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

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the holy temple of your heart; upon its altar the vestal flame of
your pure and innocent thoughts burned clearly, until my hot and
stormy sighs brought unrest and wild disorder. But I repent. There
is yet time. You are bound to me by no vow, no solemn oath. Oh,
Amelia! lay this scarcely-opened flower of our first young love by
the withered violet-wreaths of your childhood, with which even now
you sometimes play and smile upon in quiet and peaceful hours; to
which you whisper: 'You were once beautiful and fragrant; you made
me happy - but that is past.' Oh, Amelia! yet is there time; give me
up; spurn me from you. Call your servants and point me out to them
as a madman, who has dared to glide into your room; whose passion
has made him blind and wild. Give me over to justice and to the
scaffold. Only save yourself from my love, which is so cowardly, so
egotistic, so hard-hearted; it has no strength in itself to choose
banishment or death. Oh, Amelia! cast me away from your presence;
trample me under your feet. I will die without one reproach, without
one complaint. I will think that my death was necessary to save you
from shame, from the torture of a long and dreary existence. All
this is still in your power. I have no claim upon you; you are not
mine; you have listened to my oaths, but you have not replied to
them; you are free. Spurn me, then, you are bound by no vow."

Amelia raised her arm slowly and solemnly toward heaven. "I love
you! May God hear me and accept my oath! I love you, and I swear to
be yours; to be true and faithful; never to wed any other man!"

"Oh, most unhappy woman! oh, greatly to be pitied!" cried Trenck.
Throwing his arms around her neck he laid his head upon her bosom.
"Amelia, Amelia! these are not tears of rapture, of bliss. I weep
from wretchedness, from anguish, for your dear sake. Ah, no! I will
not accept your oath. I have not heard your words - those heavenly
words which would have filled my heart with light and gladness, had
they not contained your fatal condemnation. Oh, my beloved! you
swear that you love me? That is, to sacrifice all the high
privileges of your rank; the power and splendor which would surround
a husband of equal birth - a throne, a royal crown. Beware! when I
once accept your love, then you are mine; then I will never release
you; not to the king - not even to God. You will be mine through all
time and all eternity; nothing shall tear you from my arms, not even
your own wish, your own prayers. Oh, Amelia! do you see that I am a
madman, insane from rapture and despair! Should you not flee from a
maniac? Perhaps his arm, imbued with giant strength, seeking to hold
you ever to his heart, might crush you. Fly, then; spurn me from
you; go to your room; go, and say to this mocking courtier, to whom
nothing is holy, not even our love, who is surprised, at nothing - go
and say to him: 'Trenck was a madman; I summoned him for pity; I
hoped by mildness and forbearance to heal him. I have succeeded; he
is gone. Go, now, and watch over your friend.' I will not contradict
your words; so soon as you cross the threshold of the door, I will
spring from the balcony. I will be careful; I will not stumble; I
will not dash my head against the stones; I will not be found dead
under your window; no trace of blood shall mark my desperate path.
My wounds are fatal, but they shall bleed inwardly; only upon the
battle-field will I lie down to die. Amid the roar of cannon I shall
not be heard; I dare call your name with the last sigh which bursts
from my icy lips; my last words of love will mingle with the
convulsive groans of the dying. Flee, then! flee from wretchedness
and despair. May God bless you and make you happy!"

Trenck drew aside reverentially, that she might pass him; but she
moved not - her eyes were misty with tears, tears of love, of
heavenly peace. Amelia laid her soft hand upon his shoulder. Her
eyes, which were fixed upon his face, had a wondrous glow. Love and
high resolve were written there. "Two of the brightest stars in
yonder heavens did wander in our sphere." Trenck looked upon her,
and saw and felt that we are indeed made in the image of God.

"I seek no safety in flight. I remain by your side; I love you, I
love you! This is no trembling, sighing, blushing, sentimental love
of a young maiden. I offer you the love of a bold, proud woman, who
looks shame and death in the face. In the fire of my anguish, my
love has become purified and hardened; in this flame it has
forgotten its girlish blushes, and is unbending and unconquerable. I
have baptized it with my tears; I have taken it to my heart, as a
mother takes her new-born child whose existence is her condemnation,
her dishonor, her shame; whom she loves boundlessly, and blesses
even while weeping over it! I also weep, and I feel that
condemnation and shame are my portion. I also bless my love; I think
myself happy and enviable. God has blessed me; He has sent one pure,
burning ray of His celestial existence into my heart, and taught me
how to love unchangeably, immortally."

"Oh, Amelia, why cannot I die now?" cried Trenck, falling powerless
at her feet.

She stooped and raised him up with a strong hand.

"Rise," she said; "we must stand erect, side by side, firm and cool.
When you kneel before me, I fear that you see in me a princess, the
sister of a king. I am simply your beloved, the woman who adores
you. Look you, Trenck, I do not say 'the young girl;' in my interior
life I am no longer that. This fearful battle with myself has made
me old and cautious. A young girl is trembling and cowardly. I am
firm and brave; a young girl blushes when she confesses her love; I
do not confess, I declare and glory in my passion. A young girl
shudders when she thinks of dishonor and misery, of the power and
rage and menaces of her family; when with prophetic eye she sees a
herald clad in mourning announcing her dark fate. I shudder not. I
am no weak maiden; I am a woman who loves without limit,
unchangeably, eternally."

She threw her arms around him, and a long and blessed pause ensued.
Lightly whispered the wind in the tops of the lofty poplars and oaks
of the garden; unnumbered stars came out in their soft splendor and
looked down upon this slumbering world. Many slept, forgetful alike
of their joys and their griefs; some, rejoicing in unhoped-for
happiness, looked up with grateful and loving hearts; others, with
convulsive wringings of the hands and wild cries of anguish, called
upon Heaven for aid. What know the stars of this? they flash and
glimmer alike upon the happy and the despairing. The earth and sky
have no tears, no sympathy for earthly passions. Amelia released
herself from the arms of her lover and fixed her eyes upon the
heavens. Suddenly a star fell, marking its downward and rapid flight
with a line of silver; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, it
was extinguished.

"An evil omen!" cried she, pointing upward. With a mysterious
sympathy, Trenck had looked up at the same moment.

"The heavens will not deceive us, Amelia; they warn us, but this
warning comes too late. You are mine, you have sworn that you love
me; I have accepted your vows. May God also have heard them, and may
He be gracious to us! Is it not written that Faith can remove
mountains? that she is more powerful than the mightiest kings of the
earth; stronger than death - that conquerors and heroes fall before
her? Let us, then, have faith in our love; let us be strong in hope,
in patience, in constancy."

"My brother says we shall soon have war. Will you not win a wreath
of laurel upon the battle-field? who can know but the king may value
it as highly, may consider it as glorious, as a princely crown? All
my sisters are married to princes; perhaps my royal brother may
pardon me for loving a hero whose brow is bound by a laurel-wreath
alone."

"Swear to me, Amelia, to wait - to be patient, to give me time to
reach this goal, which you paint in such heavenly colors."

"I swear!"

"You will never be the wife of another?"

"I will never be the wife of another."

"Be it prince or king; even if your brother commands it?"

"Be it prince or king; even if my brother commands it, I will never
obey him."

"God, my God! you have heard our vows." While speaking, he took
Amelia's head in his hands softly and bowed it down as if it were a
holy sacrifice which he offered up to Heaven. "You have heard her
oath: O God, punish her, crush her in your wrath, if she prove
false!"

"I will be faithful to the end. May God punish me if I fail!"

"And now, beloved, you are mine eternally. Let me press our
betrothal kiss upon your sweet lips; you are my bride, my wife.
Tremble not now, turn not away from my arms; you have no other
refuge, no other strong fortress than my heart, but it is a rock on
which you can safely build; its foundation is strong, it can hold
and sustain you. If the storm is too fierce, we can plunge together
into the wild, raging sea, and be buried in the deep. Oh, my bride,
let me kiss your lips; you are sanctified and holy in my eyes till
the glorious day in which life or death shall unite us."

"No, you shall not kiss me; I embrace you, my beloved," and she
pressed her soft full lips, which no untruthful, immodest word had
ever desecrated, to his. It was a kiss holy, innocent, and pure as a
maiden's prayer. "And now, my beloved, farewell," said Amelia, after
a long pause, in which their lips had been silent, but their hearts
had spoken to each other and to God. "Go," she said; "night melts
into morn, the day breaks!"

"My day declines, my night comes on apace," sighed Trenck. "When do
we meet again?"

Amelia looked up, smilingly, to the heavens. "Ask the stars and the
calendar when the heavens are dark, and the moon hides her fair
face; then I expect you - the window will be open and the door
unbarred."

"The moon has ever been thought to be the friend of lovers," said
Trenck, pressing the hand of the princess to his heart; "but I hate
her with a perfect hatred, she robs me of my happiness."

"And now, let us return to Baron Pollnitz, who is, without doubt,
impatient."

"Why must he always accompany me, Amelia? why will you not allow me
to come alone?"

"Why? I scarcely know myself. It seems to me we are safer when
watched over by the eye of a friend; perhaps I am unduly anxious; a
warning voice whispers me that it is better so. Pollnitz has become
the confidant of our love, let us trust him fully; let him know
that, though traitors and meriting punishment in the sight of men,
we are not guilty in the sight of God, and have no cause to blush or
look down. Pollnitz must always accompany you."

"Ah, Amelia!" sighed Trenck; "you have not forgotten that you are a
princess. Love has not wholly conquered you. You command. It is not
so with me. I submit, I obey, and I am silent. Be it as you will:
Pollnitz shall always accompany me - only promise me to come ever
upon the balcony."

"I promise! and now, beloved, let us say farewell to God, to the
heavens, to the soft stars, and the dark night, which has spread her
mantle over us and allowed us to be happy."

"Farewell, farewell, my happiness, my love, my pride, my hope, my
future! Oh, Amelia, why cannot I go this moment into battle, and
pluck high honors which will make me more worthy of you?"

They embraced for the last time, and then stepped into the room.
Pollnitz still sat on the divan before the table. Only a poor
remnant of the feast remained; his tongue had been forced to silence
in this lonely room, but he had been agreeably occupied with the
game, fruits, jellies, and wine which were placed before him; he had
stretched himself comfortably upon the sofa, and was quietly
enjoying the blessed feeling of a healthy and undisturbed digestion.
At last he had fallen asleep, or seemed so; it was some moments
before Trenck succeeded in forcing him to open his eyes.

"You are very cruel, young friend," said he, rising up; "you have
disturbed me in the midst of a wondrous and rapturous dream."

"Might I inquire into this dream?" said the princess.

"Ah, your royal highness, I dreamed of the only thing which would
ever surprise or enrapture me in this comical and good-for-nothing
world. I dreamed I had no creditors, and heaps of gold."

"And your dream differs widely from the reality?"

"Yes, my gracious princess, just the opposite is true. I have
unnumbered creditors, and no gold."

"Poor Pollnitz! how do you propose to free yourself from this
painful embarrassment?"

"Ah, your royal highness, I shall never attempt it! I am more than
content when I can find some soothing palliatives for this chronic
disease, and, at least, find as many louis d'ors in my pocket as I
have creditors to threaten me."

"And is that now your happy state?"

"No, princess, I have only twelve louis d'ors."

"And how many creditors?"

"Two-and-thirty."

"So twenty louis d'ors are wanting to satisfy your longing?"

"Yes, unhappily."

The princess walked to her table and took from it a little roll of
gold, which she handed to the master of ceremonies. "Take it," said
she, smiling; "yesterday I received my pin-money for the month, and
I rejoice that I am in a condition to balance your creditors and
your louis d'ors at this time."

Pollnitz took the gold without a blush, and kissed the hand of the
princess gallantly. "Ah! I have but one cause of repentance," sighed
he.

"Well, what is that?"

"That I did not greatly increase the number of my creditors. My God!
who could have guessed the magnanimous intentions of my royal
princess?"


CHAPTER VIII.

THE FIRST CLOUD.


Drunk with happiness, revelling in the recollection of this first
interview with his lovely and exalted mistress, Frederick von Trenck
rode slowly through the lonely highways toward Potsdam. It was not
necessary for him to pay any attention to the road, as his horse
knew every foot of the way. Trenck laid his bridle carelessly upon
the neck of the noble animal, and gave himself up entirely to
meditation. Suddenly night waned, the vapors melted, light appeared
in the east, and the first purple glow was succeeded by a clear,
soft blue. The larks sang out their joyous morning song in the
heavens, not yet disturbed by the noise and dust of the day.

Trenck heard not the song of the lark, he saw not the rising sun,
which, with his golden rays, illuminated the landscape, and changed
the dew-drops in the cups of the flowers into shimmering diamonds
and rubies; he was dreaming, dreaming. The sweet and wondrous
happiness of the last few hours intoxicated his soul; he recalled
every word, every smile, every pressure of the hand of his beloved,
and a crimson blush suffused his cheek, a sweet tremor oppressed his
heart, as he remembered that she had been clasped in his arms; that
he had kissed the pure, soft, girlish lips, whose breath was fresher
and more odorous than the glorious morning air which fanned his
cheeks and played with his long dark hair. With a radiant smile and
proudly erected head, he recalled the promise of the princess. She
had given him reason to hope; she believed in the possibility of
their union.

And why, indeed, might not this be possible? Had not his career in
the last few months been so brilliant as to excite the envy of his
comrades? was he not recognized as the special favorite of the king?
Scarcely six months had passed since he arrived in Berlin; a young,
poor, and unknown student, he was commended to the king by his
protector, the Count von Lottum, who earnestly petitioned his
majesty to receive him into his life-guard. The king, charmed by his
handsome and martial figure, by his cultivated intellect and
wonderful memory, had made him cornet in his cavalry guard, and a
few weeks later he was promoted to a lieutenancy. Though but
eighteen years of age, he had the distinguished honor to be chosen
by the king to exercise two regiments of Silesian cavalry, and
Frederick himself had expressed his content, not only in gracious
but affectionate words. [Footnote: "Memoires de Frederic Baron von
Trenck," traduits par Lui-meme su l'original allemande.] It is well
known that the smile of a prince is like the golden rays of the sun:
it lends light and glory to every object upon which it rests, and
attracts the curious gaze of men.

The handsome young lieutenant, basking in the rays of royal favor,
was naturally an object of remark and the most distinguished
attentions to the circle of the court. More than once the king had
been seen to lay his arm confidingly upon the shoulder of Trenck,
and converse with him long and smilingly; more than once had the
proud and almost unapproachable queen-mother accorded the young
officer a gracious salutation; more than once had the princesses at
the fetes of the last winter selected him as their partner, and all
those young and lovely girls of the court declared that there was no
better dancer, no more attentive cavalier, no more agreeable
companion than Frederick von Trenck - than this youthful, witty,
merry officer, who surpassed all his comrades, not, only in his
height and the splendor of his form, but in talent and amiability.
It was therefore to be expected that this proud aristocracy would
seek to draw the favorite of the king and of the ladies into their
circle.

Frederick von Trenck was of too sound and healthy a nature, he had
too much strength of character, to be made vain or supercilious by
these attentions. He soon, however, accustomed himself to them as
his right; and he was scarcely surprised when the king, after his
promotion, sent him two splendid horses from his own stable, and a
thousand thalers, [Footnote: Ibid.] at that time a considerable sum
of money.

This general adulation inspired naturally bold wishes and ambitious
dreams, and led him to look upon the impossible and unheard of as
possible and attainable. Frederick von Trenck was not vain or
imperious, but he was proud and ambitious; he had a great object in
view, and all his powers were consecrated to that end; in his
hopeful, sunny hours, he did not doubt of success; he was ever
diligent, ever watchful, ever ready to embrace an opportunity; ever
expecting some giant work, which would, in its fruition, bring him
riches and honor, fame and greatness. He felt that he had strength
to win a world and lay it bound at his feet; and if the king had
commanded him to undertake the twelve labors of Hercules, he would
not have shrunk from the ordeal. Convinced that a glorious future
awaited him, he prepared himself for it. No hour found him idle.
When his comrades, wearied by the fatiguing service and the oft-
repeated exercises and preparations for war, retired to rest, Trenck
was earnestly engaged in some grave study, some scientific work,
seated at his writing-table surrounded with books, maps, and
drawings.

The young lieutenant was preparing himself to be a general, or a
conquering hero, by his talents and his great deeds; to subdue the
world and its prejudices; to bridge over with laurels and trophies
the gulf which separated him from the princess. Was he not already
on the way? Did not the future beckon to him with glorious promise?
Must not he, who at eighteen years of age had attained that for
which many not less endowed had given their whole lives in vain - he,
the flattered cavalier, the scholar, and the officer of the king's
guard - be set apart, elected to some exalted fate?

These were the thoughts which occupied the young man, and which made
him forgetful of all other things, even the danger with which the
slow movements of his horse and the ever-rising sun threatened him.

It was the custom of the king to attend the early morning parade,
and the commander, Captain Jaschinsky, did not belong to Trenck's
friends; he envied him for his rapid promotion; it angered him that
Trenck had, at a bound, reached that position to which he had
wearily crept forward through long years of service. It would have
made him happy to see this young man, who advanced so proudly and
triumphantly upon the path of honor and distinction, cast down from
the giddy height of royal favor, and trampled in the lust of
forgetfulness. He watched his young lieutenant with the smiling
cunning of a base soul, resolved to punish harshly the smallest
neglect of duty.

And now he had found his opportunity. A sergeant, who was a spy for
the captain, informed him that Trenck's corporal had told him his
master had ridden forth late in the night and had not yet returned.
The sergeant had watched the door of the house in which Trenck
resided, and was convinced that he was still absent. This
intelligence filled the heart of Captain Jaschinsky with joy; he
concealed it, however, under the mask of indifference; he declared
that he did not believe this story of Trenck's absence. The young
man knew full well that no officer was allowed to leave Potsdam,
even for an hour, without permission, particularly during the night.

In order, as he said, to convince the sergeant of the untruth of
this statement, he sent him with some trifling commission to
Lieutenant von Trenck. The sergeant returned triumphantly; the baron
was not at home, and his servant was most anxious about him, The
captain shrugged his shoulders silently. The clock struck eight; he
seized his hat, and hastened to the parade.

The whole line was formed; every officer stood by his regiment,
except the lieutenant of the second company. The captain saw this at
a glance, and a wicked smile for one moment played upon his face. He
rode with zealous haste to the front of his regiment and saluted the
king, who descended the steps of the castle, accompanied by his
generals and adjutants.

At this moment, to the right wing of the regiment, there was a
slight disturbance, which did not escape the listening ear of the
captain. He turned his head, and saw that Trenck had joined his
company, and that his horse was panting and bathed in sweat. The
captain's brow was clouded; the young officer seemed to have escaped
the threatened danger. The king had seen nothing. Trenck was in his
place, and it would be useless to bring a charge against him.

The king, however, had seen all; his keen eye had observed Trenck's
rapid approach, and his glowing, heated countenance; and as he rode
to the front, he drew in his horse directly before Trenck.

"How comes it that your horse is fatigued and sweating? I must
suppose he is fresh from the stable, and his master just from his
bed. It appears, however, that he has been delayed there; I see that
he has just arrived upon the parade-ground."

The officer murmured a few incomprehensible words.

"Will you answer me?" said the king; "is your horse just from the
stable - are you directly from your bed?"

Frederick von Trenck's head had been bowed humbly upon his breast,
he now raised it boldly up; he was resolved; his fierce eyes met
those of the king. "No, your majesty," said he, with a cool,
composed mien, "my horse is not from the stable - I am not from my
bed."

There was a pause, an anxious, breathless pause. Every eye was fixed
observantly upon the king, whose severity in military discipline was
known and feared.

"Do you know," said the king at last, "that I command my officers to
be punctual at parade?"

"Yes, sire."

"Do you know that it is positively forbidden to leave Potsdam
without permission?"

"Yes, your majesty."

"Well, then, since this was known to you, where have you been? You
confess that you do not come from your dwelling?"

"Sire, I was on the chase, and loitered too long. I know I am guilty
of a great misdemeanor, and I expect my pardon only from the grace
of my king."

The king smiled, and his glance was mild and kindly. "You expect
also, as it appears, under any circumstances, a pardon? Well, this
time you shall not be disappointed. I am well pleased that you have
been bold enough to speak the truth. I love truthful people; they
are always brave. This time you shall go unpunished, but beware of
the second offence. I warn you."

Alas! what power had even a king's warning over the passionate love
of a youth of eighteen? Trenck soon forgot the danger from which he
had escaped; and even if remembered, it would not have restrained
him.

It was again a cloudy, dark night, and he knew that the princess
expected him. As he stood again upon the balcony, guarded by the
watchful master of ceremonies; as he listened to the sweet music of
Amelia's voice and comprehended the holy and precious character of
her girlish and tender nature; as he sat at her feet, pouring out



Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 13 of 42)