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congratulate you on your good fortune, and also on your wife's beauty.
There is no doubt that she is the most beautiful lady at our court. Oh,
Hoym, what a happy man you must be!"

But seeing Hoym, as he stood with drooping head, listening to the
King's congratulations, no one would have supposed him to be happy. On
the contrary, he looked like one humiliated and crushed; like a man
repenting his evil deeds; like one who, did he but dare, would groan
aloud in his anguish. Fürstenberg bowed, looking ironically at the
King.

"I see, your Majesty," said he in a whisper, "that I must pay the costs
of the King's decision, and that I must also pay the piper."

Augustus turned towards him, and, extending his hand to be kissed,
said, -

"Do not complain, Fürstenberg; pay the thousand ducats, and take ten
thousand from my treasury as a reward for the opportunity you have
given me of beholding such a masterpiece of beauty."

Meanwhile, Princess Teschen sat alone - every one had deserted her.
Having observed this, Augustus, following his usual custom of
sweetening, as far as possible, his subjects' downfall, went over to
her. Those unacquainted with the King's mode of procedure were much
surprised at seeing him walk in that direction. But Countess Reuss and
Fraulein Hulchen, who observed his movements, were well aware of its
meaning.

"Teschen is overthrown!" said the Countess, addressing her friend. "The
King has gone over to her!"

The old courtiers also, who had seen the King embracing Chancellor
Beichling the day before he was sent to Königstein, knew how to
interpret His Majesty's tenderness towards the Princess Teschen.

"Do you know," said the King, seating himself by her side, "that
looking at you in that black dress, you are so beautiful that you
remind me of that tournament at Warsaw, when you fainted through
anxiety for my safety?"

"But Countess Hoym is more beautiful than I am, than the tournament, or
the remembrance of my fainting," replied the Princess sarcastically.

"Countess Hoym may be beautiful, even most beautiful," said Augustus,
"but there are things more beautiful than beauty itself - and one is a
tender and loving heart. Dear Princess, do not make such a spectacle of
yourself; return home, put on your blue dress, that is so becoming to
you, and wait for me for supper."

A deep blush overspread the pale face of the Princess Ursula.

"My King! my Lord!" she exclaimed, forgetful of all that had gone
before. "Is this true? Is it possible that Augustus is still mine?"

"Pray do not doubt me," replied the King gravely. "Why should I lie?"

It was true. At that moment the King did not lie; Countess Hoym's
beauty had made a great impression on him, but at the same time it had
filled him with a sort of fear. The energy of her character betrayed
itself in her every movement and glance, and he felt that he should be
obliged to lay half of his power at her feet. Anna's face said, "I must
rule;" the face of Ursula said, "I love you, and I am dying for your
love!" Countess Hoym even appeared to him too sad and serious. That,
therefore, was the reason he went over to console the Princess; he had
no wish to lose her, and place his neck beneath the yoke of a woman who
seemed not in the least anxious to conquer him.

Countess Hoym was very tastefully dressed; she wore no jewels, but her
coiffure and the colour and cut of her dress lent an added charm to her
beauty. The portraits of her taken at that time, represent her as
having a face of an exquisite oval, a small nose, lovely lips, and very
expressive, large black eyes, whilst her features were very delicate,
and her long black hair very abundant. Her hands, bust, and waist were
of a corresponding beauty; and her fair face blushed and paled with
every succeeding emotion.

Although exposed to the gaze of several hundred persons, Anna Hoym was
not in the least confused; at first she was silent and dignified, but
she speedily became accustomed to the dazzling splendour, which
appeared to her to be an ordinary thing here, for although the court in
which she had passed her young days was not so splendid as that of
Dresden, the forms, she found, were the same.

Princess Teschen at once prepared to obey the King's command, and
having cast on him one languishing glance, she left the ball-room
almost triumphant. A few moments later Augustus stood beside Countess
Hoym's chair. He gazed at her in silence, and, having noticed his
approach, Anna rose. The King requested her to be seated, and she
obeyed, but without any exaggerated respect.

At that time it was the custom that when the King desired to talk with
any one, those standing near immediately retreated. This custom was
observed in the present instance.

"Countess, you are the most beautiful lady at my court," said the King
gallantly, bending towards her as he spoke. "I am delighted with the
new and splendid star that has now risen on my horizon."

Anna raised her head proudly.

"Your Majesty!" replied she, "at night, any small light looks like a
star, but with the daylight it expires. I know how to appreciate your
Majesty's favour, and it is to this favour that I attribute these
flattering words."

"I only repeat what I hear," said Augustus.

"People who see me for the first time," rejoined Anna, laughing,
"usually see badly. A new object amuses; that alone is truly beautiful
which, after many years, still appears beautiful."

The King was silent, for he understood that the beautiful lady beside
him was referring to his gallantry towards Princess Teschen. But after
a few moments, he said, -

"You are too modest."

"Oh, no!" replied Anna with animation. "I do not attach any value to
beauty."

"But beauty of face indicates beauty of soul," rejoined the King.

Anna lowered her eyes. The King did not leave her.

"After the long solitude imposed on you by your husband," continued
Augustus, "the court must appear very strange to you."

"Not at all," replied Anna. "I spent my youth at a court which,
although more modest than your Majesty's, gave me just the same idea as
to what all courts are."

"And what are they?" inquired the King.

"A well-played comedy," answered the Countess.

"And what _rôle_ do I play in it?"

"Perhaps that of a manager, who is deceived and robbed by every one."

Augustus, slightly surprised, inquired, -

"Do you find everything here deceitful?"

"How could it be otherwise?" asked Anna. "Kings never hear the truth."

"It may be so," said Augustus, "and that is the reason they so
frequently search for lips from which they may hear it."

"But perhaps," rejoined Anna, "they only find lips that know how to
administer poison more skilfully than the others."

"Your speech," said the King politely, "proves to me that you do not
like splendid courts. I greatly regret this, for I thought that the
light from your eyes would brighten our gloomy skies."

"Your Majesty," replied Anna with animation, "I should sound here with
a false note. I know not how to sing like the others."

To turn the current of their conversation, Augustus now began to make
humorous remarks about the ladies and gentlemen surrounding them. And
from this Anna discovered that he knew far more about the characters,
inclinations, and even of the secrets in the lives of his courtiers,
than she would have expected.

"You see," added Augustus, "that this comedy holds no secrets for me;
and what renders it very amusing is that these people imagine that they
deceive and blind me."

"Thus the gods look on the earth," concluded the Countess.

The King was much pleased at being called a god. As she spoke those
words, her eyes, for the first time, met those of the King, which were
fixed on her full of enthusiasm and admiration. In Anna's eyes there
was only an expression of cold curiosity, not unmixed with fear.

After this, the King left her slowly. His courtiers all tried to divine
his thoughts. Fürstenberg was the first to encounter him.

"Your Majesty," said he, "may I dare to ask if the most beautiful is
also - "

"The most witty," said the King, finishing his sentence for him. "We
must tell Hoym that he must not on any account venture to take her from
Dresden. She is very interesting indeed - a little bit cold, but that
will pass with time."

Hoym, who had been watching from a distance, was unable to guess his
wife's thoughts; but the moment Anna was left alone Countess Reuss,
Fraulein Hulchen, and Countess Vitzthum hastened forward and surrounded
her.

The King noticed it, and shrugged his shoulders.

"They already bow before the rising sun," whispered he to Fürstenberg.
"But I very much fear that they will be disappointed."

Fürstenberg looked surprised.

"You also are mistaken," said Augustus, bending down and speaking in
his ear. "Hoym's wife is beautiful, I have examined her carefully: she
is an animated Greek statue, but she is too energetic, too intelligent;
and besides, she would wish to rule. A few days' pleasure with her is
all that I desire. Her beauty attracts me, but her character repels
me."

Fürstenberg now looked very much astonished, and the King went away.

During all this time, no one had noticed the pale face of a young man,
whose head towered above all the others in the crowd around the door.
His glance rested continually on Anna, and when the King approached
her, his eyes gleamed with anger. At first Countess Hoym did not
observe him, but when the King had left her, and she had more leisure
to look around her, she perceived and recognized Zaklika.

As her eyes rested on his pale face, she grew a trifle confused. Then,
uncertain whether she was mistaken or not, she looked again, and this
time she met his eyes gazing towards her. Now there was no longer room
for doubt: her silent admirer from Laubegast stood before her. In the
expression of his face, she seemed to read pity, sorrow, and
uneasiness.

His looks made her uneasy, and every moment she glanced in his
direction, hoping he might have disappeared. But no, he was still
there, and with the same expression on his features. Why should that
poor, unknown vagabond of a man interest her more than the shining
majesty of the King, or than the courtiers, who were all bent on
petting her? That was a question she was quite unable to answer. She
only felt that a mysterious chain of some strange destiny united her to
that stranger.

Was he an executioner awaiting the hour of her torture, or was he a
victim awaiting the execution? Anna knew not, but a mysterious,
tormenting voice seemed to whisper to her, prophesying the unfolding of
some future destiny between herself and that stranger. Every time she
met his glance, she shivered.

She laughed at her foolish fancies, and the echo in her soul replied
with plaintive moaning.

It was in such a mood that Hoym found her, and he looked very yellow
and sour as he offered her his arm to escort her home. Fate decreed
that they went towards the door near which the stranger youth was
standing. The crowd stepped aside to let them pass. As she crossed the
threshold, the Countess glanced fearfully around, and perceived the
stranger from Laubegast leaning against the wall. Having met her
glance, the youth knelt on one knee, and she felt him seize the hem of
her dress and press it to his lips. When, however, she turned, he had
disappeared.

There before her stood the Countess Reuss, who invited them to supper
so cordially that the Secretary could not refuse.

Fürstenberg was behind her. They proceeded immediately to the house of
Countess Reuss, where, in company with a select circle, they spent
about an hour. The famous Egeria Hulchen was the leader there. She was
an old maid, but the King gave heed to her words, and frequently asked
her advice. Around her gathered all those who wished to rule, or to
keep up their influence. The King laughed at this clique, but, by its
unseen springs, it ruled both him and the court.

Countess Reuss was one of the principal acting figures at the court of
Augustus II. In her house were held the most important councils. Here
plans were laid for the overthrow or rise of one or other of the lord's
favourites; here also was predicted the favours that awaited the
various ladies; and here, too, they foretold with great exactness the
moment when the King's variable affection would require to change the
object of its devotion.

Hoym was aware that Countess Reuss, foreseeing a new favourite, was
trying to win her to her side; he was shocked by her obsequiousness,
which allowed all to guess that she foresaw in Anna a substitute for
Princess Teschen, but he could not be angry, or rather, he could not
show that he was angry. Through Fraulein Hulchen and her relations,
Countess Reuss had a very great influence at court, and it would be
dangerous to make an enemy of her. Consequently he appeared not to
notice anything amiss, and accepted the invitation.

The party assembled in the drawing-room was very animated, while in the
boudoir adjoining, where persons were moving in and out, the hostess,
her friend, Fürstenberg, and other members of the clique were talking
business. The largest circle of guests talked of silk and stuff, and
gossiped of matters familiar to every one.

According to the prevailing opinion, the King's tenderness towards
Teschen was a sure sign of her downfall. But Augustus II. was obliged
to spare her, for many reasons. Her relation to Sobieskis, and
Radziejowskis, and her influence in Poland, obliged the King to reckon
with her.

In the boudoir, Countess Reuss was asking Fürstenberg what the King had
told him concerning Countess Hoym.

"I know the King," replied the Prince, "especially as regards his
disposition towards women. Countess Hoym was sharp and proud - that
repelled him for a time, but her beauty appeals to his senses, and his
senses always subdue him. He is afraid of her, and therefore he will
desire her all the more - and you know that he must always have that for
which he longs. It appears that Countess Hoym is not inclined to play
the part of an easy favourite, and the King will exhaust all his
strength before he conquers her, but there is no doubt that he pleases
her."

"Then you think that her time will come?"

"Yes. Speaking from my knowledge of him, the King would like to gratify
his fancy, but he has no desire for more solid relations; it depends
entirely on her, and how she conducts this affair."

"Do you know anything about her, Chancellor?"

"I can only guess," replied Fürstenberg. "I believe that neither her
husband, nor any one else, perhaps not even she herself, knows how she
will act when she is extolled. To-day she is a proud and noble woman;
she has a strong character, she is witty, she is clever."

"But she would let herself be guided?" inquired Countess Reuss.

The Prince became thoughtful.

"I only know this," he replied at length, "I prefer to deal with
intelligent persons, rather than with those who do not know what they
are doing."

Silence followed this remark, and presently the Countess signed to him
to leave her alone. When he had departed, she walked up and down her
boudoir several times, then she entered the drawing-room. Here she
man[oe]uvred so cleverly, that she was able to approach Anna, take her
away from the circle of guests, and lead her into the boudoir, where,
after making her take a seat by her side, she spoke as follows: -

"Dear Countess, if you have any patience and indulgence for an old
friend, permit me to speak with you frankly. No one can hear us in this
room. I wish to advise and help you. You know sufficient of the court,
the times in which we live, and of yourself, to be certain that you
have not been brought to Dresden in vain. The King is weary of Teschen,
and he must be in love with some one, it is his nature, and we must be
indulgent to such a great and good lord, in whom the whole world will
forgive such weakness. For us who surround the King, it only remains to
derive as much good from this as we can. You can occupy the most
brilliant position by the King's side, only you must be quick, and you
must also be well aware of what you are going to do."

"Dear Countess," replied Anna, "I have no ambition, I do not care for
riches. I have a husband, and I desire to remain an honest woman."

"I would not raise any objection to your doing so," rejoined Countess
Reuss, smiling, "but permit me to say that I can see no reason why you
should become a martyr. Hoym is awful; he is worn out, he is a
libertine, he betrays you; it is impossible for you to love him; sooner
or later, the heart must speak."

"I shall silence it!"

"Once, or twice, but afterwards there will come the years of weariness
and longing, when, in your despair, you will throw yourself on some
one's breast, and even then you will not be happy. I know the world
well; such is our lot. The King, however, is fascinating and beautiful,
and life with him may become a paradise."

"But he is inconstant, and I do not understand capricious love. It
disgusts me! Such love is not for me!"

"It is the women who are at fault," responded Countess Reuss, "if they
do not know how to make such relations permanent. It would be useless
to bind him with an oath, for the first priest would release him from
it. Your best guarantee of stability will lie in your common sense,
tact, and beauty. Every woman must know how to keep a husband, or a
lover - it is our business."

Countess Hoym shrugged her shoulders.

"It is a very poor love that one has to keep tied by a string!"
exclaimed she. "I do not care for such love! But frankness for
frankness, dear Countess," she continued, in a whisper. "I do not
pledge myself. At present, I wish to remain faithful to Hoym, and it is
only love that would ever make me unfaithful to him. The moment I love,
I shall leave Hoym and go openly to the one I love; and the man who
loves me shall be my husband."

"But the King! the King!"

"Whether he be a king or no, matters not to me," said Countess Hoym.

"Do you know that the King is married, although he does not live with
his wife?"

"He will be obliged to obtain a divorce and marry me," rejoined Anna.
"I have no wish to play the _rôle_ of either Esterle, or Königsmark, or
of Teschen."

Having said this, she rose and walked majestically across the room;
Countess Reuss was silent, there was nothing more to be said.

"You will do as you please," said she, after a while. "As a good
friend, it was my duty to warn you and give you good advice. Let us
remain friends, but allow me to tell you this: the position you disdain
is not so base and secondary as you imagine. The King will bow to your
wishes; you may rule the country, and do much good; you may succour the
unfortunate, make the people happy - all this is worth something."

"My honour is dearer to me than all that," replied Countess Hoym. "Let
us speak no more on this subject."

They left the room. The ladies in the drawing-room looked at them
curiously, trying to guess the subject of their conversation. Anna's
face was crimson, the Countess Reuss was pale, yet both were smiling.

Suddenly the light of torches shone out beneath the window, and,
looking out, Fürstenberg perceived the King on his way to visit
Teschen, but he looked as sad as a man who had been sentenced to suffer
some severe penalty.




CHAPTER VI.


Adolf Magnus, Count Hoym, who occupied a position corresponding to that
of Secretary to the Treasury, had no friends, either at court or in the
country. All hated him, because he imposed taxes on beer. The Saxons
resisted the King as much as they could; and the King, who never had
sufficient money to meet his enormous expenses, was enraged at their
resistance. It was the nobles who made the strongest resistance, and
the King was advised to despoil them of all their privileges, and
surround himself with foreigners, who would not have any relations
either with the nobility or with the masses of the people.

Augustus had partially followed this advice, and the majority of his
secretaries and favourites were taken from foreign lands. Italians,
Frenchmen, and Germans from other provinces occupied all the most
important positions in the state. Hoym, being a very able man in
finding new sources of income for the King, enjoyed great favour with
His Majesty; for Augustus required millions, for Poland, for the army,
for entertainments, and for his favourites. Hoym, however, had no great
confidence in the King's favour; the fate of Beichling and several
others had rendered him distrustful, and he intended, as soon as he had
grown rich, to seize the first opportunity to escape from Saxony with
his head and his money.

Except Beichling, who was at that time imprisoned at Königstein, Hoym
did not possess a single friend. Marshal Plug hated him; Fürstenberg
could not bear him; the others disliked him.

When, after the wager had been laid, Hoym was commanded to bring his
wife and present her at court, no one pitied him; on the contrary, all
laughed at his distress.

The day following the ball, Hoym was obliged to bring the King his
report. The new tax levied on liquors had met with resistance. In the
province of Luzyce, in particular, the nobles openly rebelled against
it. The King could not bear the slightest resistance to his will. When
the report was ended, Augustus the Strong turned to Hoym, and, frowning
angrily, said, -

"Go to-day; go immediately, arrest those who are at the head of this
opposition, and compel the others to obey my will!"

His presence in Luzyce not being in the least necessary, Hoym tried to
persuade the King to send some one else, and allow him to remain in
Dresden, where he had affairs of greater importance to attend to.

"There is nothing more important," replied Augustus, "than breaking the
power and quelling the resistance of those arrogant nobles. Take a
squadron of Dragoons with you, and depart instantly. Should they dare
to assemble, scatter them. Tell them not to follow the example of the
Polish nobles, for I will not suffer anything of that kind from my own
subjects. In two hours you should be on the road to Budzisyn."

His subjects might discuss matters with the King when he was drunk, but
when sober Augustus had his will, and _only one word_.

This expedition, following, as it did, closely on the ball, seemed to
Hoym very suspicious. He knew the King, the court, and all that was
passing there, and he was convinced that he was being sent away so that
he might not prove an obstacle to the monarch's wishes, and that
Augustus might be left at liberty to court his wife. Still he could do
nothing to prevent it. He had no friends; he could not even trust his
own sister. He felt that all the court was against him.

On returning home, he threw the papers on the table, tore his dress,
then, throwing open the door with a great noise, rushed like a madman
into his wife's apartment.

She was alone. He looked at her inquisitively, and at even the smallest
objects surrounding her. Anger was depicted on his pale features. Anna
looked up at him calmly. She was accustomed to such scenes.

"You can rejoice, madam," he exclaimed. "I was fool enough to bring you
here, and now they will do with me as they please. I am an obstacle in
the King's path, therefore His Majesty sends me away. I leave here in
an hour, then you will be left alone."

"And what do you mean by all this, if you please?" inquired the
Countess contemptuously. "Do you require a troop of guards to defend my
honour?"

"No. But I think that my presence would at least restrain their
effrontery," shouted Hoym. "They would not send me away were I not an
obstacle to them. In all this I see the finger of dear Fürstenberg, who
laughed ironically as he paid me that thousand ducats. I know that he
has received ten thousand from the King for his brilliant idea of
bringing you here."

"Hoym!" exclaimed Anna, rising, "enough of these insults. Go! Go! Do
what you please, only leave me in peace. I can protect myself."

Hoym was silent; his face grew gloomy, for the hands of the clock
announced the hour of his departure.

"I do not need to warn you," he said. "You know all that may happen to
you here. But one thing I must tell you, I will not endure any shame.
Others may be indulgent - I cannot be!"

"I have not sunk so low as those ladies," said Anna, interrupting him.
"I shall not betray you, because in so doing I should humiliate myself.
Should you make my life yet more unendurable, I shall leave you


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