Józef Ignacy Kraszewski.

Memoirs of the Countess Cosel online

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the King. He was perfectly free to give it to me or not, but the King
cannot ask for the return of his promise given to a woman, and thus
cheat her. I cannot even suspect that it is the King's will. Such vile
men as Flemming and Löwendahl might wish to get hold of it without the
King's knowledge in order to make him pay for it. The King cannot ask
it from me!"

She turned and left the room. The same day Von Sinen left Halle; he
went away with a strange feeling. The first time he was sent to her, he
fulfilled his duty with the cold blood of a diplomat; little by little
the stability of this woman, her bravery, perseverance, character, made
such a deep impression on him that he was ashamed of his rôle. He
pitied her and felt humiliated.

He was going back more angry with those who sent him than with the
unfortunate woman who had sent him away with such an unshaken bravery
displayed in defence of her honour.

When he arrived at Dresden he had plenty of time for rest. The whole
Court was making preparations for a great festival, which was going to
be held at Moritzburg; they had not time to call him and ask him to
report the result of his mission, and he did not hasten himself. He was
glad that he could for at least a few days stay the decision of Cosel's
lot, which he thought would be still worse.

Moritzburg was a hunting lodge, built not far from Dresden, in the
woods. It was a charming little castle surrounded by old trees. The
King invited the whole Court there, many foreigners, as well as his
former favourites, the Princess Teschen, the Countess Königsmark,
together with the Countess Denhoff and her sister Pociej.

The site of the entertainment was a plain where game was to be driven
from the forest to be shot. Hard by was a lake on which boat races were
to be held.

The crowd of guests was a great one; the entertainment succeeded
perfectly, and as the guests did not retire to the tents prepared for
them very sober, the next day they were obliged to hunt for wigs,
shoes, and swords in the woods and bushes.

Von Sinen mixed with the crowd, and wandered here and there; all this
amusement seemed to him wild. The King was in an excellent humour, and
was very amiable to his dismissed favourites. The Countess Denhoff
burned with jealousy when he talked with the Princess Teschen,
Königsmark looked sneeringly at Denhoff when the King was chatting with

Augustus was entirely taken up with the illuminations and the
magnificent feast, and when towards midnight everything was over, he
sat down to drink with his friends.

Here they let their tongues go; Flemming, Vitzthum, and Frisen could
talk as much as they wished, even about those ladies towards whom
Augustus was respectful.

They passed in review all the gross and scandalous stories of the

Löwendahl was sitting at the other end of the table.

"It seems to me," said the King to him, "that I have noticed Von

"He has returned from Halle," answered the Marshal sourly, looking at
the King.

"Von Sinen was sent to Cosel, what news has he brought?"

"The same as always," answered Löwendahl.

"You should have offered her anything she wished in exchange for that
paper, even freedom."

"She said that she would not part with it."

Augustus frowned.

"One must have done with her once for all," added Löwendahl.

"Yes, to-morrow we will send a letter to the King of Prussia, asking
for her extradition," said the King. "Then we will see what can be

"And where does your Majesty order her to be put in the meantime?"

"Let her be taken to Nossen Castle, perhaps she will think it over
there. I cannot bear the daring war she has declared against me. I have
had enough of it. Denhoff splits my head with her!"

Those words, spoken in a moment of anger and under the influence of
wine, were seized upon and utilized the next day. Flemming reminded
Augustus of them.

In the letter to the King of Prussia, asking for Countess's
extradition, they gave as the reason daring speeches against Augustus,
as well as a plot against his life. The public threat justified it. The
letter was sent by a courier to Berlin.

King Frederick did not hesitate for a moment. Lieutenant Ducharmoi, of
the regiment of the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, was called by his order.

"You will go to Halle," said the King to him, "and there you will find
the Countess Cosel. You will take her under escort, on your
responsibility, and you will conduct her to the frontier of Saxony;
there you will give her into the hands of a Saxon officer, who will
give you a receipt."

Ducharmoi went immediately to Halle, where he found Cosel.

Although prepared for anything bad, she paled at the sight of an
officer. Ducharmoi, after having saluted her, told her that he was
commanded by the King to conduct her to the frontier of Saxony, where
she would be delivered to the Saxon authorities.

She stood for a moment as if struck by a thunderbolt.

"What an injustice! What barbarity!" she exclaimed, and two streams of
tears flowed down her cheeks.

From that moment she said not a word more.

They ordered her to pack her things, and put them in a hired carriage.

Ducharmoi offered her his arm, and she descended to her carriage
without looking at anybody. The horses went off; the carriage being
escorted by a detachment of Prussian cavalry. During the whole of the
journey she gave no signs of life. At last the carriage stopped. Cosel
shivered; through the window she saw the Saxon uniforms worn by a
detachment of dragoons, who were to conduct her further. She called
Lieutenant Ducharmoi, who approached her carriage. Then she emptied her
pockets; she found a gold box and a beautiful watch, and handed them to
the officer.

"Pray, take that as a souvenir from me."

Ducharmoi hesitated.

"I beseech you to accept," said she, "it must not become a prey to
those horrid Saxons."

The money she gave to the Prussian soldiers. Then she drew the curtains
again, without asking what they were going to do with her.


From the moment Cosel passed into the hands of the Saxon authorities
imprisonment was likely at any time. She passed the night in Leipzig.

In the morning an official, wearing a little sword and a big wig,
silently executing the orders he had received from his superiors,
entered the room in which she had spent a sleepless night, crying. He
brought the King's order, instructing him to examine all her things,
and to take them away.

She looked at him contemptuously, and did not say a word. He sealed all
her boxes, and took the papers and jewels; he searched in her trunks,
but could not find that for which he was looking. This humiliating
inquisition lasted a couple of hours.

Hardly had she been permitted to rest a moment after such moral
torture, than she was ordered to again enter the carriage - not being
told where they were going to conduct her.

A detachment of cavalry surrounded the carriage - they rode till the
evening. Against the sky, burning with the setting sun, there appeared
the walls and towers of a castle, and the carriage, passing through a
narrow gateway, entered the courtyard.

The place was entirely unknown to her. The castle was empty and had
been uninhabited for some time. A few men were standing at the door.
They were obliged to conduct the weakened lady up the stairs leading to
a room on the first floor. It was an old habitation, with small
windows, enormous fireplaces, thick walls, without any comforts, and
sparsely furnished with the barest necessities.

Cosel, thoroughly tired, threw herself on the bed.

She passed a sleepless night, tormented by horrid thoughts aroused by
her imprisonment. The dawn was breaking, the sky was growing red-gold
in the east, the servants still slept; only the guard pacing in the
corridor broke the silence when Cosel rose and went to the window.

The view from it did not remind her of anything. In front of her there
was a vast plain, stretching towards the blue of a far forest. Here and
there rose clumps of trees; a few roofs could be seen, and from behind
the green columns of smoke were rising.

The castle stood on an eminence, which descended sharply towards a
village. On the right hand there was a highway bordered with willows.
The road was deserted.

She did not know the country.

From the room she went softly to another, which was larger, in the
middle of it stood an oak table, and against the walls a few benches
and chairs. Over the fireplace there was a battered coat-of-arms, cut
in the stone, of which there remained only the shield and helmet.
Behind this room, and like it, vaulted, was a small round room in the
tower, on the other side of the castle. From here one could see
forests, hills, and villages, and here and there in the distance the
towers of some knightly castle, built like an eagle's nest on a crag.
Still the country was unknown to her.

In the room in the tower there was some furniture; an empty wardrobe
stood against the wall, and on one of its shelves was an old Bible,
worm-eaten and covered with dust. Cosel seized it, but the book slipped
from her hands, and the yellow leaves scattered on the floor.

In that room there was an iron door, leading somewhere into the
mysterious rooms of the castle, in which no living human voice was

The day was breaking. The swallows flew round the windows. Cosel
returned to her rooms. The women servants that accompanied her woke up
and offered to serve her. She dismissed them. Having stayed her hunger
with some warm milk, she went again to the window; she sat on the stone
bench and began to look on God's world, although she had nobody in it.
She turned her eyes on the road, where she noticed some vans, men, and
herds - clouds of dust. But she soon tired of them and sat at a distance
from the window.

The hours were long. At noon they brought her luncheon. One of the
servants persuaded her to eat. Cosel went to the table, and, looking at
the modest meal, began to cry. The luncheons at which she entertained
the King were different!

Then again she went to the window and looked on to the road, not
willing to avow to herself that she hoped to see some one there. She
believed that Zaklika would seek her out.

But neither on that nor the following day did she see anything except
shepherds, herds, and vans. No one looked at the castle. She wandered
from window to window; but all round the country was quiet and
deserted. Towards evening she perceived a small peasant boy picking
flowers near the wall, and she threw him a piece of money that she
found in her pocket, and, leaning out, she asked him the name of the
castle. The boy muttered, "Nossen," and ran away frightened.

She did not know even the name, but she remembered to have heard it,
and guessed she was in the vicinity of Meissen and Dresden. She again
thought of Zaklika, but what could he do alone against walls, guards,
and the King?

The third day she was looking on the road when towards noon she noticed
a horseman. He was riding slowly from the direction of Dresden.

He dropped his reins and looked curiously round the country; he had
raised his head towards the castle. He seemed to be looking for
something. He wore a grey mantle, and she thought it was her faithful
servant. She shivered, and began to wave her handkerchief.

The cavalier had also taken out his handkerchief, and, apparently
wiping his forehead, made signs with it. It was indeed Zaklika. His
mien and his movements were easily recognized, even from a distance.
Her heart began to throb. He at least did not forget her; he could save

Riding slowly and looking at the castle, he disappeared behind the

Zaklika had remained a few days in Halle and watched. He wanted to
follow the Countess, but the Prussians ordered him to leave the
country. He made his way to Dresden, where he went directly to Lehman.

The banker received him with evident fear; he locked the doors, and
first asked him whether anybody had seen him. Being assured that
Zaklika had not met any one in Dresden, Lehman breathed more easily.
But he could not speak for quite a while, and when he began to speak,
he seemed afraid of his own words.

"It is difficult to know," said he, "what was the cause of that, but
now there will be no measure to her misfortune. The King is angry, and
the King's anger is cold like ice. When some one offends him, he is
inexorable. Cosel is lost."

Zaklika listened.

"Yes, she is lost!" continued Lehman. "When the King wrongs some one,
he persecutes him, and will not let him appear in his presence. Cosel
has refused to return to him that promise of marriage, and he will
never forget that. They have confiscated her all. Löwendahl received
orders to search for her money and jewels. Pillnitz is taken by the
Treasury, and the other estate also."

Here Lehman approached Zaklika.

"They have taken everything from me too. The King sent for it. The
books showed I had it; I could not refuse," he added.

"What! everything? But not that secret sum that the Countess told me to
take from you?"

He took a paper that was sewn in his sleeve. The banker took it with
trembling hands.

"And do you know," said he, "what would become of both of us if they
seized that paper? They would send us to Königstein, and my children
would become beggars. Flemming and Löwendahl would seize the pretext to
look into my safe." And he trembled.

"Then you have given them that sum also?" said Zaklika, wringing his
hands in despair.

Lehman looked at him for a long time; he seemed to be wrestling with

"Listen," said he. "Swear to me upon that which you hold most sacred,
that you will not betray me even should they threaten you with death - "

Here the Jew took from a drawer a diamond cross pawned by the Princess

"Swear to me upon that," said he.

Zaklika took the cross, and, raising his hand, said quietly, -

"I swear!"

Then he added, -

"It was not necessary to ask me for an oath: my word as nobleman would
be enough. Zaklika has never betrayed any one, and never will."

Lehman looked at him, and he was as white as a sheet.

"Suppose they should catch you and find money upon you?"

"In the first place the money might be mine; then the Countess may have
made me a present of it."

"But they take everything that used to belong to her."

"They know that I never had anything, and they will not search me. You
will give that money."

Lehman still hesitated.

"I may have misfortunes on account of you, but it must not be said that
I did not help some one in misfortune."

He opened the safe, took out a bag, and began to count money on the
table. Zaklika breathed again and wiped the perspiration from his
forehead; then he sat thoughtful, leant on his elbows, and fell asleep
from fatigue.

When Lehman had finished counting, he turned to him, and perceived that
he had fallen asleep; only then did he understand what the silent man
had suffered if at that moment he could sleep so soundly.

He went quietly to another room, and there he waited till Zaklika
should awaken. He wished him to do so as soon as possible; for
notwithstanding the pity he had for the man, he was afraid to have him
in the house.

Zaklika, who had fallen asleep from fatigue, but in whom the soul was
vigilant, woke up soon, and, almost frightened, jumped from his place.
He rubbed his eyes; he was ashamed to appear so feeble.

He glanced at the money, put it in his money belt, and buckled it under
his dress.

Lehman was waiting, and when Zaklika took his leave he came to him,
and, placing his hand on his shoulder, said, -

"Only God knows whether we shall see one another again. I pity you, but
I cannot stop you from an honest deed. You have noticed my hesitation,
but you must remember that I live for my children. Now, listen to me. I
had in my possession a great deal of money belonging to the Countess,
and in our hands money increases rapidly. Our account is closed; I have
paid everything; but in the case of such misfortune a man should reckon
differently; therefore, take this with you, and may God lead you."

He took a bag, and, handing it to Zaklika, said, -

"From this moment you do not know me. I do not know you either."

"It is for her," said Zaklika, shaking hands with him.

"Go through the garden," said the Israelite.

Zaklika was too well known in the city to show himself. He had left his
horse in a suburb, at the house of his friend, a Wend. During his
wanderings he had been struck by the similarity of the language to his
own, as he listened to these Slavs talking. Speaking a similar
language, he soon struck up acquaintances among them. The name of the
fisherman with whom Zaklika became acquainted was Hawlik. He had a
piece of land reaching to the bank of the river, but as the soil was
not very good, Hawlik was not a farmer, but gained his living by
fishing. Year in year out he lived his life in poverty and sorrow.

Zaklika often used to visit him, and they both chatted of their misery.
The Wend remembered better times. "All around us used to belong to our
people," said he, "but the Germans squeezed us out by different tricks,
and now it is dangerous even to speak our own tongue. They do not give
us any chance in the cities; it is enough to be a Wend to be pushed
out. Our number decreases, but there is no help for it. It seems to be
God's will."

Every time that Zaklika wanted not to be seen in Dresden he went to
Hawlik, where he put up his horse and slept in the attic, and where he
was always welcome to partake of the modest repast. They were glad to
see him now also. They never asked him any questions - what was he doing
or what had he come for.

Zaklika went to them to spend that night, much troubled whether it
would be safe for him to show himself in the city and get some news; he
was afraid of being arrested. Early in the morning, having wrapped
himself up carefully in his mantle, he went across the bridge to
Narrenhaus. He expected to meet Fröhlich as he went to the castle, and
learn something from him. In order to be sure of not missing him, he
sat on the steps of the fool's house and waited. Fröhlich, dressed in
his pointed hat and adorned with silver key, coming out of his house,
noticed a man sitting, and, not recognizing Zaklika, exclaimed, -

"Hey! Do you take my house for a hostelry?"

Zaklika turned; the fool recognized him.

"What is the matter with you?" he exclaimed. "You look as if you were

"I have returned from a journey."

"You are a Catholic, then you must have been in purgatory?"

"I wandered through the world," answered Zaklika. "But tell me what is
going on here?"

"You wish me to be a historiographer," laughed the fool. "You had
better ask what is not going on."

"Do you know what has become of my former mistress?" asked Zaklika.

"I do not know who was your mistress."

"The Countess Cosel."

Fröhlich looked round and put his fingers on his lips.

"Who pronounces that name?" said he. "There is nothing to laugh at, and
you know that I live by laughter."

"But you can tell me at least what has become of her?"

"Then you do not know? Where have you been?"


"I think that even afar they talk about that. That woman in whose
slavery our lord was, it seems, is now imprisoned by him, and her
captivity will last longer than her domination."

"And where is she?" asked Zaklika.

"They say that she is in Nossen Castle, but to be sure they will build
something finer for her," laughed the fool by habit, but sadly. "No! I
would not like to be a woman. Speaking frankly, it is not much comfort
to be a man either. If I had my choice, I would like to be a donkey.
Nobody eats donkey's meat, his skin is thick, and when long-ears begins
to sing, everybody runs away and leaves him alone. If one adds that he
has always a good appetite, and that he can live on old broom, one sees
that there is no happier being in the world."

"Nossen! Nossen!" repeated Zaklika thoughtfully, having forgotten about
the fool.

"I am talking about an ass, and you about Nossen! Do not prattle about
sad things, and good-bye!"

Fröhlich, having put the official smile on his lips, went away. Zaklika
returned to Hawlik, from whom he learned where the castle was; and he
started in its direction the same day.

He was very glad that Cosel had noticed him coming, for he knew that he
would bring her some consolation.

He went to the inn in the village, where he assumed the rôle of a buyer
of skins, and thus, while apparently going round on business, had
plenty of time to learn all about the castle. The building was old, and
Cosel's guard was composed of a few old men. They did not let any one
in, but they did not watch her very strictly. The windows were very
high, and nobody thought that an escape could be accomplished through
them; consequently there were no sentries. The soldiers spent their
time smoking pipes in the courtyard, and at Cosel's door.

In the rear of the castle one could approach the windows very easily.

In order to have a good pretext for longer sojourn at the inn, Zaklika
simulated being unwell. The innkeeper was glad of it, for he had to
feed the horse as well as take care of the man.

At supper he learned that they had brought to the castle the lady who
attempted the King's life, as well as how many soldiers guarded her.
Two women servants, a cook, and a boy composed the whole court of this
lady who formerly was surrounded by a crowd of servants dressed in
cloth of gold.

They were telling wonders about the prisoner.

Zaklika remained a couple of days without raising any suspicion, and as
he gave a couple of thalers to the innkeeper on account of skins, he
felt more assured, and one day he went out towards noon to look at the
castle. He convinced himself that from one side, where was the forest,
he could steal through the undergrowth near to the walls; but he could
not find out whether there were any windows from Cosel's room on this
side. He proposed to see that later.

Towards evening he returned to the inn, drank the bears'-fat
recommended to him by the innkeeper, and went to bed, thinking how he
could deceive the German and remain longer in the inn without exciting


The next morning, as Zaklika was drinking warmed beer in the common
room, there entered, with a great noise, three soldiers from the guard
of the castle.

Zaklika immediately recognized them as soldiers whom he had seen in
Dresden, and one of them began to look at him attentively.

"Well," said the soldier, leaning on the table, "I seem to know you."

"To be sure," answered Zaklika, "for I was a long time in service at
the Court, till I took to business."

"Ah! you are the man who breaks horse-shoes!" exclaimed the soldier.

"Yes, I could even stop an ox by taking it by the horns; but now I
don't know whether I could do the same even with a sheep."

The soldier saluted him smiling. Zaklika called for beer for him, and
they became friends.

"We are now doing penance," said the soldier. "We are in Nossen
watching a petticoat! It is frightfully dull there."

"They might at least have given a few pretty girls to the Countess,"
said another soldier.

"How long are you going to stay here?"

"Who knows? And it is so dreadful to have nothing to do."

"Why don't you play cards?" said Zaklika.

"With whom? And then we don't have much money."

He gaped, and drank the beer.

When they started to return to the castle, Zaklika accompanied them to
the gate, then, still talking, he entered the courtyard and the

The other soldiers were not surprised at the newcomer; on the contrary,
they were glad he came. They began to chat together. They found cards,
and won from him two thalers. This pleased them very much. As he was
going, he expressed a wish to see the castle, and nobody objected to
it. The officer was in the town, playing the guitar to a butcher's

He was not able, however, to do anything more that day.

Zaklika stayed on, pretending that he was not well, purchased skins,
and looked about for a way of stealing into the castle. They did not
suspect him, but the difficulties were great from the position of the
castle. The part of the castle in which the Countess was imprisoned
adjoined the empty portion of it. There the old steward and his family
were living. Through the soldiers, Zaklika became acquainted with him.

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Online LibraryJózef Ignacy KraszewskiMemoirs of the Countess Cosel → online text (page 16 of 20)