to this scene, approached General Winterfeldt.

"General," said he, in a loud, solemn voice, "you are the cause of this unfortunate war which will soon devastate our poor land. The responsibility falls upon your head, and woe to you if this war, caused by your ambition, should be the ruin of our beloved country! I would, if there were no punishment for you on earth, accuse you before the throne of God, and the blood of the slaughtered sons of my country, the blood of my future subjects, would cry to Heaven for revenge! Woe to you it this war should be the ruin of Prussia!" repeated Prince Henry. "I could never forgive that; I would hold your ambition responsible for it, for you have access to the king's heart, and instead of dissipating his distrust against these foreign nations, you have endeavored to nourish it—instead of softening the king's anger, you have given it fresh food."

"What I have done," cried Winterfeldt, solemnly raising his right hand heavenward—"what I have done was done from a feeling of duty, from love of my country, and from a firm, unshaken trust in my king's star, which cannot fade, but must become ever more and more resplendent! May God punish me if I have acted from other and less noble motives!"

"Yes, may God punish you—may He not revenge your crime upon our poor country!" said Prince Augustus William. "I have said my last upon this sad subject. From now on, my private opinions are subdued—I but obey the king's commands. What he requires of me shall be done—where he sends me I will go, without questioning or considering, but quietly and obediently, as it becomes a true soldier. I hope that you, my brother, Marshal Schwerin, and General Retzow, will follow my example. The king has commanded, we have but to obey cheerfully."

Then, arm in arm, the princes left the audience-room and returned to Berlin.



CHAPTER X. THE LAUREL-BRANCH.

While this last scene was passing in the audience-room, the king had retired to his study, and was walking up and down in deep thought. His countenance was stern and sorrowful—a dark cloud was upon his brow—his lips were tightly pressed together—powerful emotions were disturbing his whole being. He stopped suddenly, and raising his head proudly, seemed to be listening to the thoughts and suggestions of his soul.

"Yes," said he, "these were his very words: 'I protest against this war in the name of my rights, my children, and my country!' Ah, it is a pleasant thought to him that he is to be heir to my throne. He imagines that he has rights beyond those that I grant him, and that he can protest against an action of mine! He is a rebel, a traitor. He dares to think of the time when I will be gone—of the time when he or his children will wear this crown! I feel that I hate him as my father hated me because I was his heir, and because the sight of me always reminded him of his death! Yes, I hate him! The effeminate boy will disturb the great work which I am endeavoring to perform. Under his weak hands, this Prussia, which I would make great and powerful, will fail to pieces, and all my battles and conquests will be in vain. He will not know how to make use of them. I will make of my Prussia a mighty and much-feared nation. And if I succeed, by giving up my every thought to this one object, then my brother will come and destroy this work which has cost me such pain and trouble. Prussia needs a strong, active king, not an effeminate boy who passes his life in sighing for his lost love and in grumbling at fate for making him the son of a king. Yes, I feel that I hate him, for I foresee that he will be the destroyer of my great work. But no, no—I do him wrong," said the king, "and my suspicious heart sees, perhaps, things that are not. Ah, has it gone so far? Must I, also, pay the tribute which princes give for their pitiful splendor? I suspect the heir to my throne, and see in him a secret enemy! Mistrust has already thrown her shadow upon my soul, and made it dark and troubled. Ah, there will come a cold and dreary night for me, when I shall stand alone in the midst of all my glory!"

His head fell upon his breast, and he remained silent and immovable.

"And am I not alone, now?" said he, and in his voice there was a soft and sorrowful sound. "My brothers are against me, because they do not understand me; my sisters fear me, and, because this war will disturb their peace and comfort, will hate me. My mother's heart has cooled toward me, because I will not be influenced by her; and Elizabeth Christine, whom the world calls my wife, weeps in solitude over the heavy chains which bind her. Not one of them loves me!—not one believes in me, and in my future!"

The king, given up to these melancholy thoughts, did not hear a knock at his door; it was now repeated, and so loudly, that he could not but hear it. He hastened to the door and opened it. Winterfeldt was there, with a sealed paper in his hand, which he gave to the king, begging him at the same time to excuse this interruption.

"It is the best thing you could have done," said the king, entering his room, and signing to the general to follow him. "I was in bad company, with my own sorrowful thoughts, and it is good that you came to dissipate them."

"This letter will know well how to do that," said Winterfeldt handing him the packet; "a courier brought it to me from Berlin."

"Letters from my sister Wilhelmina, from Italy," said the king, joyfully breaking the seal, and unfolding the papers.

There were several sheets of paper closely written, and between them lay a small, white packet. The king kept the latter in his hand, and commenced reading eagerly. As he read, the dark, stern expression gradually left his countenance. His brow was smooth and calm, and a soft, beautiful smile played about his lips. He finished the letter, and throwing it hastily aside, tore open the package. In it was a laurel-branch, covered with beautiful leaves, which looked as bright and green as if they had just been cut. The king raised it, and looked at it tenderly. "Ah, my friend," said he, with a beaming smile, "see how kind Providence is to me! On this painful day she sends me a glorious token, a laurel-branch. My sister gathered it for me on my birthday. Do you know where, my friend? Bow your head, be all attention; for know that it is a branch from the laurel-tree that grows upon Virgil's grave! Ah, my friend, it seems to me as if the great and glorious spirits of the olden ages were greeting me with this laurel which came from the grave of one of their greatest poets. My sister sends it to me, accompanied by some beautiful verses of her own. An old fable says that these laurels grew spontaneously upon Virgil's grave, and that they are indestructible. May this be a blessed omen for me! I greet you, Virgil's holy shadow! I bow down before you, and kiss in all humility your ashes, which have been turned into laurels!"

Thus speaking, the king bowed his head, and pressed a fervent kiss upon the laurel. He then handed it to Winterfeldt. "Do likewise, my friend," said he; "your lips are worthy to touch this holy branch, to inhale the odor of these leaves which grew upon Virgil's grave. Kiss this branch—and now let us swear to become worthy of this kiss; swear that in this war, which will soon begin, laurels shall either rest upon our brows or upon our graves!"

Winterfeldt having sworn, repeated these words after him, "Amen!" said the king; "God and Virgil have heard us."



CHAPTER XI. THE BALL AT COUNT BRUHL'S.

Count Bruhl, first minister to the King of Saxony, gave to-day a magnificent fete in his palace, in honor of his wife, whose birthday it was. The feast was to be honored by the presence of the King of Poland, the Prince Elector of Saxony, Augustus III., and Maria Josephine, his wife. This was a favor which the proud queen granted to her favorite for the first time. For she who had instituted there the stern Spanish etiquette to which she had been accustomed at the court of her father, Joseph I., had never taken a meal at the table of one of her subjects; so holy did she consider her royal person, that the ambassadors of foreign powers were not permitted to sit at the same table with her. Therefore, at every feast at the court of Dresden, there was a small table set apart for the royal family, and only the prime minister, Count Bruhl, was deserving of the honor to eat with the king and queen. This was a custom which pleased no one so well as the count himself, for it insured him from the danger that some one might approach the royal pair, and inform them of some occurrence of which the count wished them to remain in ignorance.

There were many slanderers in this wretched kingdom—many who were envious of the count's high position—many who dared to believe that the minister employed the king's favor for his own good, and not for that of his country. They said that he alone lived luxuriously in this miserable land, while the people hungered; that he spent every year over a million of thalers. They declared that he had not less than five millions now lying in the banks of Rotterdam, Venice, and Marseilles; others said that he had funds to the amount of seven millions. One of these calumniators might possibly approach the king's table and whisper into the royal ear his wicked slanders; one of these evil-doers might even have the audacity to make his unrighteous complaints to the queen. This it was that caused Count Bruhl to tremble; this it was that robbed him of sleep at night, of peace by day, this fear of a possible disgrace.

He was well acquainted with the history of Count Lerma, minister to King Philip IV. of Spain. Lerma was also the ruler of a king, and reigned over Spain, as Bruhl over Saxony. All had succumbed to his power and influence, even the royal family trembled when he frowned, and felt themselves honored by his smile. What was it that caused the ruin of this all-powerful, irreproachable favorite? A little note which King Philip found between his napkin one day, upon which was this address: "To Philip IV., once King of Spain, and Master of both the Indies, but now in the service of Count Lerma!" This it was that caused the count's ruin; Philip was enraged by this note, and the powerful favorite fell into disgrace.

Count Bruhl knew this history, and was on his guard. He knew that even the air which he breathed was poisoned by the malice of his enemies; that those who paused in the streets to greet him reverentially when he passed in his gilded carriage, cursed him in their inmost hearts; that those friends who pressed his hand and sung songs in his praise, would become his bitterest enemies so soon as he ceased paying for their friendship with position, with pensions, with honors, and with orders. He spent hundreds of thousands yearly to gain friends and admirers, but still he was in constant fear that some enemy would undermine him. This had indeed once happened. During the time that the king's favor was shared equally with Count Bruhl, Count Sulkovsky, and Count Hennicke, whilst playing cards, a piece of gold was given to the king, upon which was represented the crown of Poland, resting upon the shoulders of three men, with the following inscription: "There are three of us, two pages and one lackey!" The King of Poland was as much enraged by this satirical piece of gold as was the King of Spain by his satirical note. But Count Bruhl succeeded in turning the king's anger upon the two other shoulder-bearers of his crown. Counts Sulkovsky and Hennicke fell into disgrace, and were banished from the court; Count Bruhl remained, and reigned as absolute master over Poland and Saxony!

But reigning, he still trembled, and therefore he favored the queen's fancy for the strictest etiquette; therefore, no one but Count Bruhl was to eat at the royal table; he himself took their napkins from their plates and handed them to the royal couple; no one was to approach the sovereigns who was not introduced by the prime minister, who was at once master of ceremonies, field-marshal, and grand chamberlain, and received for each of these different posts a truly royal salary. Etiquette and the fears of the powerful favorite kept the royal pair almost prisoners.

But for to-day etiquette was to be done away with; the crowned heads were to be gracious, so as to lend a new glory to their favorite's house. To-day the count was fearless, for there was no danger of a traitor being among his guests. His wife and himself had drawn up the list of invitations. But still, as there might possibly be those among them who hated the count, and would very gladly injure him, he had ordered some of the best paid of his friends to watch all suspicious characters, not to leave them alone for a moment, and not to overlook a single word of theirs. Of course, it was understood that the count and his wife must remain continually at the side of the king and queen, that all who wished to speak to them must first be introduced by the host or hostess.

The count was perfectly secure to-day, and therefore gay and happy. He had been looking at the different arrangements for this feast, and he saw with delight that they were such as to do honor to his house. It was, to be a summer festival: the entire palace had been turned into a greenhouse, that served only for an entrance to the actual scene of festivities. This was the immense garden. In the midst of the rarest and most beautiful groups of flowers, immense tents were raised; they were of rich, heavy silk, and were festooned at the sides with golden cords and tassels. Apart from these was a smaller one, which outshone them all in magnificence. The roof of this tent rested upon eight pillars of gold; it was composed of a dark-red velvet, over which a slight gauze, worked with gold and silver stars, was gracefully arranged. Upon the table below this canopy, which rested upon a rich Turkish carpet, there was a heavy service of gold, and the most exquisite Venetian glass; the immense pyramid in the middle of the table was a master-work of Benevenuto Cellini, for which the count had paid in Rome one hundred thousand thalers. There were but seven seats, for no one was to eat at this table but the royal pair, the prince-elector and his wife, the Prince Xavier, and the Count and Countess Bruhl. This was a new triumph that the count had prepared for himself; he wished his guests to see the exclusive royal position he occupied. And no one could remain in ignorance of this triumph, for from every part of the garden the royal tent could be seen, being erected upon a slight eminence. It was like a scene from fairyland. There were rushing cascades, beautiful marble statues, arbors and bowers, in which were birds of every color from every clime. Behind a group of trees was a lofty structure of the purest marble, a shell, borne aloft by gigantic Tritons and mermaids, in which there was room for fifty musicians, who were to fill the air with sweet sounds, and never to become so loud as to weary the ear or disturb conversation. If the tents, the rushing cascades, the rare flowers, the many colored birds, were a beautiful sight by daylight, how much more entrancing it would be at night, when illuminated by thousands of brilliant lamps!

The count, having taken a last look at the arrangements and seen that they were perfect, now retired to his rooms, and there, with the aid of his twelve valets, he commenced his toilet. The countess had already been in the hands of her Parisian coiffeur for some hours.

The count wore a suit of blue velvet. The price of embroidery in silver and pearls on his coat would have furnished hundreds of wretched, starving families with bread. His diamond shoe-buckles would almost have sufficed to pay the army, which had gone unpaid for months. When his toilet was finished, he entered his study to devote a few moments, at least, to his public duties, and to read those letters which to-day's post had brought him from all parts of the world, and which his secretary was accustomed to place in his study at this hour. He took a letter, broke the seal hastily, and skimming over it quickly, threw it aside and opened another, to read anew the complaints, the prayers, the flatteries, the assurances of love, of his correspondents. But none of them were calculated to compel the minister's attention. He had long ago hardened his heart against prayers and complaints; as for flattery, he well knew that he had to pay for it with pensions, with position, with titles, with orders, etc., etc. But it seemed as if the letters were not all of the usual sort, for the expression of indifference which had rested upon his countenance while reading the others, had vanished and given place to one of a very different character. This letter was from Flemming, the Saxon ambassador in Berlin, and contained strange, wild rumors. The King of Prussia, it seemed, had left Berlin the day before, with all the princes and his staff officers, and no one knew exactly where he was going! Rumor said, though, that he and his army were marching toward Saxony! After reading this, Count Bruhl broke out into a loud laugh.

"Well," said he, "it must be granted that this little poet-king, Frederick, has the art of telling the most delightful fairy-tales to his subjects, and of investing every action of his with the greatest importance. Ah, Margrave of Brandenburg! we will soon be in a condition to take your usurped crown from your head. Parade as much as you like—make the world believe in you and your absurd manoeuvres—the day will soon come when she will but see in you a poor knight with naught but his title of marquis." With a triumphant smile he threw down the letter and grasped the next. "Another from Flemming?" said he. "Why, truly, the good count is becoming fond of writing. Ah," said he, after reading it carelessly, "more warnings! He declares that the King of Prussia intends attacking Saxony—that he is now already at our borders. He then adds, that the king is aware of the contract which we and our friends have signed, swearing to attack Prussia simultaneously. Well, my good Flemming, there is not much wisdom needed to tell me that if the king knows of our contract, he will be all the more on his guard, and will make preparations to defend himself; for he would not be so foolhardy as to attempt to attack our three united armies. No, no. Our regiments can remain quietly in Poland, the seventeen thousand men here will answer all purposes."

"There is but one more of these begging letters," said he, opening it, but throwing it aside without reading it. Out of it fell a folded piece of paper. "Why," said the count, taking it up, "there are verses. Has Flemming's fear of the Prussian king made a poet of him?" He opened it and read aloud:

"'A piece of poetry which a friend, Baron Pollnitz, gave me yesterday. The author is the King of Prussia.'"

"Well," said the count, laughing, "a piece of poetry about me—the king does me great honor. Let us see; perhaps these verses can be read at the table to-day, and cause some amusement. 'Ode to Count Bruhl,' with this inscription: 'il ne faut pas s'inquieter de l'avsnir.' That is a wise philosophical sentence, which nevertheless did not spring from the brain of his Prussian majesty. And now for the verses." And straightening the paper before him, he commenced.

"Esclave malheureux de la haute fortune, D'un roi trop indolent souverain absolu, Surcharge de travaux dont le soin L'importune. Bruhl, quitte des grandeurs L'embarras superflu. Au sein de ton opulence Je vois le Dieu des ennuis, Et dans ta magnificence Le repos fait tes units.

"Descend de ce palais dont le superbe faite Domine sur la Saxe, s'elevent aux cieux. D'ou ton esprit craintif conjure la tempete Que souleve ala cour un peuple d'envieux: Vois cette grandeur fragile Et cesse enfin d'admirer L'eclat pompeux d'une ville Ou tout feint de t'adorer."

The count's voice had at first been loud, pathetic, and slightly ironical, but it became gradually lower, and sank at last almost to a whisper. A deep, angry red suffused his face, as he read on. Again his voice became louder as he read the last two verses:

"Connaissez la Fortune inconstante et legere; La perfide se plait aux plus cruels revers, On la voit, abuber le sage, le vulgaire, Jouer insolemment tout ce faible univers; Aujourd'hui c'est sur ma tete Qu'elle repand des faveurs, Des demain elle s'apprete A les emporter ailleurs."

"Fixe-t-elle sur moi sa bizarre inconstance, Mon concur lui saura gre' du bien qu'elle me fait Veut'elle en d'autres lieux marquer sa bienvellance, Je lui remets ses dons sans chagrin, sans regret. Plein d'une vertu plus forte J'epouse la pauvrete' Si pour dot elle m'apporte L'honneur et la probite'"

[Footnote: ODE TO COUNT BRUHL. Inscription.—"It is not necessary to make ourselves uneasy about the future."

"High Destiny's unhappy slave, Absolute lord of too indolent a king, Oppressed with work whose care importunes him— Bruhl, leave the useless perplexities of grandeur. In the bosom of thine opulence I see the God of the wearied ones, And in thy magnificence Repose makes thy nights."

"Descend from this palace, whose haughty dome Towering o'er Saxony, rises to the skies; In which thy fearful mind confines the tempest. Which agitates at the court, a nation of enviers. Look at this fragile grandeur, And cease at last to admire The pompous shining of a city Where all feign to adore thee."

"Know that Fortune is light and inconstant; A deceiver who delights in cruel reverses; She is seen to abuse the wise man, the vulgar Insolently playing with all this weak universe. To-day it is on my head That she lets her favors fall, By to-morrow she will be prepared To carry them elsewhere."

"Does she fix on me her wayward fickleness, My heart will be grateful for the good she does me; Does she wish to show elsewhere her benevolence, I give her back her gifts without pain—without regret. Filled with strongest virtue, I will espouse Poverty, If for dower she brings me Honor and probity."]

The paper fell from the count's hand and he looked at it thoughtfully. An expression of deep emotion rested upon his countenance, which, in spite of his fifty years, could still be called handsome—as he repeated in a low, trembling voice:

"J'epouse la pauvrete, Si pour dot elle m'apporte L'honneur et la probite."

The sun coming through the window rested upon his tall form, causing the many jewels upon his garments to sparkle like stars on the blue background, enveloping him in a sort of glory. He had repeated for the third time, "J'epouse la pauvrete," when the door leading to his wife's apartments was opened, and the countess entered in the full splendor of her queenly toilet, sparkling with jewels. The count was startled by her entrance, but he now broke out into a loud, mocking laugh.

"Truly, countess," said he, "you could not have found a better moment to interrupt me. For the last half hour my thoughts have been given up to sentiment. Wonderful dreams have been chasing each other through my brain. But you have again shown yourself my good angel, Antonia, by dissipating these painful thoughts." He pressed a fervent kiss upon her hand, then looking at her with a beaming countenance, he said:

"How beautiful you are, Antonia; you must have found that mysterious river which, if bathed in, insures perpetual youth and beauty."

"Ah!" said the countess, smiling, "all know that no one can flatter so exquisitely as Count Bruhl."

"But I am not always paid with the same coin, Antonia," said the count, earnestly. "Look at this poem, that the King of Prussia has written of me. Truly, there is no flattery in it."

While reading, the countess's countenance was perfectly clear; not the slightest cloud was to be seen upon her brow.

"Do you not think it a good poem?" said she, indifferently.

"Well," said he, "I must acknowledge that there was a certain fire in it that touched my heart."

"I find it stupid," said she, sternly. "There is but one thing in it that pleases me, and that is the title-'il ne faut pas s'inquieter de l'avenir.' The little King of Prussia has done well to choose this for his motto, for without it, it strikes me, his peace would be forever gone, for his future will surely be a humiliating one."

The count laughed.

"How true that is!" said he "and a just answer to his stupid poem. Speak of something else."

He tore the paper into small pieces, which, with a graceful bow, he laid at the feet of the countess.

"A small sacrifice," said he, "which I bring to my goddess. Tread upon it, and destroy the king's words with your fairy foot." The countess obeyed him, laughingly.

"But now, count," said she, "we will, for a moment, speak of graver things. I have received letters from Loudon-from our son. Poor Henry is in despair, and he has requested me to intercede for him. You were always very stern with him, my friend, therefore he fears your anger, now that he has been a little imprudent."

"Well, what is it?" said the count; "I hope it is no duel, for that would make me extremely angry."

"It is nothing of that kind. His imprudence is of another sort, He is in want of money."

"Money!" said the count, in amazement; "why, barely a month ago, I sent him six hundred thousand thalers. That, and what he took with him, three months ago, is quite a large sum, for it amounts to more than a million of thalers."

"But, my dear husband, in England every thing is so dear! and there, to move amongst and impress those rich lords, he must really have more. It seems that our Charles Joseph has fallen in love with a lady whom all Loudon worships for her surpassing beauty. But she, having a cold heart, will listen to no one. She laughs at those who flatter her, and will receive no presents. She seemed an invincible fortress, but our son, thanks to stratagem, has taken it."

"I am curious to know how," said the count, laughing.

"He played a game of ecarte with her. He played for notes to the amount of ten pounds, and, at first, Charles won, much to the displeasure of the proud lady, who did not relish being beaten, even in a game of cards. Charles, perceiving this, played badly. The lady won from him eighty thousand pounds."

"Eighty thousand pounds," cried the count, "why, that is a half a million of thalers!"

"And do you mean to say," said the countess, angrily, "that that is too much to gain the favor of a beautiful lady?"

"No! it is not too much; but it is certainly enough. I hope, at least, it was not in vain."

"No, no! and Loudon is now raving about the intellectual, genial and generous son of Count Bruhl. I trust, count, that you instantly sent him a check."

"Yes," said the count, shrugging his shoulders. "But, countess, if the king were to hear this story, it would cause much evil; for you know that he believes in economy; luckily for me, he believes me to be an economical man. Those enemies who would not dare to accuse us, would have no fears of saying evil of our son; he will certainly hear this eighty-thousand-pound story."

"We will tell him ourselves, but say that the story is much exaggerated."

"What a wonderful woman you are, Antonia!" said her husband; "your counsel is wise; we will follow it."

At this moment a slight knocking was heard at the door, and the secretary entered with a sealed letter.

"A courier from Torgau just arrived with this from the commandant." The count's brow became clouded.

"Business! forever business!" said he. "How dared you annoy me with this, upon the birthday of my wife?"

"Pardon, your excellency; but the courier brought with this packet such strange news, that I ventured to disturb you, to communicate—"

The beating of drums and the thunder of cannon interrupted him.

"The king and queen are now entering their carriage," cried the count. "No more business to-day, my friend. It will keep till tomorrow. Come, Antonia, we must welcome their majesties." And taking his wife's hand, he passed out of the study.



CHAPTER XII. THE INTERRUPTED FEAST.

As the Count Bruhl and his wife entered the saloon, it almost seemed as if they were the royal couple for whom all this company was waiting. Every one of any rank or position in Dresden was present. There were to be seen the gold and silver embroidered uniforms of generals and ambassadors; jewelled stars were sparkling upon many breasts; the proudest, loveliest women of the court, bearing the noblest Saxon names, were there, accompanied by princes, counts, dukes, and barons, and one and all were bowing reverentially to the count and his wife. And now, at a sign from the grand chamberlain, the pages of the countess, clothed in garments embroidered with silver and pearls, approached to carry her train; beside them were the count's officers, followed by all the noble guests. Thus they passed through the third room, where the servants of the house, numbering upward of two hundred, were placed in military order, and then on until they came to the grand entrance, which had been turned into a floral temple.

The royal equipage was at the gate; the host and hostess advanced to welcome the king and queen, whose arrival had been announced by the roar of cannon.

The king passed through the beautiful avenue, and greeted the company placed on either side of him, gayly. The queen, sparkling with diamonds, forcing herself also to smile, was at his side; and as their majesties passed on, saying here and there a kind, merry word, it seemed as if the sun had just risen over all these noble, rich, and powerful guests. This was reflected upon every countenance. The gods had demanded from Olympus to favor these mortals with their presence, and to enjoy themselves among them. And truly, even a king might spend some happy hours in this delightful garden.

The air was so soft and mild, so sweet from the odor of many flowers; the rustling of the trees was accompanied by soft whispers of music that seemed floating like angels' wings upon the air. Every countenance was sparkling with happiness and content, and the king could but take the flattering unction to his soul that all his subjects were equally as happy as the elite by which he was surrounded.

Pleased with this thought and delighted with all the arrangements for the fete, the king gave himself up to an enjoyment which, though somewhat clouding his character as a deity, was immensely gratifying to him.

He abandoned himself to the delights of the table! He devoured with a sort of amiable astonishment the rare and choice dishes which, even to his experienced and pampered palate, appeared unfathomable mysteries; luxuries had been procured, not only from Loudon and Paris, but from every part of the world. He delighted himself with the gold and purple wines, whose vintage was unknown to him, and whose odor intoxicated him more than the perfume of flowers. He requested the count to give the name and history of all these wines.

The count obeyed in that shy, reverential manner in which he was accustomed to speak. He charmed him by relating the many difficulties he had overcome to obtain this wine from the Cape of Good Hope, which had to cross the line twice to arrive at its highest perfection. He said that for two years he had been thinking of this gloriously happy day, and had had a ship upon the sea for the purpose of perfecting this wine. He bade the king notice the strangely formed fish, which could only be obtained from the Chinese sea. Then, following up the subject, he spoke of the peculiar and laughable customs and habits of the Chinese, thus causing even the proud queen to laugh at his humorous descriptions.

Count Bruhl was suddenly interrupted in an unusual manner.

His secretary, Willmar, approached the royal table, and without a word of excuse, without greeting the king, handed the count a sealed package!

This was such a crime against courtly etiquette that the count, from sheer amazement, made no excuses to the king; he only cast a threatening look at the secretary. But as he encountered Willmar's pale, terrified countenance, a tremor seized him, and he cast an eager glance upon the papers in his hand, which, no doubt, contained the key to all this mystery. "They are from the commandant at Leipsic," whispered the secretary; "I entreat your excellency to read them."

Before the count had time, however, to open the dispatch, a still stranger event took place.

The Prussian ambassador, who, upon the plea of illness, had declined Count Bruhl's invitation, suddenly appeared in the garden, accompanied by the four secretaries of his legation, and approached the royal table. Upon his countenance there was no sign of sickness, but rather an expression of great joy.

As he neared the tent, the gay song and merry jest ceased. Every eye was fixed inquiringly upon the individual who had dared to disturb this fete by his presence. The music, which had before filled the air with joyous sounds, was now playing a heart-breaking air.

Count Bruhl now arose and advanced. He greeted the Prussian ambassador in a few cold, ceremonious words.

But Count Mattzahn's only answer to this greeting was a silent bow. He then said, in a voice loud enough to be heard by the king and queen:

"Count Bruhl, as ambassador of the King of Prussia, I request you to demand an audience for me at once from the King of Saxony. I have an important dispatch from my king."

Count Bruhl, struck with terror, could only gaze at him, he had not the strength to answer.

But King Augustus, rising from his seat, said:

"The ambassador of my royal brother can approach; I consent to grant him this audience; it is demanded in so strange a manner, it must surely have some important object."

The count entered the royal tent.

"Is it your majesty's wish," said Mattzahn, solemnly, "that all these noble guests shall be witnesses? I am commanded by my royal master to demand a private audience."

"Draw the curtain!" said the king.

Count Bruhl, with trembling fingers, drew the golden cord, and the heavy curtains fell to the ground. They were now completely separated from the guests.

"And now, count," said the king, taking his seat by his proud, silent queen, "speak."

Bowing profoundly, Count Mattzahn drew a dispatch from his pocket, and read in a loud, earnest voice.

It was a manifesto from the King of Prussia, written by himself and addressed to all the European courts. In it, Frederick denied being actuated by any desire of conquest or gain, but declared that he was compelled to commence this war to which Austria had provoked him by her many and prolonged insults. There was a pause when the count finished reading. Upon the gentle, amiable countenance of the king there was now an angry look. The queen was indifferent, cold, and haughty; she seemed to have paid no attention whatever to Count Mattzahn, but, turning to the princess at her side, she asked a perfectly irrelevant question, which was answered in a whisper.

Countess Bruhl dared not raise her eyes; she did not wish her faithless lover, Count Mattzahn, whose cunning political intrigues she now perfectly understood, to see her pain and confusion. The prince-elector, well aware of the importance of this hour, stood at the king's side; behind him was Count Bruhl, whose handsome, sparkling countenance was now deadly pale.

Opposite to this agitated group, stood the Prussian ambassador, whose haughty, quiet appearance presented a marked contrast. His clear, piercing glance rested upon each one of them, and seemed to fathom every thought of their souls. His tall, imposing form was raised proudly, and there was an expression of the noblest satisfaction upon his countenance. After waiting some time in vain for an answer, he placed the manifesto before the king.

"With your majesty's permission, I will now add a few words," said he.

"Speak!" said the king, laconically.

"His majesty, my royal master," continued Count Mattzahn, in a loud voice, "has commissioned me to give your majesty the most quieting assurances, and to convince you that his march through Saxony has no purpose inimical to you, but that he only uses it as a passway to Bohemia."

The king's countenance now became dark and stern, even the queen lost some of her haughty indifference.

"How?" said the king; "Frederick of Prussia does us the honor to pass through our land without permission? He intends coming to Saxony?"

"Sire," said Mattzahn, with a slight smile, "his majesty is already there! Yesterday his army, divided into three columns, passed the Saxon borders!"

The king rose hastily from his seat. The queen was deadly pale, her lips trembled, but she remained silent, and cast a look of bitter hatred upon the ambassador of her enemy.

Count Bruhl was leaning against his chair, trembling with terror, when the king turned to him.

"I ask my prime minister if he knows how far the King of Prussia has advanced into Saxony?"

"Sire, I was in perfect ignorance of this unheard-of event. The King of Prussia wishes to surprise us in a manner worthy of the most skilful magician. Perhaps it is one of those April jests which Frederick II is so fond of practising."

"Your excellency can judge for yourself," said Count Mattzahn, earnestly, "whether the taking of towns and fortresses is to be considered a jest. For, if I am rightly informed, you have this day received two dispatches, informing you of my royal master's line of march."

"How?" said the king, hastily; "you were aware of this, count, and I was not informed? You received important dispatches, and I was not notified of it?"

"It is true," said the count, much embarrassed. "I received two couriers. The dispatches of the first were handed to me the same moment your majesties entered my house; I received the other just as Count Mattzahn arrived. I have, therefore, read neither."

"With your majesty's permission," said Count Mattzahn, "I will inform you of their contents."

"You will be doing me a great service," said the king, earnestly.

"The first dispatch, sire, contained the news that his majesty the King of Prussia had taken without resistance the fortresses of Torgau and Wittenberg!"

A hollow groan escaped the king as he sank in his chair. The queen became paler than before.

"What more?" said the king, gloomily.

"The second dispatch," continued Count Mattzahn, smilingly, "informed his excellency Count Bruhl that the King of Prussia, my noble and victorious master, was pressing forward, and had also taken Leipsic without the slightest resistance!"

"How!" said the king, "he is in Leipsic?"

"Sire, I think he was there," said Count Mattzahn, laughing; "for it seems that the Prussians, led by their king, have taken the wings of the morning. Frederick was in Leipsic when the courier left—he must now be on his way to Dresden. But he has commissioned me to say that his motive for passing through Saxony is to see and request your majesty to take a neutral part in this war between Austria and Prussia."

"A neutral part!" said the king, angrily, "when my land is invaded without question or permission, and peace broken in this inexplicable manner. Have you any other message, count?"

"I have finished, sire, and humbly ask if you have any answer for my sovereign?"

"Tell the king, your master, that I will raise my voice throughout the land of Germany to complain of this unheard-of and arbitrary infringement of the peace. At the throne of the German emperor I will demand by what right the King of Prussia dares to enter Saxony with his army and take possession of my cities. You can depart, sir; I have no further answer for his majesty!"

The count, bowing reverentially to the king and queen, left the royal tent.

Every eye was fixed upon the prime minister. From him alone, who was considered the soul of the kingdom of Saxony, help and counsel was expected. All important questions were referred to him, and all were now eagerly looking for his decision. But the powerful favorite was in despair. He knew how utterly impossible it was to withstand the King of Prussia's army. Every arrangement for this war had been made on paper, but in reality little had been accomplished. The army was not in readiness! The prime minister had been in want of a few luxuries of late, and had, therefore, as he believed there would be no war until the following spring, reduced it. He knew how little Saxony was prepared to battle against the King of Prussia's disciplined troops, and the ambassador's friendly assurances did not deceive him.

"Well, count," said the king, after a long pause, "how is this strange request of Frederick II., that we should remain neutral, to be answered?"

Before the count was able to answer, the queen said, in a loud voice:

"By a declaration of war, my husband! This is due to your honor. We have been insulted; it therefore becomes you to throw down the gauntlet to your presumptuous adversary."

"We will continue this conversation in my apartments," said the king, rising; "this is no place for it. Our beautiful feast has been disturbed in a most brutal manner. Count Bruhl, notify the different ambassadors that, in an hour, I will receive them at my palace."

"This hour is mine!" thought the queen, as she arose; "in it I will stimulate my husband's soft and gentle heart to a brave, warlike decision; he will yield to my prayers and tears." She took the king's arm with a gay smile, and left the tent, followed by the princes, and the host and hostess.

Silently they passed the festive tables, from which the guests had risen to greet them. The courtiers sought to read in their countenances the solution of that riddle which had occupied them since the arrival of the Prussian ambassador, and about which they had been anxiously debating.

But, upon the queen's countenance there was now her general look of indifference. It is true, the king was not smiling as was his wont when amongst his subjects, but his pleasant countenance betrayed no fear or sorrow. The queen maintained her exalted bearing; nothing had passed to bow her proud head. After the royal guests had left, Count Bruhl returned. He also had regained his usual serenity. With ingenious friendliness he turned to his guests, and while requesting them, in a flattering manner, to continue to grace his wife's fete by their presence, demanded for himself leave of absence. Then passing on, he whispered here and there a few words to the different ambassadors. They and the count then disappeared.

The fete continued quietly; the music recommenced its gay, melodious sounds, the birds carolled their songs, and the flowers were as beautiful and as sweet as before. The jewels of the courtiers sparkled as brilliantly. Their eyes alone were not so bright, and the happy smile had left their lips. They were all weighed down by a presentiment that danger was hovering around them.



CHAPTER XIII. THE ARCHIVES AT DRESDEN.

Count Mattzahn's prophecy came true. The King of Prussia came to Dresden, and there, as in every other part of Saxony, found no resistance. Fear and terror had gone before him, disarming all opposition. The king and prince-elector were not accustomed to have a will of their own; and Count Bruhl, the favorite of fortune, showed himself weak and helpless in the hour of adversity. It needed the queen's powerful energy, and the forcible representations of the French ambassador, Count Broglio, to arouse them from their lethargy; and what Count Broglio's representations, and the queen's prayers and tears commenced, hatred finished. Count Bruhl's sinking courage rose at the thought of the possibility of still undermining the King of Prussia, and putting an end to his victorious march. It was only necessary to detain him, to prevent him from reaching the Bohemian borders, until the Austrian army came to their assistance, until the French troops had entered and taken possession of Prussia. Therefore, Count Bruhl sent courier after courier to Saxony's allies, to spread her cry for help to every friendly court. He then collected the army, ordered them to camp at Pirna, which was very near the boundary of Bohemia, and, as it was guarded on one side by the Elbe, and on the other by high rocks, appeared perfectly secure. When these preparations were commenced, the count's courage rose considerably, and he determined to prove himself a hero, and to give the Saxon army the inspiring consciousness that, in the hour of danger, their king would be in their midst. The king therefore left for the fortress of Konigstein, accompanied by Count Bruhl, leaving the army, consisting of about seventeen thousand men, to follow under the command of General Rutrosky, and to encamp at the foot of Konigstein. Arrived at Konigstein, where they thought themselves perfectly secure, they gave themselves up to the free and careless life of former days. They had only changed their residence, not their character; their dreams were of future victories, of the many provinces they would take from the King of Prussia; and with this delightful prospect the old gay, luxurious, and wanton life was continued. What difference did it make to Count Bruhl that the army was only provided with commissary stores for fourteen days, and that this time was almost past, and no way had been found to furnish them with additional supplies. The King of Prussia had garrisoned every outlet, and only the King of Saxony's forage-wagon was allowed to pass.

Frederick knew better than the Saxon generals the fearful, invincible enemy that was marching to the camp of Pirna. What were the barricades, the palisades, and ambushes, by which the camp was surrounded, to this enemy? This foe was in the camp, not outside of it—he had no need to climb the barricades—he came hither flying through the air, breathing, like a gloomy bird of death, his horrible cries of woe. This enemy was hunger—enervating, discouraging, demoralizing hunger!

The fourteen days had expired, and in the camp of Pirna languished seventeen thousand men! The bread rations became smaller and smaller; but the third part of the usual meat ration was given; the horses' food also was considerably shortened. Sorrow and starvation reigned in the camp. Why should this distress Count Bruhl? He lived in his usual luxurious splendor, with the king. Looking out from his handsome apartments upon the valley lying at his feet, he saw on a little meadow by which the Elbe was flowing, herds of cows and calves, sheep and beeves, which were there to die like the Saxon soldiers, for their king. These herds were for the royal table; there was, therefore, no danger that the enemy visiting the army should find its way to the fortress. It was also forbidden, upon pain of death, to force one of these animals intended for the royal table, from their noble calling, and to satisfy therewith the hungry soldiers. Count Bruhl could therefore wait patiently the arrival of the Austrian army, which was already in motion, under the command of General Brown.

While the King of Poland was living gay and joyous in the fortress of Konigstein, the queen with the princes of the royal house had remained in Dresden; and though she knew her husband's irresolute character, and knew that the King of Prussia, counting upon this, was corresponding with him, endeavoring to persuade him to neutrality, still she had no fears of her husband succumbing to his entreaties. For was not Count Bruhl, the bitter, irreconcilable enemy of Prussia, at his side?—and had not the king said to her, in a solemn manner, before leaving: "Better that every misfortune come upon us than to take the part of our enemies!" The queen, therefore, felt perfectly safe upon this point. She remained in Dresden for two reasons: first, to watch the King of Prussia, and then to guard the archives—those archives which contained the most precious treasures of Saxon diplomacy—the most important secrets of their allies. These papers were prized more highly by the queen than all the crown jewels now lying in their silver casket; and though the keeping of the latter was given over to some one else, no one seemed brave enough to shield the former. No one but herself should guard these rich treasures. The state archives were placed in those rooms of the palace which had but one outlet, and that leading into one of the queen's apartments. In this room she remained—she took her meals, worked, and slept there—there she received the princes and the foreign ambassadors—always guarding the secret door, of which she carried the key fastened to a gold chain around her neck. But still the queen was continually in fear her treasure would be torn from her, and the King of Prussia's seeming friendliness was not calculated to drive away this anxiety. It is true the king had sent her his compliments by Marshal Keith, with the most friendly assurances of his affection, but notwithstanding this, the chancery, the college, and the mint department had been closed; all the artillery and ammunition had been taken from the Dresden arsenal and carried to Magdeburg; some of the oldest and worthiest officers of the crown had been dismissed; and the Swiss guard, intended for service in the palace, had been disarmed. All this agreed but badly with the king's quieting assurances, and was calculated to increase the hatred of his proud enemy. She had, nevertheless, stifled her anger so far as to invite the King of Prussia, who was staying in the palace of the Countess Morizinska, not far from his army, to her table.

Frederick had declined this invitation. He remained quietly in the palace, whose doors were open to all, giving audience to all who desired it, listening to their prayers, and granting their wishes.

The Queen of Poland heard this with bitter anger; and the more gracious the King of Prussia showed himself to the Saxons, the more furious and enraged became the heart of this princess.

"He will turn our people from their true ruler," said she to Countess Ogliva, her first maid of honor, who was sitting at her side upon a divan placed before the princess's door. "This hypocritical affability will only serve to gain the favor of our subjects, and turn them from their duty."

"It has succeeded pretty well," said the countess, sighing. "The Saxon nobility are continually in the antechamber of this heretical king; and yesterday several of the city authorities, accompanied by the foreign ambassadors, waited upon him, and he received them."

"Yes, he receives every one; he gives gay balls every evening, at which he laughs and jokes merrily. He keeps open house, and the poor people assemble there in crowds to see him eat." Maria Josephine sighed deeply. "I hate this miserable, changeable people!" murmured she.

"And your majesty does well," said the countess, whose wrinkled, yellow countenance was now illuminated by a strange fire. "The anger of God will rest upon this heretical nation that has turned from her salvation, and left the holy mother church in haughty defiance. The King of Poland cannot even appoint true Catholic-Christians as his officers—every position of any importance is occupied by heretics. But the deluge will surely come again upon this sinful people and destroy them."

The queen crossed herself, and prayed in a low voice.

The countess continued: "This Frederick stimulates these heretical Saxons in their wicked unbelief. He, who it is well known, laughs and mocks at every religion, even his own—attended, yesterday, the Protestant church, to show our people that he is a protector of that church."

"Woe, woe to him!" said the queen.

"With listening ear he attended to his so-called preacher's sermon, and then loudly expressed his approval of it, well knowing that this preacher is a favorite of heretics in Dresden. This cunning king wished to give them another proof of his favor. Does your majesty wish to know of the present he made this, preacher?"

"What?" said the queen, with a mocking laugh. "Perhaps a Bible, with the marginal observations of his profligate friends, Voltaire and La Mettrie?"

"No, your majesty; the king sent this learned preacher a dozen bottles of champagne!"

"He is a blasphemous scoffer, even with that which he declares holy. But punishment will overtake him. Already the voice of my exalted nephew, the Emperor of Germany, is to be heard throughout the entire land, commanding the King of Prussia to return at once to his own kingdom, and to make apologies to the King of Poland for his late insults. It is possible that, in his haughty pride, Frederick will take no notice of this command. But it will be otherwise with the generals and commandants of this usurper. They have been commanded by the emperor to leave their impious master, and not to be the sharers of his frightful crime."

"I fear," said Countess Ogliva, sighing, and raising her eyes heavenward—"I fear they will not listen to the voice of our good emperor."

"But they will hear the voice of his cannon," cried the queen, impetuously; "the thunder of our artillery and the anger of God will annihilate them, and they will fall to the ground as if struck by lightning before the swords blessed by our holy priests."

The door of the antechamber was at this moment opened violently, and the queen's chamberlain appeared upon its threshold.

"Your majesty, a messenger from the King of Prussia requests an audience," said he.

The queen's brow became clouded, and she blushed with anger. "Tell this messenger that I am not in a condition to receive his visit, and that he must therefore impart to you his message."

"It is, no doubt, another of his hypocritical, friendly assurances," said the queen, as the chamberlain left. "He has, no doubt, some evil design, and wishes to soothe us before he strikes."

The chamberlain returned, but his countenance was now white with terror.

"Well!" said the queen, "what is this message?"

"Ah, your majesty," stammered the trembling courtier, "my lips would not dare to repeat it; and I could never find the courage to tell you what he demands."

"What he demands!" repeated the queen; "has it come to that, that a foreign prince commands in our land? Go, countess, and in my name, fully empowered by me, receive this King of Prussia's message; then return, and dare not keep the truth from me."

Countess Ogliva and the chamberlain left the royal apartment, and Maria Josephine was alone. And now, there was no necessity of guarding this mask of proud quietude and security. Alone, with her own heart, the queen's woman nature conquered. She did not now force back the tears which streamed from her eyes, nor did she repress the sighs that oppressed her heart. She wept, and groaned, and trembled. But hearing a step in the antechamber, she dried her eyes, and again put on the proud mask of her royalty. It was the countess returning. Slowly and silently she passed through the apartment. Upon her colorless countenance there was a dark, angry expression, and a scoffing smile played about her thin, pale lips.

"The King of Prussia," said she, in a low, whispering voice, as she reached the queen, "demands that the key to the state archives be delivered at once to his messenger, Major von Vangenheim."

The queen raised herself proudly from her seat.

"Say to this Major von Vangenheim that he will never receive this key!" said she, commandingly.

The countess bowed, and left the room.

"He has left," said she, when she returned to the queen; "though he said that he or another would return."

"Let us now consult as to what is to be done," said the queen. "Send for Father Guarini, so that we may receive his advice."

Thanks to the queen's consultation with her confessor and her maid of honor, the King of Prussia's messenger, when he returned, was not denied an audience. This time, it was not Major von Vangenheim, but General von Wylich, the Prussian commandant at Dresden, whom Frederick sent.

Maria Josephine received him in the room next to the archives, sitting upon a divan, near to the momentous door. She listened with a careless indifference, as he again demanded, in the king's name, the key to the state archives.

The queen turned to her maid of honor.

"How is it that you are so negligent, countess?" said she; "did I not tell you to answer to the messenger of the king, that I would give this key, which is the property of the Prince-Elector of Saxony, and which he intrusted to me, to no one but my husband?"

"I had the honor to fulfil your majesty's command," said the countess, respectfully.

"How is it, then," said she, turning to General von Wylich, "that you dare to come again with this request, which I have already answered?"

"Oh, may your majesty graciously pardon me," cried the general, deeply moved; "but his majesty, my king and master, has given me the sternest commands to get the key, and bring him the papers. I am therefore under the sad necessity to beseech your majesty to agree to my master's will."

"Never!" said the queen, proudly. "That door shall never be opened; you shall never enter it."

"Be merciful. I dare not leave here without fulfilling my master's commands. Have pity on my despair, your majesty, and give me the key to that door."

"Listen! I shall not give you the key," said the queen, white and trembling with anger; "and if you open the door by force, I will cover it with my body; and now, sir, if you wish to murder the Queen of Poland, open the door." And raising her proud, imposing form, the queen placed herself before the door.

"Mercy! mercy! queen," cried the general; "do not force me to do something terrible; do not make me guilty of a crime against your sacred royalty. I dare not return to my king without these papers. I therefore implore your majesty humbly, upon my knees, to deliver this key to me."

He fell upon his knees before the queen, humbly supplicating her to repent her decision.

"I will not give it to you," said she, with a triumphant smile. "I do not move from this door; it shall not be opened."

General Wylich rose from his lowly position. He was pale, but there was a resolute expression upon his countenance. Looking upon it, you could not but see that he was about to do something extremely painful to his feelings.

"Queen of Poland," said he, in a loud, firm voice, "I am commanded by my king to bring to him the state archives. Below, at the castle gate, wagons are in attendance to receive them; they are accompanied by a detachment of Prussian soldiers. I have only to open that window, sign to them, and they are here. In the antechamber are the four officers who came with me; by opening the door, they will be at my side."

"What do you mean by this?" said the queen, in a faltering voice, moving slightly from the door.

"I mean, that at any price, I must enter that room. If the key is not given to me, I will call upon my soldiers to break down the door; as they have learned to tear down the walls of a fortress, it will be an easy task; that if the Queen of Poland does not value her high position sufficiently to guard herself against any attack, I will be compelled to lay hands upon a royal princess, and lead her by force from that door, which my soldiers must open! But, once more, I bend my knee, and implore your majesty to preserve me from this crime, and to have mercy on me."

And again he fell upon his knees supplicating for pity.

"Be merciful! be merciful!" cried the queen's confessor and the Countess Ogliva, who both knew that General Wylich would do all that he had said, and had both fallen on their knees, adding their entreaties to his. "Your Majesty has done all that human power can do. It is now time to guard your holy form from insult. Have mercy on your threatened royalty."

"No, no!" murmured the queen, "I cannot! I cannot! Death would be sweet in comparison to this humiliating defeat."

The queen's confessor, Father Guarini, now rose from his knees, and, approaching the queen, he said, in a solemn, commanding voice:

"My daughter, by virtue of my profession, as a servant of the holy mother church, to whom is due obedience and trust, I command you to deliver up to this man the key of this door."

The queen's head fell upon her breast, and hollow, convulsive groans escaped her. Then, with a hasty movement, she severed the key from her chain.

"I obey you, my father," said she. "There is the key, general; this room can now be entered."

General Wylich took the key, kissing reverentially the hand that gave it to him. He then said to her, in a voice full of emotion:

"I have but this last favor to ask of your majesty, that you will now leave this room, so that my soldiers may enter it."

Without answering, the queen, accompanied by her confessor and maid of honor, left the apartment.

"And now," said the queen to Countess Ogliva, as she entered her reception-room, "send messengers at once to all the foreign ambassadors, and tell them I command their presence."



CHAPTER XIV. SAXONY HUMILIATED.

A half an hour later the ambassadors of France, Austria, Holland, Russia, and Sweden, were assembled in the queen's reception-room. The queen was there, pale, and trembling with anger. With the proud pathos of misfortune, and humiliated royalty, she apprised them of the repeated insults she had endured, and commanded them to write at once to their different courts, imploring their rulers to send aid to her sorely threatened kingdom.

"And if these princes," said she, impetuously, "help us to battle against this usurper, in defending us they will be defending their own rights and honor. For my cause is now the cause of all kings; for if my crown falls, the foundation of their thrones will also give way. For this little Margrave of Brandenburg, who calls himself King of Prussia, will annihilate us all it we do not ruin him in advance. I, for my part, swear him a perpetual resistance, a perpetual enmity! I will perish willingly in this fight if only my insults are revenged and my honor remains untarnished. Hasten, therefore, to acquaint your courts with all that has occurred here."

"I will be the first to obey your majesty," said the French ambassador, Count Broglio, approaching the queen. "I will repeat your words to my exalted master; I will portray to your majesty's lovely daughter, the Dauphine of France, the sufferings her royal mother has endured, and I know she will strain every nerve to send you aid. With your gracious permission, I will now take my leave, for to-day I start for Paris."

"To Paris!" cried the queen; "would you leave my court in the hour of misfortune?"

"I would be the last to do this, unless forced by necessity," said the count; "but the King of Prussia has just dismissed me, and sent me my passport!"

"Your passport! dismissed you!" repeated the queen. "Have I heard aright? Do you speak of the King of Prussia? Has he then made himself King of Saxony?"

Before anyone had time to answer the queen's painful questions, the door was opened, and the king's ministers entered; beside them was to be seen the pale, terrified countenance of Count Leuke, the king's chamberlain.

Slowly and silently these gentlemen passed through the room and approached the queen.

"We have come," said Count Hoymb, bowing lowly, "to take leave of your majesty."

The queen fell slightly back, and gazed in terror at the four ministers standing before her with bowed heads.

"Has the king, my husband, sent for you? Are you come to take leave of me before starting to Konigstein?"

"No, your majesty; we come because we have been dismissed from our offices by the King of Prussia."

The queen did not answer, but gazed wildly at the sad countenances about her; and now she fixed a searching glance upon the royal chamberlain.

"Well, and you?" said she. "Have you a message for me from my husband? Are you from Konigstein?"

"Yes, your majesty, I come from Konigstein. But I am not a bearer of pleasant news. I am sent to Dresden by the King of Poland to request of the King of Prussia passports for himself and Count Bruhl. The king wishes to visit Warsaw, and is therefore desirous of obtaining these passports."

"Ah!" said the queen, sighing, "to think that my husband requires permission to travel in his own kingdom, and that he must receive it from our enemy! Well, have you obeyed the king's command, Count Leuke? Have you been to the King of Prussia and received the passports?"

"I was with the King of Prussia," said the count, in a faltering voice.

"Well, what more?"

"He refused me! He does not give his consent to this visit."

"Listen, listen!" said the queen, wildly; "hear the fresh insult thrown at our crown! Can God hear this and not send His lightning to destroy this heretical tyrant? Ah, I will raise my voice; it shall be a cry of woe and lamentation, and shall resound throughout all Europe; it shall reach every throne, and every one shall hear my voice calling out: 'Woe! woe! woe to us all; our thrones are tottering, they will surely fall if we do not ruin this evil-doer who threatens us all!'"

With a fearful groan, the queen fell fainting into the arms of Countess Ogliva. But the sorrows and humiliations of this day were not the only ones experienced by Maria Josephine from her victorious enemy.

It is true her cry for help resounded throughout Europe. Preparations for war were made in many places, but her allies were not able to prevent the fearful blow that was to be the ruin of Saxony. Though the Dauphine of France, daughter of the wretched Maria Josephine, and the mother of the unfortunate King of France, Louis XVI., threw herself at the feet of Louis XV., imploring for help for her mother's tottering kingdom, the French troops came too late to prevent this disaster. Even though Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, and niece to the Queen of Saxony, as her army were in want of horses, gave up all her own to carry the cannon. The Austrian cannon was of as little help to Saxony as the French troops.

Starvation was a more powerful ally to Prussia than Austria, France, Russia, and Sweden were to Saxony, for in the Saxon camp also a cry of woe resounded.

It was hunger that compelled the brave Saxon General Rutrosky to capitulate. It was the same cause that forced the King of Saxony to bind himself to the fearful stipulations which the victorious King of Prussia, after having tried in vain for many years to gain an ally in Saxony, made.

In the valley of Lilienstein the first of that great drama, whose scenes are engraved in blood in the book of history, was performed, and for whose further developments many sad, long years were necessary.

In the valley of Lilienstein the Saxon army, compelled to it by actual starvation, gave up their arms; and as these true, brave soldiers, weeping over their humiliation, with one hand laid down their weapons, the other was extended toward their enemies for bread.

Lamentation and despair reigned in the camp at Lilienstein, and there, at a window of the castle of Konigstein, stood the Prince-Elector of Saxony, with his favorite Count Bruhl, witnesses to their misery.

After these fearful humiliations, by which Frederick punished the Saxons for their many intrigues, by which he revenged himself for their obstinate, enmity, their proud superiority—after these humiliations, after their complete defeat, the King of Prussia was no longer opposed to the King of Saxony's journey. He sent him the desired passports, he even extended their number, and not only sent one to the king and to Count Bruhl, but also to the Countess Bruhl, with the express command to accompany her husband. He also sent a pass to Countess Ogliva, compelling this bigoted woman to leave her mistress.

And when the queen again raised her cry of woe, to call her allies to her aid, the King of Prussia answered her with the victorious thunder of the battle of Losovitz, the first battle fought in this war, and in which the Prussians, led by their king, performed wonders of bravery, and defeated for the third time the tremendous Austrian army, under the command of General Brown.

"Never," says Frederick, "since I have had the honor to command the Prussian troops, have they performed such deeds of daring as to-day."

The Austrians, in viewing these deeds, cried out:

"We have found again the old Prussians!"

And still they fought so bravely, that the Prussians remarked in amazement: "These cannot be the same Austrians!"

This was the first act of that great drama enacted by the European nations, and of which King Frederick II. was the hero.



BOOK III.



CHAPTER I. THE MAIDEN OF BRUNEN.

The sun was just setting, throwing its crimson glow upon the waters of the Rhine, which appeared to flow like a river of blood between the green meadows on either side of it.

From the little village of Brunen, whose red chimneys were visible above a group of oak and beech trees, the sound of the evening bell was heard, reminding the pious peasants, engaged in cutting and garnering their golden corn, of the hour for devotion.

With the sweet sounds of the bell mingled the joyous mountain yodel of the cowherd, who had just descended the little hill yonder, with his herd straying here and there, in picturesque confusion. Upon the green meadow in the foreground, the flocks of the village were pasturing, strictly guarded by a large white dog, whose stern, martial glance not the slightest movement among his army contrary to discipline, escaped. As soon as one of the sheep committed to his care left the fold and approached the field where the reapers were mowing the corn, which was bound at once in sheaves by busy maidens, the stern Phylax barking, growling, and snarling, rushed after the audacious wanderer who sought to appease the anger of his inexorable overseer by a speedy return.

The old shepherd, sitting not far off upon a little wooden stool, with his long, silver hair falling about him, was engaged in weaving a graceful basket of some meadow roots; at every bark of his Phylax he looked up and smiled his approval at his faithful steward; occasionally he gazed across the meadow at the reapers and busy maidens, then there came upon his venerable old countenance an expression of great interest. And well he might be pleased with what he saw there; for that tall, sturdy youth, standing in the wagon, waiting with outstretched arms to catch the sheaves which are skilfully thrown him; that youth with the bright rosy face, the sparkling eye, the full red lip, upon which there is always a merry smile, the ivory white teeth—that youth is his beloved son, Charles Henry. And yonder maiden, not far from the wagon, binding up the corn, in whose tall, proud form, in spite of her plain peasant-gown, there is something imposing; that maiden with the youthful, blooming, lovely face, is his son's betrothed, whom all in the village called the beautiful Anna Sophia, and for whose love Charles Henry was envied by all the village boys. It is true she was a penniless orphan, but in her busy, industrious hands there was a better and surer treasure than in a purse of gold, and her ability and goodness would be a much better dowry to her husband; for Anna Sophia Detzloff could do almost every thing, and the villagers knew not whether to respect her more for her great knowledge, or love her more for her kind, good heart. Anna could read and write like a school-teacher. She wrote every letter which the women of the village sent to their sons and husbands, now far away with the King of Prussia's army, and read to them the answers; and in so beautiful and winning a manner did she read them, that to the happy women it almost seemed as if they were hearing the voices of their loved ones. But, notwithstanding her learning, she was well versed in every sort of work that beseemed a woman. None in the village could prepare more delightful dishes than she; no one could equal her beautiful, rapid sewing and knitting. Anna Sophia learned all these things from her mother, who had lived and worked for many long years in Brunen. Her father had been the village school-teacher, and it was owing to his diligence and activity that the women could now receive letters from their sons and husbands. He had taught the boys to read and write; and though the girls did not learn, the example of his daughter showed that it was not owing to inability, but for a want of time and desire. From her mother, Anna had learned all her womanly duties. She had taught her to be amiable, ready with help for all, kind and sympathetic, and to strive by her good deeds to gain the love of her fellow-creatures.

A joyous family had lived in the little village school-house; though they had poverty and want to fight against, these three happy human beings did not consider this a misfortune, but a necessary evil of life. They loved each other, and when the parents looked upon the lovely, rosy countenance of their only child, they did not perceive that their bread was hard and heavy, they did not miss the butter and cheese without which the rich villagers seldom took a meal. And when, on Sundays, Anna went with her parents to church, in the faded red skirt, neat white body, and black bodice, which had been her mother's wedding-dress, she heard the boys whisper amongst themselves about her beauty and sweetness, and casting her eyes down with timid blushes she did not perceive the jeering smiles of the other girls who, though not as pretty, were proud that they were richer and better dressed than the school-teacher's daughter.

But Death, in his inexorable manner, had disturbed this modest happiness. In a year he took the schoolmaster Detzloff and his wife from the little house which, to any one else, would have appeared a pitiful hut, but which, to them, seemed a paradise. In one year Anna became an orphan; she was entirely alone in the world, and, after she had given to her dear departed ones the tribute of her sorrows and tears, she had to arouse herself and create a new future. After death only, the villagers became aware of the great worth of the departed, they now admitted to the full the school-teacher's merits, and were anxious to pay to the daughter the debt owing to the father. As he had died partly from starvation, sorrow, and work, they wished to prove themselves generous to his daughter, and preserve her from the want and misery which had caused the death of her parents.

But Anna Sophia would be dependent on no one. To those who came in the name of the villagers to notify her that she would receive from them a monthly allowance, she showed her able hands, her brown, muscular arms, and, raising her sparkling eyes proudly to the new school-teacher, she said, "From these alone will I receive help; they shall give me food and clothing; on them alone will I be dependent."

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