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people than Socrates."

"This proves that Wisdom herself must take the trouble to make
herself popular," said Rothenberg. "True fame is only obtained by
popularity. Alexander the Great and Caesar were popular, and their
names were therefore in the mouths of the people. This was their
inheritance, handed down from generation to generation, from father
to son. So will it be with King Frederick the Second. He is not only
the king and the hero, but he is the man of the people. His fame
will not be written alone on the tablets of history by the Muses;
the people will write it on the pure, white, vacant leaves of their
Bibles; the children and grandchildren will read it; and, centuries
hence, the curious searchers into history will consider this as
fame, and exalt the name of Frederick the Great."

"God grant it may be so!" said the king solemnly. "You know that I
am ambitious. I believe that this passion is the most enduring, and
that its burning thirst is never quenched. As crown prince, I was
ever humiliated by the thought that the love, consideration, and
respect shown to me was no tribute to my worth, but was offered to a
prince, the son of a powerful king. With what admiration, with what
enthusiasm did I look at Voltaire! he needed no high birth, no
title, to be considered, honored, and envied by the whole world. I,
however, must have rank, title, princely revenues, and a royal
genealogical tree, in order to fix the eyes of men upon me. Ah, how
often did I remind myself of the history of that great prince, who,
surrounded by his enemies, and about to surrender, saw his servants
and friends despairing and weeping around him! He smiled upon them,
and uttered these few but expressive words: 'I feel by your tears
that I am still a king.' I swore then to be like that noble man, to
owe my fame, not to my royal mantle, but to myself. I have fulfilled
but a small portion of my oath. I hope that my godmother, Maria
Theresa, and the Russian empress, will soon afford me more enlarged
opportunities. Our enemies are indeed our best friends; they enrage
and inspire us."

"In so saying, sire, you condemn us all, we who are the most
faithful, submissive, and enthusiastic friends of your highness."

"You are also useful to me," said the king. "You, for example, your
cheerful, loving face does me good whenever I look upon it. You keep
my heart young and fresh, and teach me to laugh, which pleasant art
I am constantly forgetting in the midst of these wearisome and
hypocritical men. I never laugh so merrily as when I am with you at
your table, where I have the high privilege of laying aside my
royalty, and being a simple, happy man like yourself. I rejoice in
the prospect of this evening, and I am impatient as a young maiden
before her first ball. This evening, if I remember correctly, I am
invited by General von Rothenberg to a petit souper."

"Your majesty was kind enough to promise me that you would come."

"Do you know, Rothenberg, I really believe that the expectation of
this fete has made the hours of the day so long and wearisome. Now,
tell me, who are we to have? who takes part in our gayety?"

"Those who were selected by your majesty: Chazot and Algarotti,
Jordan and Bielfeld."

"Did I select the company?" said the king, thoughtfully; "then I
wonder that - " He stopped, and, looking down, turned away silently.

"What causes your majesty's wonder?" said the general.

"I am surprised that I did not ask you to give us Rhine wine this
evening," said the king, with a sly smile.

"Rhine wine! why, your majesty has often told me that it was a slow
poison, and produced death."

"Yes, that is true, but what will you have? There are many things in
this incomprehensible world which are poisonous, and which, for that
reason, are the more alluring. This is peculiarly so with women. He
does well who avoids them; they bewilder our reason and make our
hearts sick, but we do not flee from them. We pursue them, and the
poison which they infuse in our veins is sweet; we quaff it
rapturously, though death is in the cup."

"In this, however, your majesty is wiser than all other men: you
alone have the power to turn away from or withstand them."

"Who knows? perhaps that is sheer cowardice," said the king; he
turned away confused, and beat with his fingers upon the window-
glass. "I called the Rhine wine poison, because of its strength. I
think now that it alone deserves to be called wine - it is the only
wine which has bloom." Frederick was again silent, and beat a march
upon the window.

The general looked at him anxiously and thoughtfully; suddenly his
countenance cleared, and a half-suppressed smile played upon his

"I will allow myself to add a conclusive word to those of my king,
that is, a moral to his fable. Your majesty says Rhine wine is the
only wine which deserves the name, because it alone has bloom. So I
will call that society only society which is graced and adorned by
women. Women are the bloom of society. Do you not agree with me,

"If I agree to that proposition, it amounts to a request that you
will invite women to our fete this evening - will it not?" said the
king, still thrumming on the window.

"And with what rapture would I fulfil your wish, but I fear it would
be difficult to induce the ladies to come to the house of a young
bachelor as I am!"

"Ah, bah! I have determined during the next winter to give these
little suppers very often. I will have a private table, and women
shall be present."

"Yes, but your majesty is married."

"They would come if I were a bachelor. The Countess Carnas, Frau von
Brandt, the Kleist, and the Morien, are too witty and too
intellectual to be restrained by narrow-minded prejudice."

"Does your majesty wish that I should invite these ladies?" said the
general; "they will come, without doubt, if your majesty commands
it. Shall I invite them?"

The king hesitated a moment to reply. "Perhaps they would not come
willingly," said he; "you are unmarried, and they might be afraid of
their husbands' anger."

"I must, then, invite ladies who are not married," said Rothenberg,
whose face was now radiant with delight; "but I do not know one
unmarried lady of the higher circles who carries her freedom from
prejudice so far as to dare attend a bachelor's supper."

"Must we always confine our invitations to the higher circles?" said
the king, beating his parade march still more violently upon the

Rothenberg watched him with the eye of a sportsman, who sees the
wild deer brought to bay.

"If your majesty will condescend to set etiquette aside, I will make
a proposition."

"Etiquette is nonsense and folly, and shall not do the honors by our
petits soupers; pleasure only presides."

"Then I propose that we invite some of the ladies from the theatre -
is your majesty content?"

"Fully! but which of the ladies?" said the king.

"That is your majesty's affair," said Rothenberg, smiling. "You have
selected the gentlemen, will it please you to name the ladies?"

"Well, then," said the king, hesitating, "what say you to Cochois,
Astrea, and the little Petrea?"

"Sire, they will be all most welcome; but I pray you to allow me to
add one name to your list, the name of a woman who is more lovely,
more gracious, more intellectual, more alluring, than all the prima
donnas of the world; who has the power to intoxicate all men, not
excepting emperors and kings, and make them her willing slaves. Dare
I name her, sire?"


"The Signora Barbarina."

The king turned his head hastily, and his burning eyes rested
questioningly upon the face of Rothenberg, who met his glance with a
merry look.

Frederick was silent; and the general, making a profound bow, said
solemnly: "I pray your majesty to allow me to invite Mesdames
Cochois, Astrea, and Petrea, also the Signora Barbarina, to our
petit souper."

"Four prima donnas at once!" said the king, laughing; "that would be
dangerous; we would, perhaps, have the interesting spectacle of
seeing them tear out each other's eyes. No, no! to enjoy the glories
of the sun, there must be no rival suns in the horizon; we will
invite but one enchantress, and as you are the host, you have the
undoubted right to select her. Let it be then the Signora
Barbarina." [Footnote: Rodenbeck: "Journal of Frederick the Great."]

"Your majesty graciously permits me to invite the Signora
Barbarina?" said Rothenberg, looking the king steadily in the face;
a rich blush suffused the cheeks of Frederick. Suddenly he laughed
aloud, and laying his arm around the neck of his friend, he looked
in his radiant face with an expression of confidence and love.

"You are a provoking scamp," said Frederick. "You understood me from
the beginning, and left me hanging, like Absalom, upon the tree.
That was cruel, Rothenberg."

"Cruel, but well deserved, sire. Why would you not make known your
wishes clearly? Why leave me to guess them?"

"Why? My God! it is sometimes so agreeable and convenient to have
your wishes guessed. The murder is out. You will invite the
beautiful Barbarina. You can also invite another gentleman, an
artist, in order that the lovely Italian may not feel so lonely
amongst us barbarians."

"What artist, sire?"

"The painter Pesne; go yourself to invite him. It might be well for
him to bring paper and pencil - he will assuredly have an
irresistible desire to make a sketch of this beautiful nymph."

"Command him to do so, sire, and then to make a life-size picture
from the sketch."

"Ah! so you wish a portrait of the Barbarina?"

"Yes, sire; but not for myself."

"For whom, then?"

"To have the pleasure of presenting it to my king."

"And why?"

"Because I am vain enough to believe that, as my present, the
picture would have some value in your eyes," said Rothenberg,
mockingly. "What cares my king for a portrait of the Barbarina?
Nothing, sans doute. But when this picture is not only painted by
the great Pesne, but is also the gift of a dear, faithful friend, I
wager it will be highly appreciated by your majesty, and you will
perhaps be gracious enough to hang it in your room."

"You! you!" said the king, pointing his finger threateningly at
Rothenberg, "I am afraid of you. I believe you listen to and
comprehend my most secret thoughts, and form your petition according
to my wishes. I will, like a good-natured, easy fool, grant this
request. Go and invite the Barbarina and the painter Pesne, and
commission him to paint a life-size picture of the fair one.
[Footnote: This splendid picture of Barbarina hung for a long time
in the king's cabinet, and is still to be seen in the Royal Palace
at Berlin.] Pesne must have several sketches, and I will choose from
amongst them."

"I thank your majesty," cried the general; "and now have the
goodness to dismiss me - I must make my preparations."

As Rothenberg stood upon the threshold, the king called him. "You
have guessed my thoughts, and now I will prove to you that I read
yours. You think I am in love."

"In love? What! I dare to think that?" said the general; and folding
his hands he raised his eyes as if in prayer. "Shall I dare to have
such an unholy thought in connection with my anointed king?"

The king laughed heartily. "As to my sanctity, I think the holy
Antonius will not proclaim me as his brother. But I am not exactly
in love." He stepped to the window, upon the sill of which a
Japanese rose stood in rich bloom; he plucked one of the lovely
flowers, and handing it to the general, he said: "Look, now! is it
not enchantingly beautiful? Think you, that because I am a king, I
have no heart, no thirst for beauty? Go! but remember that, though a
king, I have the eyes and the passions of other men. I, too, am
intoxicated by the perfume of flowers and the beauty of women."



The night was dark and still; so dark in the garden of Monbijou,
that the keenest eye could not detect the forms of the two men who
slipped stealthily among the trees; so still, that the slightest
contact of their clothing with the motionless leaves, and the
slightest footstep in the sand could be heard. But, happily, there
was none to listen; unchallenged and unseen, the two muffled figures
entered the avenue, at the end of which stood the little palace, the
summer residence of the queen-mother. Here they rested for a moment,
and cast a searching glance at the building, which stood also dark
and silent before them.

"No light in the windows of the queen-mother," whispered one; "all

"Yes, all asleep, we have nothing to fear; let us go onward." The
last speaker made a few hasty steps forward, but his companion
seized him hastily by the arm, and held him hack.

"You forget, my young Hotspur, that we must wait for the signal.
Still! still! do not stamp so impatiently with your feet; you need
not shake yourself like a young lion. He who goes upon such
adventures must, above all things, be self-possessed, cautious, and
cool. Believe me, I have had a long range of experience, and in this
species of love adventure I think I might possibly rival the famous
King Charles the Second, of England."

"But here there is no question of love adventure, Baron Pollnitz,"
said his companion impatiently, almost fiercely.

"Not of love adventure, Baron Trenck! well, may I dare to ask what
is the question?"

"A true - an eternal love!"

"Ah! a true, an eternal love," repeated Pollnitz, with a dry,
mocking laugh. "All honor to this true love, which, with all the
reasons for its justification, and all the pathos of its heavenly
source, glides stealthily to the royal palace, and hides itself
under the shadow of the silent night. My good young sentimentalist,
remember I am not a novice like yourself; I am an old fogy, and call
things by their right names. Every passion is a true and eternal
love, and every loved one is an angel of virtue, beauty, and purity,
until we weary of the adventure, and seek a new distraction."

"You are a hopeless infidel," said Trenck, angrily; "truly he who
has changed his faith as often as you have, has no religion - not
even the religion of love. But look! a light is shown, and the
window is opened; that is the signal."

"You are right, that is the signal. Let us go," whispered Pollnitz;
and he stepped hastily after the young officer.

And now they stood before the window on the ground floor, where the
light had been seen for a moment. The window was half open.

"We have arrived," said Trenck, breathing heavily; "now, dear
Pollnitz, farewell; it cannot certainly be your intention to go
farther. The princess commissioned you to accompany me to the
castle, but she did not intend you should enter with me. You must
understand this. You boast that you are rich in experience, and will
therefore readily comprehend that the presence of a third party is
abhorrent to lovers. I know that you are too amiable to make your
friends wretched. Farewell, Baron Pollnitz."

Trenck was in the act of springing into the window, but the strong
arm of the master of ceremonies held him back.

"Let me enter first," said he, "and give me a little assistance.
Your sophistical exposition of the words of our princess is entirely
thrown away. She said to me, 'At eleven o'clock I will expect you
and the Baron von Trenck in my room.' That is certainly explicit - as
it appears to me, and needs no explanation. Lend me your arm."

With a heavy sigh, Trenck gave the required assistance, and then
sprang lightly into the room.

"Give me your hand, and follow cautiously," said Pollnitz. "I know
every step of the way, and can guard you against all possible
accidents. I have tried this path often in former years,
particularly when Peter the Great and his wife, with twenty ladies
of her suite, occupied this wing of the castle."

"Hush!" said Trenck; "we have reached the top - onward, silently.

"Give me your hand, I will lead you."

Carefully, silently, and on tip-toe, they passed through the dark
corridor, and reached the door, through which a light shimmered.
They tapped lightly upon the door, which was immediately opened. The
confidential chambermaid of the princess came forward to meet them,
and nodded to them silently to follow her; they passed through
several rooms; at last she paused, and said, earnestly: "This is the
boudoir of the princess; enter - you are expected."

With a hasty movement, Trenck opened the door - this door which
separated him from his first love, his only hope of happiness. He
entered that dimly-lighted room, toward which his weary, longing
eyes had been often turned almost hopelessly. His heart beat
stormily, his breathing was irregular, he thought he might die of
rapture; he feared that in the wild agitation of the moment he might
utter a cry, indicative as much of suffering as of joy.

There, upon the divan, sat the Princess Amelia. The hanging lamp
lighted her face, which was fair and colorless. She tried to rise
and advance to meet him, but she had no power; she extended both her
hands, and murmured a few unintelligible words.

Frederick von Trenck's heart read her meaning; he rushed forward and
covered her hands with his kisses and his tears; he fell upon his
knees, and murmured words of rapture, of glowing thanks, of blessed
joy - words which filled the trembling heart of Amelia with delight.

All this fell upon the cold but listening ears of the master of
ceremonies, and seemed to him as sounding brass and the tinkling
cymbal. He hid discreetly and modestly withdrawn to the back part of
the room; but he looked on like a worldling, with a mocking smile at
the rapture of the two lovers. He soon found, however, that the role
which he was condemned to play had its ridiculous and humiliating
aspect, and he resolved to bear it no longer. He came forward, and
with his usual cool impertinence he approached the princess, who
greeted him with a crimson blush and a silent bow.

"Pardon me, your royal highness, if I dare to ask you to decide a
question which has arisen between my friend Trenck and myself. He
did not wish to allow me to accompany him farther than the castle
window. I declared that I was authorized by your royal highness to
enter with him this holiest of holies. Perhaps, however, I was in
error, and have carried my zeal in your service too far. I pray you,
therefore, to decide. Shall I go or stay?"

The princess had by this time entirely recovered her composure.
"Remain," said she, with a ravishing smile, and giving her hand to
the baron. "You were our confidant from the beginning, and I desire
you to be wholly so. I wish you to be fully convinced that our love,
though compelled for a while to seek darkness and obscurity, need
not shun the eye of a friend. And who knows if we may not one day
need your testimony? I do not deceive myself. I know that this night
my good and evil genius are struggling over my future - that
misfortune and shame have already perhaps stretched their wings over
my head; but I will not yield to them without a struggle. It may be
that one day I shall require your aid. Remain, therefore."

Pollnitz bowed silently. The princess fixed her glance upon her
lover, who, with a clouded brow and sad mien, stood near. She
understood him, and a smile played upon her full, red lip.

"Remain, Von Pollnitz, but allow us to step for a moment upon the
balcony. It is a wondrous night. What we two have to say to each
other, only heaven, with its shining stars, dare hear; I believe
they only can understand our speech."

"I thank you! oh, I thank you!" whispered Trenck, pressing the hand
of Amelia to his lips.

"Your royal highness, then, graciously allowed me to come here,"
said Pollnitz, with a complaining voice, "in order to give me up
entirely to my own thoughts, and force me to play the part of a
Trappist. I shall, if I understand rightly my privileges, like the
lion in the fairy tale, guard the door of that paradise in which my
young friend revels in his first sunny dream of bliss. Your royal
highness must confess that this is cruel work; but I am ready to
undertake it, and place myself, like the angel with the flaming
sword, before the door, ready to slay any serpent who dares
undertake to enter this elysium."

The princess pointed to a table upon which game, fruit, and Spanish
wine had been placed. "You will find there distraction and perhaps
consolation, and I hope you will avail yourself of it. Farewell,
baron; we place ourselves under your protection; guard us well." She
opened the door and stepped with her lover upon the balcony.

Pollnitz looked after them contemptuously. "Poor child! she is
afraid of herself; she requires a duenna, and that she should have
chosen exactly me for that purpose was a wonderful idea. Alas! my
case is indeed pitiful; I am selected to play the part of a duenna.
No one remembers that I have ears to hear and teeth to bite. I am
supposed to see, nothing more. But what shall I see, what can I see
in this dark night, which the god of love has so clouded over in
compassion to this innocent and tender pair of doves? This was a
rich, a truly romantic and girlish idea to grant her lover a
rendezvous, it is true, under God's free heaven, but upon a balcony
of three feet in length, with no seat to repose upon after the
powerful emotions of a burning declaration of love. Well, for my
part I find it more comfortable to rest upon this divan and enjoy my
evening meal, while these two dreamers commune with the night-birds
and the stars."

He threw himself upon the seat, seized his knife and fork, and
indulged himself in the grouse and truffles which had been prepared
for him.



Without, upon the balcony, stood the two lovers. With their arms
clasped around each other, they gazed up at the dark heavens - too
deeply moved for utterance. They spoke to each other in the exalted
language of lovers (understood only by the angels), whose words are
blushes, sighs, glances, and tender pressures of the hand.

In the beginning this was their only language. Both shrank from
interrupting this sweet communion of souls by earthly material
speech. Suddenly their glances fell from heaven earthward. They
sought another heaven, and other and dearer stars. Their eyes,
accustomed to the darkness, met; their blushes and their happy
smiles, though not seen, were understood and felt, and at the same
moment they softly called each other's names.

This was their first language, soon succeeded by passionate and
glowing protestations on his part; by blushing, trembling
confessions on hers. They spoke and looked like all the millions of
lovers who have found themselves alone in this old world of ours.
The same old story, yet ever new.

The conduct, hopes, and fears of these young lovers could not be
judged by common rules. Theirs was a love which could not hope for
happiness or continuance; for which there was no perfumed oasis, no
blooming myrtle-wreath to crown its dark and stormy path. They might
be sure that the farther they advanced, the more trackless and arid
would be the desert opening before them. Tears and robes of mourning
would constitute their festal adorning.

"Why has Destiny placed you so high above me that I cannot hope to
reach you? can never climb the ladder which leads to heaven and to
happiness?" said Trenck, as he knelt before the princess.

She played thoughtfully with his long dark hair, and a burning tear
rolled slowly over her cheek and fell upon his brow. That was her
only answer.

Trenck shuddered. He dashed the tear from his face with trembling
horror. "Oh, Amelia! you weep; you have no word of consolation, of
encouragement, of hope for me?"

"No word, my friend; I have no hope, no consolation. I know that a
dark and stormy future awaits us. I know that this cloudy night,
under whose shadow we for the first time join our hands will endure
forever; that for us the sun will never shine. I know that the
moment our glances first met, my protecting angel veiled her face
and, weeping, left me. I know that it would have been wiser and
better to give your heart, with its treasures, to a poor beggar-girl
on the street, than to consecrate it to the sister of a king - to the
poor Princess Amelia."

"Stop, stop!" cried Trenck, still on his knees, and bowing his head
almost to the earth. "Your words pierce my heart like poisoned
daggers, and yet I feel that they are truth itself. Yes, I was
indeed a bold traitor, in that I dared to raise my eyes to you; I
was a blasphemer, in that I, the unconsecrated, forced myself into

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 12 of 42)