L. Mühlbach.

Berlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends online

. (page 1 of 42)
Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 1 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




An Historical Romance







I. The Alchemist's Incantation
II. The Old Courtier
III. The Morning Hours of a King
IV. The Pardoned Courtier
V. How the Princess Ulrica became Queen of Sweden
VI. The Tempter
VII. The First Interview
VIII. Signora Barbarina
IX. The King and Barbarina
X. Eckhof
XI. A Life Question
XII. Superstition and Piety


I. The Two Sisters
II. The Tempter
III. The Wedding-Festival of the Princess Ulrica
IV. Behind the Curtain
V. A Shame-faced King
VI. The First Rendezvous
VII. On The Balcony
VIII. The First Cloud
IX. The Council of War
X. The Cloister of Camens
XI. The King and the Abbot
XII. The Unknown Abbot
XIII. The Levee of a Dancer
XIV. The Studio
XV. The Confession
XVI. The Traitor
XVII. The Silver-Ware
XVIII. The First Flash of Lightning


I. The Actors in Halle
II. The Student Lupinus
III. The Disturbance in the Theatre
IV. The Friends
V. The Order of the King
VI. The Battle of Sohr
VII. After the Battle
VIII. A Letter Pregnant with Fate
IX. The Return to Berlin
X. Job's Post
XI. The Undeceived
XII. Trenck's First Flight
XIII. The Flight
XIV. "I will"
XV. The Last Struggle for Power
XVI. The Disturbance in the Theatre
XVII. Sans-Souci


I. The Promise
II. Voltaire and his Royal Friend
III. The Confidence-Table
IV. The Confidential Dinner
V. Rome Sauvee
VI. A Woman's Heart
VII. Madame von Cocceji
VIII. Voltaire
IX. A Day in the Life of Voltaire
X. The Lovers
XI. Barbarina
XII. Intrigues
XIII. The Last Struggle







It was a lovely May morning! The early rays of the sun had not
withered the blossoms, or paled the fresh green of the garden of
Charlottenburg, but quickened them into new life and beauty. The
birds sang merrily in the groves. The wind, with light whispers,
swept through the long avenues of laurel and orange trees, which
surrounded the superb greenhouses and conservatories, and scattered
far and wide throughout the garden clouds of intoxicating perfume.

The garden was quiet and solitary, and the closed shutters of the
castle proved that not only the king, but the entire household, from
the dignified and important chamberlain to the frisky garden-boy,
still slept. Suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of hasty
steps. A young man, in simple citizen costume, ran up the great
avenue which led from the garden gate to the conservatory; then
cautiously looking about him, he drew near to a window of the lower
story in a wing of the castle. The window was closed and secured
with inside shutters; a small piece of white paper was seen between
the glass and the shutter. A passer-by might have supposed this was
accidental, but the young burgher knew that this little piece of
paper was a signal. His light stroke upon the window disturbed for a
moment the deathlike silence around, but produced no other effect;
he struck again, more loudly, and listened breathlessly. The
shutters were slowly and cautiously opened from within, and behind
the glass was seen the wan, sick face of Fredersdorf, the private
secretary and favorite of the king. When he saw the young man, his
features assumed a more animated expression, and a hopeful smile
played upon his lip; hastily opening the window, he gave the youth
his hand. "Good-morning, Joseph," said he; "I have not slept during
the whole night, I was so impatient to receive news from you. Has he
shown himself?"

Joseph bowed his head sadly. "He has not yet shown himself," he
replied in a hollow voice; "all our efforts have been in vain; we
have again sacrificed time, money, and strength. He has not yet

"Alas!" cried Fredersdorf, "who could believe it so difficult to
move the devil to appear in person, when he makes his presence known
daily and hourly through the deeds of men? I must and will see him!
He MUST and SHALL make known this mystery. He shall teach me HOW and
of WHAT to make gold."

"He will yield at last!" cried Joseph, solemnly.

"What do you say? Will we succeed? Is not all hope lost?"

"All is not lost: the astrologer heard this night, during his
incantations, the voice of the devil, and saw for one moment the
glare of his eye, though he could not see his person."

"He saw the glare of his eye!" repeated Fredersdorf joyfully. "Oh,
we will yet compel him to show himself wholly. He must teach us to
make gold. And what said the voice of the devil to our astrologer?"

"He said these words: 'Would you see my face and hear words of
golden wisdom from my lips? so offer me, when next the moon is full
and shimmers like liquid gold in the heavens, a black ram; and if
you shed his blood for me, and if not one white hair can be
discovered upon him, I will appear and be subject to you.'"

"Another month of waiting, of patience, and of torture," murmured
Fredersdorf. "Four weeks to search for this black ram without a
single white hair; it will be difficult to find!"

"Oh, the world is large; we will send our messengers in every
quarter; we will find it. Those who truly seek, find at last what
they covet. But we will require much gold, and we are suffering now,
unhappily, for the want of it."

"We? whom do you mean by we?" asked Fredersdorf, with a contemptuous
shrug of the shoulders.

"I, in my own person, above all others, need gold. You can well
understand, my brother, that a student as I am has no superfluous
gold, even to pay his tailor's bills, much less to buy black rams.
Captain Kleist, in whose house the assembly meets to-night, has
already offered up far more valuable things than a score of black
rams; he has sacrificed his health, his rest, and his domestic
peace. His beautiful wife finds it strange, indeed, that he should
seek the devil every night everywhere else than in her lovely

"Yes, I understand that! The bewitching Madame Kleist must ever
remain the vain-glorious and coquettish Louise von Schwerin;
marriage has infused no water in her veins."

"No! but it has poured a river of wine in the blood of her husband,
and in this turbid stream their love and happiness is drowned.
Kleist is but a corpse, whom we must soon bury from our sight. The
king has made separation and divorce easy; yes, easier than
marriage. Is it not so, my brother? Ah, you blush; you find that
your light-hearted brother has more observant eyes than you thought,
and sees that which you intended to conceal. Yes, yes! I have indeed
seen that you have been wounded by Cupid's arrow, and that your
heart bleeds while our noble king refuses his consent to your

"Ah, let me once discover this holy mystery - once learn how to make
gold, and I will have no favor to ask of any earthly monarch; I
shall acknowledge no other sovereign than my own will."

"And to become the possessor of this secret, and your own master,
you require nothing but a black ram. Create for us, then, my
powerful and wealthy brother, a black ram, and the work is done!"

"Alas! to think," cried Fredersdorf, "that I cannot absent myself;
that I must fold my hands and wait silently and quietly! What
slavery is this! but you, you are not in bondage as I am. The whole
world is before you; you can seek throughout the universe for this
blood-offering demanded by the devil."

"Give us gold, brother, and we will seek; without gold, no black
ram; without the black ram, no devil!"

Fredersdorf disappeared a moment and returned with a well-filled
purse, which he handed to his brother. "There, take the gold; send
your messengers in every quarter; go yourself and search. You must
either find or create him. I swear to you, if you do not succeed, I
will withdraw my protection from you; you will be only a poor
student, and must maintain yourself by your studies."

"That would be a sad support, indeed," said the young man, smiling.
"I am more than willing to choose another path in life. I would,
indeed, prefer being an artist to being a philosopher."

"An artist!" cried Fredersdorf, contemptuously; "have you discovered
in yourself an artist's vein?"

"Yes; or rather, Eckhof has awakened my sleeping talent."

"Eckhof - who is Eckhof?"

"How? you ask who is Eckhof? You know not, then, this great, this
exalted artist, who arrived here some weeks since, and has entranced
every one who has a German heart in his bosom, by his glorious
acting? I saw him a few days since in Golsched's Cato. Ah! my
brother, on that evening it was clear to me that I also was born for
something greater than to sit in a lonely study, and seek in musty
books for useless scraps of knowledge. No! I will not make the world
still darker and mistier for myself with the dust of ancient books;
I will illuminate my world by the noblest of all arts - I will become
an actor!"

"Fantastic fool!" said his brother. "A GERMAN ACTOR! that is to say,
a beggar and a vagabond! who wanders from city to city, and from
village to village, with his stage finery, who is laughed at
everywhere, even as the monkeys are laughed at when they make their
somersets over the camels' backs; it might answer to be a dancer,
or, at least, a French actor."

"It is true that the German stage is a castaway - a Cinderella -
thrust aside, and clothed with sackcloth and ashes, while the
spoiled and petted step-child is clothed in gold-embroidered robes.
Alas! alas! it is a bitter thing that the French actors are summoned
by the king to perform in the royal castle, while Schonemein, the
director of the German theatre, must rent the Council-house for a
large sum of money, and must pay a heavy tax for the permission to
give to the German public a German stage. Wait patiently, brother,
all this shall be changed, when the mystery of mysteries is
discovered, when we have found the black ram! I bless the accident
which gave me a knowledge of your secret, which forced you to
receive me as a member in order to secure my silence. I shall be
rich, powerful, and influential; I will build a superb theatre, and
fill the German heart with wonder and rapture."

"Well, well, let us first understand the art of making gold, and we
will make the whole world our theatre, and all mankind shall play
before us! Hasten, therefore, brother, hasten! By the next full moon
we will be the almighty rulers of the earth and all that is

"Always provided that we have found the black ram."

"We will find him! If necessary, we will give his weight in gold,
and gold can do all things. Honor, love, power, position, and fame,
can all be bought with gold! Let us, then, make haste to be rich. To
be rich is to be independent, free, and gloriously happy. Go, my
brother, go! and may you soon return crowned with success."

"I have still a few weighty questions to ask. In the first place,
where shall I go?"

"To seek the black ram - it makes no difference where."

"Ah! it makes no difference! You do not seem to remember that the
vacation is over, that the professors of the University of Halle
have threatened to dismiss me if my attendance is so irregular. I
must, therefore, return to Halle to-day, or - "

"Return to Halle to-day!" cried Fredersdorf, with horror. "That is
impossible! You cannot return to Halle, unless you have already
found what we need."

"And that not being the case, I shall not return to Halle; I shall
be dismissed, and will cease to be a student. Do you consent, then,
that I shall become an actor, and take the great Eckhof for my only

"Yes, I consent, provided the command of the alchemist is complied

"And how if the alchemist, notwithstanding the blood of the black
ram, is unhappily not able to bring up the devil?"

At this question, a feverish crimson spot took possession of the wan
cheek of Fredersdorf, which was instantly chased away by a more
intense pallor. "If that is the result, I will either go mad or
die," he murmured.

"And then will you see the devil face to face!" cried his brother,
with a gay laugh. "But perhaps you might find a Eurydice to unlock
the under world for you. Well, we shall see. Till then, farewell,
brother, farewell." Nodding merrily to Fredersdorf, Joseph hurried

Fredersdorf watched his tall and graceful figure as it disappeared
among the trees with a sad smile.

"He possesses something which is worth more than power or gold; he
is young, healthy, full of hope and confidence. The world belongs to
him, while I - "

The sound of footsteps called his attention again to the allee.



The figure of a man was seen approaching, but with steps less light
and active than young Joseph's. As the stranger drew nearer,
Fredersdorf's features expressed great surprise. When at last he
drew up at the window, the secretary burst into a hearty laugh.

"Von Pollnitz! really and truly I do not deceive myself," cried
Fredersdorf, clapping his hands together, and again and again
uttering peals of laughter, in which Pollnitz heartily joined.

Then suddenly assuming a grave and dignified manner, Fredersdorf
bowed lowly and reverentially. "Pardon, Baron Pollnitz, pardon,"
said he in a tone of mock humility, "that I have dared to welcome
you in such an unseemly manner. I was indeed amazed to see you
again; you had taken an eternal leave of the court, we had shed
rivers of tears over your irreparable loss, and your unexpected
presence completely overpowered me."

"Mock and jeer at me to your heart's content, dear Fredersdorf; I
will joyfully and lustily unite in your laughter and your sport, as
soon as I have recovered from the fearful jolting of the carriage
which brought me here. Be pleased to open the window a little more,
and place a chair on the outside, that I may climb in, like an
ardent, eager lover. I have not patience to go round to the castle

Fredersdorf silently obeyed orders, and in a few moments Von
Pollnitz was lying comfortably stretched out on a silk divan, in the
secretary's room.

"Ask me no questions, Fredersdorf," said he, breathing loudly;
"leave me awhile to enjoy undisturbed the comfort of your sofa, and
do me the favor first to answer me a few questions, before I reply
to yours."

"Demand, baron, and I will answer," said Fredersdorf, seating
himself on a chair near the sofa.

"First of all, who is King of Prussia? You, or Jordan, - or General
Kothenberg, - or Chazot, - or - speak, man, who is King of Prussia?"

"Frederick the Second, and he alone; and he so entirely, that even
his ministers are nothing more than his secretaries, to write at his
dictation; and his generals are only subordinate engineers to draw
the plans of battle which he has already fully determined upon; his
composers are only the copyists of his melodies and his musical
conceptions; the architects are carpenters to build according to the
plan which he has either drawn or chosen from amongst old Grecian
models: in short, all who serve him are literally servants in this
great state machine; they understand his will and obey it, nothing

"Hum! that is bad, very bad," said Pollnitz. "I have found, however,
that there are two sorts of men, and you have mentioned in your
catalogue but one species, who have fallen so completely under the
hand of Frederick. You have said nothing of his cook, of his valet-
de-chambre, and yet these are most important persons. You must know
that in the presence of these powers, a king ceases to be a king,
and indeed becomes an entirely commonplace mortal, who eats and
drinks and clothes himself, and who must either conceal or adorn his
bodily necessities and weaknesses like any other man."

Fredersdorf shook his head sadly. "It seems to me that Frederick the
Second is beyond the pale of temptation; for even with his cook and
his valet he is still a king; his cook may prepare him the most
costly and luxurious viands, but unhappily they do not lead him into
temptation; a bad dish makes him angry, but the richest and choicest
food has no effect upon his humor; he is exactly the same before
dinner as after, fasting or feasting, and the favor he refuses
before the champagne, he never grants afterward."

"The devil! that is worse still," murmured Pollnitz. "And the valet-
-with him also does the king remain king?"

"Yes, so entirely, that he scarcely allows his valet to touch him.
He shaves, coifs, and dresses himself."

"My God! who, then, has any influence over him? To whom can I turn
to obtain a favor for me?"

"To his dogs, dear baron; they are now the only influential

"Do you mean truly the four-footed dogs? - or - "

"The four-footed, dearest baron! Frederick has more confidence in
them than in any two-legged animal. You know the king always trusted
much to the instincts of his dogs; he has now gone so far in this
confidence, as to believe that the hounds have an instinctive
aversion to all false, wicked, and evil-minded men. It is therefore
very important to every new-comer to be well received by the hounds,
as the king's reception is somewhat dependent upon theirs."

"Is Biche yet with the king?"

"Yes, still his greatest favorite."

"I am rejoiced to hear that! I was always in favor with the Signora
Biche; it was her custom to smell my pocket, hoping to find
chocolate. I beseech you, therefore, dearest friend, to give me some
chocolate, with which I may touch and soften the heart of the noble
signora, and thus induce the king to look upon me favorably.

"I will stick a half pound in each of your pockets, and if Biche
still growls at you, it will be a proof that she is far more noble
than men; in short, that she cannot be bribed. Have you finished
with your questions? I think it is now my time to begin."

"Not so, my friend. My head is still entirely filled with questions,
and they are twining and twisting about like the fishing-worms in a
bag, by the help of which men hope to secure fish. Be pitiful and
allow me to fasten a few more of these questions to my fishing-rod,
and thus try to secure my future."

"Well, then, go on - ask further!"

"Does Frederick show no special interest in any prima donna of the
opera, the ballet, or the theatre?"

"No, he cares for none of these things."

"Is his heart, then, entirely turned to stone?"

"Wholly and entirely."

"And the queen-mother, has she no influence?"

"My God! Baron Pollnitz, how long have you been away? You ask me as
many questions as if you had fallen directly from the moon, and knew
not even the outward appearance of the court."

"Dear friend, I have been a whole year away, that is to say, an
eternity. The court is a very slippery place; and if a man does not
accustom himself hourly to walk over this glassy parquet, he will
surely fall.

"Also there is nothing so uncertain as a court life; that which is
true to-day, is to-morrow considered incredible; that which was
beautiful yesterday is thrust aside to-day, as hateful to look upon:
that which we despise to-day is to-morrow sought after as a rare and
precious gem.

"Oh, I have had my experiences. I remember, that while I was
residing at the court of Saxony, I composed a poem in honor of the
Countess Aurora of Konigsmark. This was by special command of the
king; the poem was to be set to music by Hasse, and sung by the
Italian singers on the birthday of Aurora. Well, the Countess Aurora
was cast aside before my poem was finished, and the Countess Kozel
had taken her place. I finished my poem, but Amelia, and not Aurora,
was my heroine. Hasse composed the music, and no one who attended
the concert, given in honor of the birthday of the Countess Kozel,
had an idea that this festal cantata had been originally ordered for
Aurora of Konigsmark!

"Once, while I was in Russia, I had an audience from the Empress
Elizabeth. As I approached the castle, leaning on the arm of the
Captain Ischerbatow, I observed the guard, who stood before the
door, and presented arms. Well, eight weeks later, this common guard
was a general and a prince, and Isoherbatow was compelled to bow
before him!

"I saw in Venice a picture of the day of judgment by Tintoretto. In
this picture both Paradise and Hell were portrayed. I saw in
Paradise a lovely woman glowing with youth, beauty, and grace. She
was reclining in a most enchanting attitude, upon a bed of roses,
and surrounded by angels. Below, on the other half of the picture -
that is to say, in Hell - I saw the same woman; she had no couch of
roses, but was stretched upon a glowing gridiron; no smiling angels
surrounded her, but a hideous, grinning devil tore her flesh with
red-hot pincers.

"Pope Adrian had commanded Tintoretto to paint this picture, to make
it a monument in honor of the lovely Cinnia, and to glorify her by
all the power of art. Cinnia was a very dear friend of Adrian. He
was not only a pope, but a man, and a man who took pleasure in all
beautiful things. Cinnia was enchanting, and it was Tintoretto's
first duty to paint her picture, and make her the principal object
in Paradise. But look you! the Last Judgment by Tintoretto was a
large painting, so large that to count even the heads upon it is
laborious. The heads in each corner are counted separately, and then
added together, It required some years, of course, to paint such a
picture; and by the time Tintoretto had completed Paradise and
commenced the lower regions, many sad changes had occurred. The fond
heart of the seducing Cinnia had withdrawn itself from the pope and
clung tenaciously to Prince Colonna. The Holy Father, as we have
said before, notwithstanding he was pope, had some human weaknesses;
he naturally hated the fair inconstant, and sought revenge. He
recommended Tintoretto to bring the erring one once more before the
public - this time, however, as a guilty and condemned shiner in

"Dear Fredersdorf, I think always of this picture when I look at the
favorites of princes and kings, and I amuse myself with their pride
and arrogance. When I see them in their sunny paradise of power and
influence, I say to myself, 'All's well for the fleeting present,
I'll wait patiently; soon I shall see you roasting on the glowing
gridiron of royal displeasure, and the envious devils of this world
filled with rapture at your downfall, will tear your flesh to
pieces.' Friend Fredersdorf, that is my answer to your question as
to whether I have in one short year forgotten the quality of court

"And by Heaven, that is a profound answer, which shows at least that
Baron Pollnitz has undergone no change during the last year, but is
still the experienced man of the world and the wise cavalier!"

"But why do you not give me my title, Fredersdorf? Why do you not
call me grand chamberlain?"

"Because you are no longer in the service of the king, but have
received your dismissal."

"Alas! God grant that the Signora Biche is favorable to me; then
will the king, as I hope, forget this dismissal. One question more.
You say that the queen-mother has no influence; how is it with the
wife of the king, Elizabeth Christine? Is she indeed the reigning

"When did you return to Berlin?"

"Now, to-night; and when I left the carriage, I hastened here."

"Well, that is some excuse for your question. If you have only just
arrived, you could not possibly know of the important event which
will take place at the court to-night. This evening the king will
present his brother, Augustus William, to the court as Prince of
Prussia, and his successor, I think that is a sufficient answer to
your question. As to Queen Elizabeth Christine, she lives at
Schonhausen, and might be called the widow of her husband. The king
never addresses one word to her, not even on grand festal days, when
etiquette compels him to take a seat by her at table."

"Now, one last question, dear friend. How is it with yourself? Are
you influential? Does Frederick love you as warmly as he did a year
ago? Do you hope to reach the goal of your ambition and become all-

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 1 of 42)