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excellent humour, and was planning how he might best surround his
favourite with entertainments, magnificence, and luxury.

Hoym, who still retained his position as Secretary to the Treasury, and
whose tears for the loss of his wife the King had dried by a present of
fifty thousand thalers, was again among those who came to drink with
the King. Hoym was more necessary to Augustus than any of the others,
for money was necessary to him, and the secretary knew how to provide

But the most clever methods of obtaining it had been almost exhausted,
and now they would be obliged to employ some extraordinary means by
which they might obtain the required gold. Augustus, like many of the
rulers of his day, believed in alchemy. They did not doubt but that
there existed some marvellous mixture which could change any metal into
the gold that was so necessary to happiness.

At times no other subject was mentioned at Court than how gold could be
made. Every one had a laboratory. Chancellor Beichling would not have
been sent to Königstein had not Fürstenberg persuaded the King that he
could find a man capable of making gold, and much more gold than
Beichling could squeeze out of the country.

The savant on whom Fürstenberg depended was a simple apothecary, by
name Johan Friedrich Bottiger, born at Schleiz, in Saxony. He had been
manufacturing a gold-making mixture in Berlin, and Frederick I. had
wished to keep him for himself, but Bottiger succeeded in making his
escape, and came to Saxony, where he received a warm welcome, and was
shut up in a castle and ordered to make gold for King Augustus II.

Fürstenberg was working with him, and the King firmly believed that any
day they might produce as much gold as they wanted.

They flattered Bottiger, they surrounded him with luxury, but they kept
him securely guarded. Years passed by, and yet the apothecary had not
been successful in making his mixture. They sent the King many things
with which to make gold, but in every case it was necessary before
using them to prepare oneself by prayer, and to have a pure heart.
Augustus prayed, confessed, sat by the crucible, but he could not make
gold. Fortunately a dog overturned the mercury sent by Bottiger, and
they were obliged to use other, and so the ill-success of the work was
attributed to the dog. Bottiger was kept in constant confinement in
Fürstenberg's castle, and, despite all the comforts with which he was
surrounded, he nearly went mad, but still he did not succeed in making
gold. Bottiger used to give balls and dinners in his prison, and during
the past few years had cost the King forty thousand thalers.

When Lady Cosel succeeded Princess Teschen the famous alchemist was
confined in a tower in the castle, where he busied himself preparing
prescriptions for making gold. Great was the expectation of the Court,
and none doubted that Bottiger would succeed at last.

The evening of the day on which Zaklika sought the protection of the
fool the King, accompanied by Vitzthum, Fürstenberg, and the Countesses
Reuss and Vitzthum, supped with Lady Cosel.

After supper, Frölich, being called to entertain the company, imitated
the alchemist, and brought in some dirt in a crucible. Such a joke
caused Augustus to look gloomy. Cosel, who had heard something about
Bottiger, began to inquire about him in a whisper. The King was
unwilling to speak of the matter, but to please his favourite he told
her all about the alchemist, what a valuable man he was, and how they
always kept watch over him, lest he should escape.

"Your Majesty," said Frölich, "so long as he is not watched by a very
strong man, the possibility is that he will escape. Your Majesty alone
would be a proper guard for him, or a man equally strong - but such an
one it would be impossible to find, did we search throughout the whole

"There you are mistaken," said Augustus; "I have at my Court a man as
strong as myself."

"I have never heard of him."

It was in this way that Augustus was reminded of Zaklika.

"And what does this Hercules look like?" inquired Cosel.

"Summon him," commanded the King.

Poor Raymond, directly he entered the King's presence, made use of the
opportunity to ask for his discharge, but Augustus shook his head.

"I cannot discharge you," said he, "for I have need of your services. I
have a treasure which I intend to trust to your strength and honesty.
From this moment you belong to the court of Madame Cosel; you will
watch over her safety, and risk your life for her if necessary."

Zaklika could scarcely believe his ears; he blushed, and said nothing.
Chance had served him better than the fool.

Madame Cosel was much surprised, and she also blushed, for she
remembered her meetings with him at Laubegast. However, she was careful
not to say a word about them, and so Zaklika obtained the position he
had so coveted.


The reign of Countess Cosel (she had already obtained the title of
Francis I.) promised to be a long one. Having obtained a written
promise of marriage from the King, she considered herself a second
Queen, and as such she acted. She was almost always in Augustus'
company, and she was ready alike for a journey or for war. No peril
caused her the least alarm.

Soon she knew his character, and was able to discern all the threads of
intrigue. She kept him constantly entertained by her calmness of mind
and unfailing gaiety; she ruled over him, and gained fresh influence
over him every day.

It was soon clear to every one that Cosel was invincible. If the
frivolous King forgot her for a few moments, she knew perfectly how to
hasten out to meet him and within a few hours had regained her former
influence over him. Her beauty seemed to increase rapidly. In vain did
jealous women look for some change in her appearance, for some
weariness in her manner, she bloomed continually, as though perpetual
youth had been granted her.

The following year, the King ordered a palace to be built for her, near
to the castle. This building was a masterpiece of art. It was called
the Palace of the Four Seasons, for there were different apartments for
the different seasons; cool rooms for summer, and bright, warm, and
sunny ones for winter. The former were adorned with marble, the latter
with tapestry. The most costly and valuable articles that Europe could
supply in the way of furniture, trinkets, carpets, dresses, &c., were
to be found here. The army could not be paid, but the palace was

A splendid ball was given as a house-warming, and Countess Cosel,
covered with diamonds, victorious, and looking like some beautiful
goddess, leaned on the King's arm, whom, in secret, she called her
husband. Frivolous Augustus, although not entirely faithful, yet loved
Cosel best of all. She was indeed most bewitching, and foreigners who
saw her at the zenith of her glory spoke of her with enthusiasm.

Cosel extended her influence, and made friends with great ability, but
she could not overcome the jealousy and fear of those who had any
reason to be afraid of her. In vain the clergy, scandalized at the
King's open attachment to her, began to preach against beautiful
Bathsheba, and one day Gerber, a famous preacher of those times, spoke
against her so strongly that there was murmuring in church.

Throughout the whole day nothing was spoken of but Cosel Bathsheba. In
the evening the King's favourite was informed of the attack that had
been made on her by the preacher. Augustus, coming into her apartment,
found her weeping.

"What is the matter, my beautiful goddess?" he exclaimed, seizing her

"Your Majesty, I beseech you for justice," she replied, sobbing. "You
say that you love me, then protect me from public insult."

"What is the matter?" asked the King uneasily.

"I ask for the punishment of Gerber! An example must be made of this
arrogant priest, who does not even respect the crown. Gerber said I was

Augustus smiled.

"I am not Bathsheba, I have no wish to be her! I am your wife, my lord!
You must punish him," cried Anna, kneeling before him.

But Augustus only answered kindly, -

"A priest can say anything he likes once a week, and I can do nothing
to prevent him. Did he pronounce a single word outside the church, I
would punish him. The church shelters him."

Gerber was not punished, but he made no further mention of Bathsheba.

During those most disastrous years that followed, the King's love
increased. The wild Charles XII., a severe and merciless soldier, with
hair cut short, and wearing enormous boots that reached higher than his
knees, persecuted the King covered in velvet and lace, who skirmished
against him clad in golden armour.

Many marvels were told about him. Augustus listened, and was silent.
The Saxon Army was defeated. Despite the exertions of Flemming,
Prebendowski, and Dombski, the prestige of the most magnificent monarch
in Europe was diminishing in Poland. Countess Königsmark, a former
favourite, sent over a secret mission, but could accomplish nothing.
Charles XII. had no desire to speak either with her or with any one
else. Good fortune abandoned Augustus II. Bottiger could not make gold,
Hoym was unable to supply it, and Cosel wanted millions. The people,
not wishing to serve in the army, ran away and hid themselves in the
mountains, whilst the preachers vehemently denounced the robbery of the

The nobility, although very respectful, resisted paying such heavy

The King was frequently in a very bad humour, but it never lasted long,
for Cosel smiled and her lord's face brightened. Countess Cosel had no
allies, but she did not want them, she felt she was stronger than them
all. The courtiers were frightened.

Vitzthum alone still enjoyed the favours of the King and his favourite,
for he cared not for politics, and loved Augustus like a brother.

The years passed one after the other, full of various incidents.
Fortune was not yet tired of persecuting this most magnificent of
monarchs. The Swedes were victorious, and threatened to drive him from
his throne. Augustus resisted as best he could, grieved, and
endeavoured to counterbalance adversity by indulging in merry-making.

But hunting parties, banquets, balls, masquerades, and theatres, all
were suddenly interrupted by the news that the Swedes had invaded
Saxony. Charles XII. had pursued the enemy into his own country. Fear
seized on every one.

After the defeat at Frauenstadt isolated groups of deserters returned,
and these were captured and hanged, or shot down, for not having done
their duty. On September 1st Charles XII. invaded Saxony at the head of
twenty thousand men. It was impossible to fight against them, so they
were obliged to feed them. Augustus' small army escaped to Würzburgh.
Dresden, Sizendorf, Königstein, and Sonnenstein had garrisons.

With Charles XII. came the new King of Poland, Stanislaus Leszczynski.
Dresden was deserted. The Queen went to her family at Bayreuth, her
mother went to Magdeburg, and then to Denmark.

Augustus was obliged to resign the crown of Poland in favour of
Stanislaus Leszczynski, and in 1706 a treaty was signed at Altranstadt,
but the Swedes did not leave Saxony.

During the war, and all the bloody horrors that accompanied it,
Augustus remained still the same; love played the most important part
in his life. He lost kingdoms, but he conquered hearts. He still loved
the Countess Cosel, but whenever he was absent from her, he led a life
of dissipation. Now, more than ever, he required distraction, and his
courtiers, who wished to get rid of Cosel, did everything they could to
displace her in his affections.

Fürstenberg, Countess Reuss, and the whole clique of her enemies,
disappointed in their ambitions, did their best to procure her
downfall. But, confident in her beauty, Cosel cared nothing for their
efforts. She only smiled at their vain attempts. Her relations with the
King were by this time further strengthened by the birth of a daughter.
The proud woman persuaded herself that Augustus could not find another
like her; she alone was capable of participating in his pleasures, and,
besides, she was afraid of neither firing, mad riding, nor campaigning.

Yet, while she was with him in Warsaw, the King betrayed her with the
daughter of a French wine merchant. Having learnt what had occurred,
Anna threatened the King that she would shoot him, but Augustus only
laughed, kissed her hands, and obtained forgiveness. In truth, despite
his side wooings, the King loved Anna best, she alone was able to amuse
him, and he was happiest when with her.

The war, the devastation of the country, the loss of the Polish crown,
did not diminish any portion of Cosel's luxury. Amidst all these
calamities the King played the rôle of demi-god with a serene
countenance. From the clatter of arms, Augustus, after having signed a
shameful treaty, returned to Dresden, and the carriage had scarcely
stopped in the courtyard of the castle, when he sprang out and rushed
to Cosel's apartment.

At the door of her room he found the faithful Zaklika, leaning against
a chair, plunged in deep thought. Seeing the King, Raymond sprang to
his feet, and stopped him.

"Your Majesty, the Countess is ill; she expects to be delivered."

The King pushed him aside and entered.

There was silence in all the rooms. At the door of the chamber Augustus
heard the sound of a baby crying. Cosel, white as marble, exhausted by
suffering, and unable to utter a word, stretched forth both her hands
and pointed towards the infant. The King took it in his arms, and
kissed it. Then he sat down beside the bed, and covered his face with
his hands.

"Anna," said he, "the world will look on me with contempt, and will
cease to love me. Good fortune has deserted Augustus; I am conquered,

"Augustus," said Anna, sobbing, "I shall love you more than ever, now
you are unhappy."

"I need such a consolation," rejoined the King gloomily. "My enemies
pursue me, my allies are helpless. Every one bows to the victors. I am
indeed most miserable."

Thus an hour passed; the sick woman needed rest. The King left her, and
was speedily surrounded by generals and ministers, Flemming,
Fürstenberg, Plug, Hoym, and others, who all rushed to him, terrified
at the calamities that had fallen upon Saxony. They all looked at him,
searching for traces of grief. But egotism had stifled all feeling in
him; so long as he himself was well, he cared nothing for the rest; he
did not even blush.

On the 15th of December Augustus disappeared. He, Plug, and one servant
rode to Leipzic to see Charles XII., for the King was convinced that if
his stern adversary saw the serenity of his face and the magnificence
of his apparel, he would grant him better terms.

There could not have been a greater contrast than that presented by
these two enemies. Charles XII. looked like a Puritan, Augustus like a
courtier of Louis XIV. They saluted with great cordiality, and kissed
each other. Their private conversation lasted for an hour, and by the
time it was ended Augustus looked pale and exhausted.

That day spent with Charles XII. weighed heavily on the King, and he
never spoke of it to any one. The following day Charles returned his
visit; the treaty, however, remained unchanged.

The year that followed was a very hard one for the King, who was
anxious to get rid of the Swedes, even at a great sacrifice. Augustus
spent many weary days, travelling between Altranstadt, Moritzburg, and
Leipzic, trying to obtain the ratification of the treaty.

Augustus and Charles met frequently, but the latter never wished to
talk about politics; his secretaries, Piper and Cedermhiolm, were for

The treaty was eventually ratified, but still the Swedes did not think
of leaving the country.

Without counting the burden of the enemy camping in his country, the
poor King really had a great deal to do. He hunted, loved, and
entangled himself in the intrigues of his courtiers in order to forget
his own misery.

But from time to time his serenity was clouded by Cosel's outbursts of

One day during her confinement, as the King was sitting by her bedside,
a servant came with the news that letters of importance had just
arrived. Augustus wished to go and read them, but Anna, ill and
capricious, prevailed on him to stay with her, and to allow the
Secretary, Bose, to come to her chamber and read them. The King
yielding to her despotic wish, Herr Bose was introduced.

He began by making His Majesty such a profound bow that his wig touched
the floor. He paid the same mark of respect to the sick lady, who,
wrapped up in lace, looked like a pale pink rose among snow.

Herr Bose whispered to the King, -

"Urgent, from Warsaw."

They both went to the window. Cosel, who had caught the word Warsaw,
looked at the King's face intently, trying to read there the contents
of the papers. With great respect, Herr Bose handed the King letter
after letter. At first they were all large, and sealed with great
seals. Cosel did not budge, but remained with her head resting quietly
on both her hands.

Suddenly Bose whispered to the King, and handed him a small letter. The
King opened it, read it, smiled, blushed, and then glanced
involuntarily at Countess Cosel.

Anna was sitting up in bed.

"What is in that letter?" she asked.

"State business," replied the King.

"May I see it?"

"No!" said the King coolly, continuing his reading.

Anna's face flushed, and, forgetful of the Secretary's presence, she
sprang out of bed, and seized the letter. The King grew confused, and
looked at the old man, who was likewise greatly embarrassed. This
violent scene so surprised him that he knew not what to do.

Cosel devoured the letter with her eyes, and then tore it into
fragments. Her presentiments were correct; the letter was from
Henriette Duval, for whom the King had betrayed Cosel at Warsaw. She
had written to her royal lover, telling him that she had been delivered
of a daughter, who afterwards became the famous Countess Orzelska. The
mother ended the letter by asking what she was to do with the child.

"Drown her!" screamed Cosel.

The King laughed, Anna wept, Bose bowed and began a retreat towards the

"Cosel, for Heaven's sake, be quiet," said the King, coming over to

"What?" she screamed. "You dare to betray me; you to whom I consecrated

It was not the first scene of the kind, but this time it lasted longer
than ever before. It was in vain that Augustus kissed her hands,
promising everything.

"What is it you wish me to do?" he exclaimed.

"If you write a single word to that impertinent woman, I shall take the
post, and go straight to Warsaw. I will kill both mother and child. I
swear I will!"

To pacify her, the King promised everything. He would have nothing
further to do with her; would forget her existence; would leave the
unfortunate woman to the caprice of fortune.


No one would ever have known of that scene, for it was Bose's policy
always to keep his tongue behind his teeth, had not the weary King
gathered a few of his companions together, that he might find
distraction in their conversation. After drinking a second and a third
bumper, the King began to laugh and look towards Fürstenberg.

"What a pity," said he, "that you did not bring those papers this
morning, instead of Bose; perhaps you would have made it up with Cosel
had you seen her as that old man had the good fortune to do."

"But the Countess has not yet left her bed," returned the Prince.

"She sprang from her bed, though, to tear the letter poor Henriette had
sent me, from my hand. She is so jealous, that I should not be
surprised if one day she were to shoot me."

Fürstenberg looked round cautiously, that he might be sure that only
those who hated Cosel were present, then he said, -

"Your Majesty, if the Countess Cosel is so jealous, she should be
careful to give you no cause for jealousy."

The King slowly raised his head, frowned, thrust out his lips, and
replied coldly, -

"The person who dares to make such assertions should weigh his words
well, and carefully consider the consequences. You must explain

The Prince glanced round at his companions.

"I am ready to justify my words. All of us here present have seen how
the Countess conducted herself during your Majesty's absence. The
palace was always full of guests and admirers, amongst whom the Count
Lecherenne enjoyed especial favour. Sometimes he was seen leaving the
palace about midnight."

The King listened with apparent indifference, but those who knew him
well, could see that the dart had stung him.

"It is the voice of jealousy speaking through you," said Augustus. "You
do not like Cosel, and you would be glad to see her shut up in one
room. Naturally she longed for my return, and required some
distraction, and you must allow that Lecherenne is amusing."

"Your Majesty," said the Prince, with well-feigned simplicity, "I had
no intention to be an informer. I enjoy your Majesty's favour, and I do
not care much about that of the Countess. But, being your Majesty's
devoted servant, I should be deeply grieved to see your great love
repaid with ingratitude."

Augustus looked gloomy. The wine cups were full, but no one raised one
to his lips; the conversation stopped, and the King rose.

Fürstenberg understood that he had gone too far. Whenever Augustus
wished to get rid of a favourite, he was glad to hear something against
her. His anger on the present occasion was a proof that as yet Cosel
was not an object of indifference to him.

Not wishing to talk any more, Augustus nodded to his guests, and
retired to his chamber.

Fürstenberg and the other courtiers regarded each other
sorrowfully - they feared the consequences of such a bold attack.

But an unseen witness had overheard the conversation; this was none
other than Zaklika, whom Countess Cosel had sent with a letter to the
King. Wearying of her solitude, she had written to the King, begging
him to come and see her, and had sent the faithful youth with the
message. No one save Zaklika was allowed to enter the room while the
King was merrymaking; unseen, he had entered the room, and stood behind
the great side-board, waiting until the conversation was ended to
deliver his letter. Thus he had overheard everything. The danger
threatening Anna gave him sufficient courage to leave the room without
handing the King the letter; he rushed back to his mistress's palace,
and tapped at the door of her chamber. She had just risen for the first
time. The moment he entered, she knew by his pale face that something
had happened.

"Speak!" she exclaimed. "Has something happened to the King?"

"No," replied Zaklika, and then he repeated all that he had heard.

Cosel listened, blushing, confused and offended; when he had finished,
she took the letter from him, and signed to him to withdraw. She left
her chamber and entered the drawing-room, the walls of which were
covered with pictures representing scenes in the life of the King. One
of them was a picture of the King's coronation.

As Cosel was gazing on it, her eyes filled with tears, steps were heard
approaching - it was Augustus. He walked quickly, and looked pale and

As though she had not noticed his entrance, Anna rose and approached
the picture.

"Well," said he angrily, "so you condescend to look at my portrait?
Surely it is a mistake? I cannot believe that I still receive such

"Your Majesty," replied Anna calmly, "it would be ridiculous to
suppose, that, being aware of all that makes you superior to other men,
any one else should attract my glance after you. The most frivolous
woman would be incapable of doing so. How could your Majesty have such

"Yes," interrupted the King with trembling voice, "until to-day I
flattered myself, I thought - but appearances are deceiving, and the
caprices of a woman are in most cases difficult to understand."

The King's angry tones rejoiced Anna, for she was sure his jealousy
meant that he still loved her, but she pretended to be offended.

"I do not understand your Majesty," she said. "Will your Majesty please
to speak clearly, so that I may have a chance of justifying myself?"

"To justify," interrupted the King passionately, "there are some deeds
that cannot be justified. You wish to deceive me, but I have proofs."

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Online LibraryJózef Ignacy KraszewskiMemoirs of the Countess Cosel → online text (page 8 of 20)