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Memoirs of the Countess Cosel online

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the whole day with Cosel, whose state of pregnancy having made her
weak, tried to arouse the King's pity by recalling old memories.

But this was the worst possible way she could have acted. Augustus was
charmed by vivacity, gaiety, boldness, jealousy, daring - everything
that acted on the senses; but sentiment was unknown to him; he played
at it from time to time, but he never felt it.

To attempt to arouse in him tender feelings was the surest way to bore
him. Cosel was greatly alarmed; she kissed the King; she wept; she
entreated him not to leave her, not to forget her. Augustus replied in
his choicest words, but his studied declarations were chilling.

Several years had passed; the enthusiasm of both of them had cooled.
But in the woman there remained attachment, tenderness, gratitude; in
the King a feeling of weariness predominated. Instead of pitying her
sadness, he wished to escape from it as quickly as possible; her tears
made him impatient, her grief bored him.

Cosel could no longer appear gay and cheerful as formerly, in the happy
days when she used to ride out with the King to hunt the deer, or took
her part in shooting at a target.

Her charms had not changed, but daily intercourse with her had made
them appear common in the King's eyes. Grief had not dimmed her beauty;
her eye had not lost its brilliancy; but neither her charming looks,
nor her smiles, could now bring the King to her feet. Her power over
Augustus was ended, the beloved woman had become common, because she no
longer possessed for him the charm of novelty.

Never before, when the King departed, had the Countess felt as lonely
as she did now. The palace, until then crowded, was suddenly deserted.
Cosel had no one to be with her.

During the day, the gossiping Baroness Glasenapp would rush in, or the
stern Baron Haxthausen, her only friend, would dine with her. This was
all the company she had.

In the whole crowd, her most faithful friend was Raymond Zaklika, whose
hand often trembled with the desire to attack some arrogant man who had
offended the Countess. The slightest sign from her would have been
sufficient for him, and the one whom he touched would have been a dead

Looking towards him at critical moments, Cosel had sometimes noticed
him in such a state of excitement that she had been obliged to calm

Being a servant, Zaklika had no opportunity of expressing his feeling,
but the Countess understood him perfectly, and knew that she could
depend on his loyalty. Had she bidden him kill Flemming, he would have
done so instantly, and would then have gone without a groan to the
scaffold. In his eyes, she was always the same beautiful star that he
had seen shining in bygone days among the linden trees at Laubegast. To
him she even appeared more beautiful, and his whole happiness lay in
the privilege of seeing her several times a day.

But whilst at Dresden all was sad and quiet, the King, in the best of
spirits, and full of hope, was hastening to Warsaw. Flemming was with
him, the Countess Przebendowska preceded him. It was an open secret
that they wished to find a new lady for the King at Warsaw. They did
not wish her to be as beautiful as Cosel, for beauty such as hers
threatened a long attachment; neither must she be witty, for the King
was content with giddiness, and she must not possess a heart, for it
was only at the commencement that Augustus played a sentimental part.

Youth, great daring, coquetry, a good name, and good breeding were
sufficient, and would counterbalance Cosel.

With these instructions, Countess Przebendowska started for Warsaw,
where she was to choose. Flemming's cousin was a great friend of
Countess Bielinska, whose two married daughters, the Countesses Denhoff
and Pociej, both pretty, quiet and merry, could be placed on the list
of candidates.

The first day after her arrival, Przebendowska paid a visit to her
friend, who gave her a cordial welcome. She knew Przebendowska's
influence over Flemming, and his power over the King.

"My dear," said Przebendowska, "I come to you with many troubles, and I
hope you will help me."

"I will share them with you willingly," rejoined Bielinska.

"We are having great trouble with the King," continued Przebendowska.
"He is in love with a woman who for several years has made him do
whatever she pleases."

"I know Cosel!" interrupted Bielinska. "But why did not the King hold
to Teschen?"

"He is never faithful to any one for long. We must get rid of Cosel,
and find him some one else. The King is wearied."

Bielinska became thoughtful.

"It is easy enough to find some one else, but we must be careful not to
put new fetters on him."

Countess Przebendowska stayed to dinner with her friend, whose two
daughters were also dining with her. Both of these ladies were young,
elegant in movement, and pretty. Countess Pociej was small and neat;
she appeared frail, but her eyes lit up with fire, laughter was for
ever bursting from her lips. Countess Denhoff was not tall either; she
was gracious, and played the part of a melancholy person, although
naturally she was flighty, and burned with a desire for gaiety. Her
eyes sparkled with wit and malice, which she veiled under an
exaggerated modesty.

Countess Przebendowska talked on indifferent subjects, but she never
let the two pretty young ladies out of her sight for a moment. The
dinner ended, the two old ladies were left alone.

Przebendowska knew well that Bielinska's affairs were in a bad state,
and she at once began to condole with her about them. Presently her
friend said, -

"You have seen my daughters. Marie is quiet, fresh, and pretty; she is
also good-hearted, submissive, and easily guided. How do you like her?"

"She is charming."

"She is like quicksilver, and, although she seems delicate, she is
really very strong and lively."

Then, lowering her voice, the mother continued, -

"We have been good friends since childhood; if some one must be so
happy as to attach the King, why should we not introduce Marie to him?"

"I did not know if you would wish it."

"Why not? Denhoff is a bad husband, and he is not young, either; she is
very unhappy with him. If he objects to have the King as a rival, Marie
will obtain a divorce from him."

"But would she be willing?"

"I will persuade her," said the anxious mother. "It would really be a
great blessing for us. Our affairs are in a shocking condition. Should
my husband die, we should all be ruined."

Countess Przebendowska neither promised nor refused.

"We shall see, we shall see," she said; then added, "We must not say a
word to Marie until we are sure she pleases the King. Cosel was jealous
and arbitrary; after her, he will require some one who is gentle,
merry, and submissive."

"He would not find any one who answered that description better than
Marie does - that I warrant you."

After a long time spent in conversation, the friends separated, a good
understanding having been established between them.

A few days later the King and Flemming arrived. Countess Przebendowska
lived in the same house with her uncle, and they were able to talk
freely even on the first evening. She at once mentioned Countess
Denhoff to him.

The General made a grimace; he had heard a great deal about that lady
and her giddiness; but after a pause he said, -

"The King is weary, and any woman can captivate him, so it may be
better for him to have her."

The next day the General said that before deciding anything he must
make the acquaintance of Countess Denhoff. Both the ladies were
accordingly invited to spend an evening at Countess Przebendowska's
palace. Flemming did not much like the candidate, but after searching
about for several days they were obliged to decide on Countess Denhoff,
she being less dangerous than any of the others. Having learned a
lesson by his experience with Cosel, Flemming was afraid of an
ambitious woman, or one who desired to rule. Countess Denhoff was giddy
and coquettish, but she was not jealous, and never dreamt of
influencing any one; she was simply fond of life.

The next day, Countess Przebendowska had an opportunity of approaching
the King. She was merry and jocular.

"Your Majesty," said she, "it seems as though it should be Poland's
turn now."

"Dear Countess, what do you mean?"

"After Lubomirska there was Cosel, and after her it seems necessary to
choose some one from Warsaw."

"But I desire to remain faithful to Countess Anna."

"In Dresden," replied Countess Przebendowska; "but in Warsaw, and
during her absence - "

The King smiled.

"Has your Majesty looked at the beauties in our theatres?" she

"No, I have not!"

"Then I will take the liberty of attracting your Majesty's attention to
one of them. There is not another here prettier or sweeter than she is.
She is young, and has a beautiful hand."

"Who is she?" asked the King.

"Countess Denhoff, _née_ Bielinska," whispered the lady.

"I do not remember her," said Augustus; "but being an admirer of female
beauty, I promise you I shall take advantage of the first opportunity
that offers to make the acquaintance of so charming a lady as you
describe this one to be."

[Illustration: The Countess Denhoff]

"If your Majesty will do me the honour to accept a modest supper at my
house, to-morrow, perhaps I could succeed in presenting her to you."

The King looked at her, but it seemed as though she did not notice it,
for, had she, she must have blushed, so ironical was his glance.

The same day Countess Bielinska was closeted with Countess Denhoff, and
when they separated the latter was confused, but at the same time
happy. Being accustomed to be regarded as a queen in her own little
circle, and sure that everything she did must please, she was
frightened at these preparations for a new fortune. She did not oppose
her mother's will, but there was so much trouble, and the frivolous
woman did not like too many ceremonies.

Flemming and Przebendowska knew that it was necessary that the King
should be received with great splendour; the modest supper therefore
was altered to a magnificent ball. When the King arrived, he found
Countess Denhoff surrounded by many beautiful ladies. He went over to
her and began a conversation, which did not succeed at all, and it was
noticed that Augustus did not appear to be smitten by her beauty.

After supper the King danced with Countess Denhoff, who was still
confused and awkward. The first impression was not such as Flemming's
sister had expected.

After the reception the King said to Vitzthum, -

"Have you seen that they wish to seduce me here; but so long as women
such as Denhoff wish to compete against Cosel, the latter is perfectly

Vitzthum, who was in a good humour at the time, replied, -

"Your Majesty, it is not a question of Countess Cosel's happiness, for
she can remain in Dresden, and Madam Denhoff at Warsaw. But it seems
that the Poles complain that they are wronged by Countess Cosel, and
wish you to select some one from among them. It would therefore be
necessary to divide your Majesty's heart between Saxony and Poland."

The King laughed.

"It is all very well for you," said he, "but every day I receive
letters full of reproaches, and then they try and tempt me here."

"The King should do that which pleases him."

Augustus did not need to be persuaded of that.

On Countess Bielinska's part, everything that might attract the King
was attended to. The next day he was invited to supper, and Countess
Denhoff and her sister amused him by singing to the harpsichord.

This evening Countess Denhoff was more daring, and while singing, she
constantly looked across at the King, who liked to be provoked. Her
mother and sister helped her, answering for her, and choosing merry
subjects of conversation. The King soon grew to like the house and the
people, and to visit them oftener; and it was not long before he became
accustomed to the little Countess, and fell in love with her, as much
as such a man as he was able.

The King was constantly receiving letters from Cosel, to whom her
enemies purposely communicated everything: these letters were in
consequence full of bitter reproaches. At first the King used to reply
to them, but gradually he left them unanswered.

In a conversation with Vitzthum, the King had expressed a wish to get
rid of Countess Cosel, whom he feared. Flemming determined to utilize
the remark, and one evening when the King sighed, he laughed.

"I should like," said he, "to remind your Majesty of an old story which
might perhaps be applied to present circumstances."

"For instance?" queried Augustus.

"In old times," said Flemming, "before he met the beautiful Aurore, the
Kurfürst of Saxony was in love with Rechenberg. Soon he wished to get
rid of her. Then the Kurfürst of Saxony asked Chancellor Beichling to
help him. Beichling courted the lady, and the King was freed."

"I doubt if you would succeed in the same way with Cosel," said the

"One could always try."

"Whom do you wish to make happy with her?"

"I would leave the choice to your Majesty's penetration," said

The King strode up and down the room, smiling ironically.

"It is difficult to choose, for Cosel has very few acquaintances who
would even dare to approach her. Why not employ Baron Lowendhal, who,
being her relation and _protégé_, can approach her more easily than any
one else. If I could prove to her that she was unfaithful, I should
have a pretext for breaking with her."

"I will employ Lowendhal," said the General. "She has done a great deal
for him, but the King has done more; besides, he would not like to fail
with Cosel."

"He will do what he is ordered."

As a result of this conversation, a letter was despatched to Dresden,
to Lowendhal, ordering him to compromise Cosel.


Augustus wished to get rid of Cosel, but he wished to do it quietly.
Sometimes he regretted her, but he was weak; he could not resist the
intrigues. Fresh faces did with him what they pleased; novelty amused
him, and he gladly entered on fresh amours, ended by laughter and
gaping on his part, and tears on the part of others.

The example of Königsmark, Teschen, Spiegel, Esterle, and many more,
who had been consoled, and provided with comforters, quieted his mind
with regard to Cosel, although he well knew that there was a great
difference between her and the others. But then she had threatened to
kill him, and her threats were not vain. One might expect she would
fulfil it. Orders were therefore given in Dresden that Cosel's
movements should be watched; they feared she would come to Warsaw, and,
knowing the King's character, Flemming was sure that did Cosel once
make her appearance, she would regain her former influence over the
King by her beauty and superiority.

It was important that Lowendhal should act speedily. Cosel was still
young and beautiful.

One day Cosel's friend, Baron Haxthausen, found her weeping; she rushed
towards him, wringing her hands with indignation.

"Could you believe it!" she cried, "that villain Lowendhal, who owes me
everything, dared to tell me he loved me."

Haxthausen could scarcely soothe her.

"A few years back," she continued, "he would not have dared to insult
me in that way. Have you heard about that Denhoff?"

"Yes! there are some rumours," replied Haxthausen.

"Through what mud will they drag the King!" said she sadly; then she
was silent.

Flemming, who was managing the whole affair, came to Dresden. The King
had ordered him to get rid of the Countess, but to treat her with great
respect and delicacy.

At first his arrival alarmed Cosel, but after a few days, having
persuaded herself that he seemed anxious to avoid fresh quarrels with
her, she was reassured.

The King wished Cosel to give up the Palace of the Four Seasons, and
Haxthausen was deputed to carry out this delicate mission. To his great
surprise, Cosel replied, -

"The King gave it to me, and he can take it back. This house reminds me
too powerfully of happy times. I could not live in it, and would move
out willingly."

The news of her banishment from that paradise filled her enemies with
joy. This must be a sure sign that everything was ended between her and
Augustus. But Cosel kept on repeating to her intimate friends that she
was the King's wife, and that he could not leave her thus.

In 1705, while he was still in love with Cosel, Augustus had made her a
present of a lovely country house at Pillnitz, on the banks of the
Elbe. The situation was very beautiful, but it was lonely, and quite a
long journey from Dresden.

The King wished to show Denhoff the magnificence of his capital, but
feared some outburst from Cosel. He therefore wrote to Flemming,
telling him to induce Cosel to leave Dresden and take up her residence
at Pillnitz.

Haxthausen was again chosen as ambassador, and the King's letter was
shown to him.

"General," said Flemming, "the King wishes to visit Dresden, but he
cannot come so long as Cosel is here. She has threatened to kill him so
many times. And he never likes to meet those whom he has offended. I
know that Cosel regards me as her enemy; she has made me momentarily
angry, but I have forgotten all about it by now. I should very much
dislike to push her to extremities. Be so kind as to go and induce her
to leave Dresden. I should be sorry to be compelled to send her an

Having heard Flemming's sweet words, Haxthausen went. Cosel was in a
very good humour; the General began by joking.

"I marvel at the King's bad taste," said he. "I do not know this
Denhoff, but, from what I have heard, I am sure that you will return in
triumph to your former position, provided always that you do not
irritate the King."

Cosel guessed he had come charged with some errand.

"Do you bring me some command wrapped up in flattery?"

Haxthausen looked at her sadly, and nodded his head to signify that it
was so.

"Then speak."

"Flemming has shown me an order from the King, saying that you are to
leave Dresden and go to Pillnitz. I think it will be better for you; it
will be more agreeable for you than to see - "

Tears dimmed her eyes.

"It is so hard! so very hard!" said she softly. "I know that you are my
friend, and I can tell you that you have no idea what an effort it will
cost me. Have you seen the King's order? Do they not lie?"

"Yes, I have seen it!"

She flushed, and then grew angry.

"They do not know me!" she exclaimed. "They will tease me until they
arouse a fearful vengeance within me. They are mistaken in thinking
that I shall respect the man who thinks that the crown gives him the
right to scoff at sentiment."

Haxthausen listened in silence.

"And all this," she continued, "I have to suffer for such a woman as
that Denhoff, who has already had several lovers. They wished to abase
the King that they gave him such a woman as that."

She began to weep.

"Could I have expected this?" said she, sobbing. "He swore that I had
his heart, he did not hesitate to give up everything for me, and I
believed him; I was sure of the future. Three children unite us, he
loved them, he acknowledged them; he was not ashamed of his love for
me. I was faithful to him. I tried to please him in everything. I
served him like a slave. And to-day, after so many years, I have to
remain alone, driven out without a word of good-bye, without a word of
sympathy. Alas! that man has my heart."

In such passionate outbursts half an hour passed; at length she sank on
the sofa exhausted.

"Madam," said Haxthausen, "your anger is justifiable, but at present
you must be patient and cautious, so that you may not shut the door to
a return. You know how changeable the King is; you must win him back,
but you must be patient."

"Then give me your advice, my good friend," said Anna.

"Will you allow me to speak frankly?"


"Flemming is better disposed to you than formerly. You must try and
keep him in that frame of mind. Everything is changed at Court. You
might be useful to him. If you act quietly now, the King will be
grateful to you. They are continually frightening him by saying that
you threatened to kill him. The King is afraid, and Denhoff will not
venture to start for Dresden, being afraid for her life. As long as the
King thinks that you are excited he will not venture near you. The best
way, therefore, is to show that you are not vehement. Countess
Königsmark has preserved her friendly relations with the King. Princess
Teschen was not driven from Dresden, while Esterle, by her obstinacy,
has closed the entrance to the palace to herself for ever."

"How dare you give me such examples!" exclaimed Cosel. "Esterle,
Königsmark, Teschen, were the King's mistresses, while I am his wife!
You must not compare me with them."

Haxthausen was silent.

"Still, you are right," she continued; "I must not make him angry. I
will go to-morrow."

The envoy was about to depart with the good news, when Cosel broke
forth again, -

"They would not dare force me! The King himself would not dare do that!
It cannot be!"

Haxthausen tried to persuade her to be submissive, but no sooner had
she agreed to follow his advice than she was again bent on resistance.

Three or four times she changed her mind. Finally she said, -

"I will not go! Let them use force if they dare!"

"Pray think it over! What shall I tell Flemming!"

"Tell him I do not wish to go!"

The Baron returned to the General, and told him of his conversation
with Cosel.

Flemming was sorry he was obliged to use force: he went to her. She
received him haughtily.

"You place me in a most awkward position," said he, "for I wished to
save you unpleasantness. I have kept back the King's order for several
days; now I bring it to you personally. Should you refuse to obey it, I
shall be grieved, but I shall be compelled to force you to submit to
it. The King does not wish to meet you in Dresden."

Looking from the window, Cosel saw a detachment of dragoons standing
before her house. Her black eyes gleamed angrily, but she kept her
anger under control.

She glanced at the letter.

"I am going at once," said she; "you can trust my word."

Flemming bowed and departed; the dragoons followed him.

An hour later, Cosel, hidden in a carriage, was journeying towards

A few days later she had disappeared; she was on the road to Warsaw.
Letters were immediately dispatched in great haste to Countess
Przebendowska, notifying her of the danger.

Cosel's arrival would change their well-played comedy into a drama. The
King was already in love, or rather entangled by those ladies, and they
determined to act at once, in order to avoid danger. When the King came
to see Countess Denhoff, he found her dressed in black, and weeping.

"What ails you, my beautiful lady?" he inquired solicitously, at the
same time kissing her beautiful hands.

"Your Majesty," said Denhoff, "I am threatened by a great danger. I
should not mind death, were I persuaded that your Majesty loves me;
but, alas! they wish to take my life from me, together with your
Majesty's heart. Cosel is coming to Warsaw; perhaps she is already
here. Perhaps your Majesty has come to tell me that I must yield to my

"From whence did you receive such news?" inquired the King in surprise.
"Still, let Cosel come; your triumph over her will then be more

"No! no!" exclaimed Denhoff. "If she comes, I leave Warsaw."

The mother was listening at the door, waiting for an agreed signal to
enter. Marie coughed, the door opened, and the Countess entered. She
appeared much surprised at seeing the King.

"I am glad you are come," said Augustus. "You must help me to quiet
your daughter."

"Why, what is the matter?" rejoined the mother, still pretending to be

The King repeated what Countess Denhoff had just told him. The mother
listened, looking in wonder, now at her daughter, now at Augustus.

"I do not wonder that Marie is afraid," said she. "Every one knows of
Cosel's threats, and how impetuous she is."

"Well," interrupted Augustus, "it is very easy to settle matters. If
you wish, I will order Cosel to be sent back to Dresden."

The old lady replied to this with exclamations of gratitude.

"Marie, you may well consider yourself happy, having such a solicitous

Then addressing the King, she added, -

"I would venture to observe to your Majesty that Countess Cosel will

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Online LibraryJózef Ignacy KraszewskiMemoirs of the Countess Cosel → online text (page 12 of 20)