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

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Now, then, Barbarina, triumph! you are revenged. The king has a
heart, and you have wounded it mortally!"

Completely unmanned, the king sprang to his feet, and stepped to the
window, wishing to conceal his emotion from Barbarina. Suddenly he
felt his shoulder lightly touched, and turning, he saw Barbarina
before him, more proud, more beautiful, more queenly than he had
ever seen her; energy and high resolve spoke in her face and in her
flashing eyes.

"Sire," she said, in a full, mellow voice, which slightly trembled
from strong emotion - "sire," she repeated, trying to veil her
agitation by outward calm, "I have sworn in this hour to speak the
truth; I will fulfil my vow. I will speak the truth, though you may
scorn and despise me. I will die of your contempt as one dies of a
quick and deadly poison; but it is better so to die than to live as
I am living. You shall know me better, sire. You have charged me
with falsehood and hypocrisy; thank God, I can cast off that
humiliating reproach! I will speak the truth, though it bows my head
with shame and casts me at your feet. If I could die there, I would
count myself most blessed. The truth, sire, the truth! listen to it.
It is true I hated you: you humbled my pride. You changed me, the
queen of grace and beauty, the queen of the world, into a poor,
hired dancer; with your rude soldiers and police you compelled me to
fulfil a contract against which my soul revolted. I cursed you. You
separated me violently, from the man I loved, who adored me, and
offered me a splendid and glorious future. It is true I prayed to
God for vengeance, but He would not hear my prayer; He punished me
for my mad folly, and turned the dagger I wildly aimed at you,
against my own breast. Sire, the hate to which I swore, to which I
clung as the ship-wrecked mariner clings to the plank which may save
him from destruction, failed me in the hour of need, and I sank,
sank down. A day came in which the prayer of rage and revenge upon
my lips was changed, in spite of myself, into blessings, and I
found, with consternation and horror, that there was indeed but one
step between wild hatred and passionate love, and this fatal step
lies over an abyss. I cannot tell you, sire, how much I have
suffered - how vainly I have struggled. I have hated, I have cursed
myself because I could no longer hate and curse you. The day you
left for Silesia, you said, 'I think ever of thee.' Oh! sire, you
know not what fatal poison you poured into my ears, with what
rapture and enchantment these words filled my heart. My life was a
dream; I stood under a golden canopy, drunk with joy and blessed
with heavenly peace. I saw these words, 'I think ever of thee,' not
only in my heart, but in every flower, on every leaf, and written by
the sun in the heavens, and in the stars. I dreamed of them as one
dreams of fairy palaces and heavenly melodies. In the songs of sweet
birds, in the plaudits and bravos with which the world greeted me, I
heard only these celestial words, 'I think ever of thee.' I lived
upon them during your absence, I wrote them with my glances upon
your empty chair in the theatre, I fixed my eyes upon it, and for
love of you I danced to it. One night I saw in this chair, not only
my golden starry words, I saw two stars from heaven; I was not
prepared - their glance was fatal. No, sire, that was no miserable
comedy, no actor's work. I sank unconscious, and from that hour I
know one does not die from rapture, but sinks insensible. I wept the
whole night, God knows whether from shame or bliss, I cannot tell.
The next day - yes - then I was false and deceitful. I stuck my
stiletto in my foot, to deceive the world; only God might know that
the Barbarina fainted at the sight of the king - fainted because she
felt that she no longer hated, but worshipped him."

She rushed to the door, but Frederick sprang after her; he drew her
back, madly but silently; his eyes were radiant with joy.

"Remain," said he; "I command you - I, not the king." He placed his
lips to her ear and whispered two words: her soft cheeks were

At this moment there was a knock upon the door, the portiere was
thrown back, and the wan, suffering face of Fredersdorf was seen.

"Sire," said he, "your majesty commanded me to summon Baron Swartz;
he is here, and waits for your orders."

"Let him enter," said the king; then smiling upon Barbarina, he
said, "He comes just in time; we must sign our contract, Swartz
shall act as our priest."

He advanced to meet the intendant, and asked for the contract
between Barbarina and himself. He read it carefully, and said,
"There are only a few things to alter." He stepped to his desk and
added a few words to the contract.

"Signora," said he, turning backward, "will you come here for a

Barbarina, embarrassed and blushing, drew near. In the back part of
the room stood Baron Swartz, watching the king and Barbarina with a
sly smile; near him stood Fredersdorf, whose pale and melancholy
face was brought out in strong relief by the dark velvet portiere.

"Read this," said the king to Barbarina, pointing to the words he
had just written. "Have you read?"

"Yes, sire."

Frederick raised his head, and slightly turning, his glowing glance
rested upon Barbarina, who, ashamed and confused, cast her eyes to
the ground.

"Will you sign this?"

"I will, sire," said she, almost inaudibly.

"You bind yourself to remain here for three years, and not to marry
during that time?" [Footnote: By this contract, Barbarina received
an income of seven thousand thalers and five months' liberty during
each year; but she was bound not to marry during this term of three
years. - SCHNEIDER.]

"I do, sire."

"Take the pen and sign our contract. - Come forward, Swartz, and
witness this document. - Fredersdorf, is your seal at hand?"

The contract was ready.

"You will say, 'This is a sad contract,'" said the king, turning to

"Yes, sad indeed. The king deals as cruelly with the Barbarina as he
has done with his poor secretary. This cold king does not believe in

"No, no! Fredersdorf, I will prove to you that you are mistaken. I
have been told that you are ill because I will not allow you to
marry. Now, then, Fredersdorf, I will not be hard-hearted. I have
to-day made an innocent sacrifice to my hatred of matrimony. The
signora has bound herself not to marry for three years. For her
sake, I will be gracious to you: go and marry the woman you love,
and when the priest has made you one, you shall take your wife to
Paris for the honeymoon, at my cost."

Fredersdorf seized the hand of the king, kissed it, and covered it
with his tears. Barbarina gazed at the handsome, glowing face of
Frederick with admiration. She understood him fully; she felt that
he was happy, and wished all around him to partake of his joy.



Baron von Pollnitz was ill at ease; for three days he had sought
relief diligently, but had no alleviation. He found himself in the
antediluvian condition of our great forefather Adam, while he
loitered away his time in Paradise. Like Adam, Pollnitz had no gold.
Our good baron found this by no means a happy state, and his heart
was full of discontent and apprehension; he felt that he was,
indeed, unblessed. What would become of him if the king should not
be merciful, should not take pity upon his necessities, which he had
to-day made known to him in a most touching and eloquent letter. Up
to this time he had been waiting in vain for an answer. What should
he do if the king should be hard-hearted and cruel? But no, that was
impossible; he must consider it a sacred duty to take care of the
old and faithful servant of his house, who had been the favored
companion of two of Prussia's kings. Pollnitz considered that he
belonged to the royal family; he was an adopted member; they could
not think slightingly of him, or set him aside.

He had exhausted his means, he had borrowed from Jew and Christian;
he had, by his gay narratives and powers of persuasion, drawn large
sums of gold from the rich burghers; all his friends held his
dishonored drafts; even his own servant had allowed himself to be
made a fool of, and had loaned him the savings of many years; and
this sum scarcely sufficed to maintain the noble, dissipated, and
great-hearted cavalier a few weeks.

Alas! what sacrifices had he not already made to this insane passion
for spending money; what humiliation had he not suffered - and all in
vain! In vain had he changed his religion three times; he had
condescended so far as to pay court to a merchant's daughter; he had
even wished to wed the daughter of a tailor, and she had rejected

"And yet," said he, as he thought over his past life, "every thing
might have gone well, but for this formidable stratagem of the king;
this harsh prohibition and penalty as to relieving my necessities
which has been trumpeted through the streets - that ruined me; that
gave me fearful trouble and torment. That was refined cruelty for
which I will one day revenge myself, unless Frederick makes amends.
Ha! there comes a royal messenger. He stops at my door. God be
thanked! The king answers my letter; that is to say, the king sends
me money."

Pollnitz could scarcely restrain himself from rushing out to receive
the messenger; his dignity, perhaps, would not have sufficed to hold
him back, but the thought of the considerable douceur he would be
expected to pay moderated his impatience. At last his servant came
and handed him a letter.

"I hope," said the baron, gravely, "I hope you rewarded the king's
messenger handsomely?"

"No, sir, I gave him nothing."

"Nothing!" cried he angrily. "And you dare to say this to my face!
you do not tremble lest I dismiss you instantly from my service?
you, and such as you are, cast shame upon our race! I, a baron of
the realm, and grand master of ceremonies, allow a royal messenger
who brings me a letter to go from my door unrewarded! Ass, if you
had no money, why did you not come to me? why did you not call upon
me for several ducats?"

"If your grace will give me the money, I will run after the
messenger. I know where to find him; he has gone to General

"Leave the room, scoundrel, and spare me your folly!"

Pollnitz raised his arm to strike, but the lackey fled and left him
alone with his golden dreams of the future.

He hastily broke the seal and opened the letter. "Not from the king,
but from Fredersdorf," he murmured impatiently. As he read, his brow
grew darker, and his lips breathed words of cursing and scorn.

"Refused!" said he passionately, as he read to the end, and cast the
letter angrily to the floor. "Refused! The king has no money for me!
The king needs all his gold for war, which is now about to be
declared; and, if I wish to convince myself that this is true, I
must go to-night, at eleven o'clock, to the middle door of the
castle, and there I will see that the king has no money. A curious
proposition, indeed! I would rather go to discover that he had
money, than that he had it not. If he had it, I would find a means
to supply myself. At all events, I will go. A curious rendezvous
indeed - a midnight assignation between a bankrupt baron and an empty
purse! A tragedy might grow out of it. But if Frederick has really
no money, I must seek elsewhere. I will make a last attempt - I will
go to Trenck."

The trusty baron made his toilet and hastened to Trenck's
apartments. The young officer had lately taken a beautiful suite of
rooms. He had his reception-rooms adorned with costly furniture and
rare works of art. He had an antechamber, in which two richly-
liveried servants waited to receive his orders. He had a stable and
four splendid horses of the Arabian breed, and two orderlies to
attend to them! From what quarter did Trenck obtain the money for
all this livery? This was an open question with which the comrades
of the young lieutenant were exercised; it gave them much cause for
thought, and some of them were not satisfied with thinking; these
thoughts took form, some of their words reached the ears of Trenck,
and must have been considered by him very objectionable. He
challenged the speaker to fight with the sword, and disabled him
effectually from speaking afterward. [Footnote: Frederick von
Trenck's Memoires.] Trenck was at dinner, and, contrary to custom,
alone; he received Pollnitz most graciously, and the baron took a
seat willingly at the table.

"I did not come to dine with you, but to complain of you," said
Pollnitz, cutting up the grouse with great adroitness and putting
the best part upon his plate.

"You come to complain of me?" repeated Trenck, a little embarrassed.
"I have given you no cause for displeasure, dear friend."

"Yes, you have given me good cause, even while I am your best
friend! Why have you withdrawn your confidence from me? Why do I no
longer accompany you on that most romantic midnight moonlight path
to virtue? Why am I no longer watchman and duenna when you and your
lady call upon the moon and stars to witness your love? Why am I set

"I can only say to all this that I go no more upon the balcony."

"That is to say - "

"That is to say that my stars are quenched and my sun has set in
clouds. I am, even as you are, set aside."

Pollnitz gazed at Trenck with so sharp and cunning an eye that the
young man was confused and looked down. The baron laughed merrily.

"Dear Trenck," said he, "a lie shows in your face like a spot on the
smooth skin of a rosy apple. You are too young to understand lying,
and I am too old to be deceived by it. Another point: will you make
me believe that this luxury which surrounds you is maintained with
your lieutenant's pay?"

"You forget that my father has left me his property of Sherlock, and
that I have rented it for eight hundred thalers!"

"I am too good an accountant not to know that this sum would
scarcely suffice for your horses and servants."

"Well, perhaps you are right; for the rest I may thank my gracious
king. During the course of this year he has presented me with three
hundred Fredericks d'or; and now you know the source of my revenue
and will not think so meanly of me as to suppose that - "

"That, your great love has any thing to do with earthly riches or
advancement. I do not believe that I brought in such a charge
against you, even as little do I believe that you have been given
up! Ah, dear friend, I alone have cause of complaint; I alone am set
aside, and why am I thus treated? Have I not been discreet, diligent
in your service, and ready at all times?"

"Certainly. I can only repeat to you that all is at an end. Our
beautiful dream has faded like the morning cloud and the early dew."

"You are in earnest?"

"In solemn earnest."

"Well, then, I will also speak earnestly. I will relate to you
something which you do not appear to know. A gardener boy who had
risen earlier than usual to protect some rare flowers in the garden
of Monbijou saw two figures upon the balcony, and heard their light
whispers. The boy made known his discovery to the principal
gardener, and he communicated the facts to the chamberlain of the
queen-mother. It was resolved to watch the balcony. The virtuous and
suspicious queen immediately concluded that Mademoiselle von Marwitz
had arranged a rendezvous upon the balcony, and she was sternly
resolved to dismiss the lady at once if any proof could be obtained
against her. Happily, the queen made known these facts to the
Princess Amelia, and I can readily conceive that the balcony remains
now unoccupied."

"Yes, I understand that."

"You can also understand that this event was regarded as a warning
of fate, and great caution and forethought were exercised. Not only
was the balcony given up, but the old friend and confidant who had
played the part of companion and carrier-pigeon was banished and
dismissed wholly from service."

"You may go further still," said Frederick von Trenck. "You have not
stated the whole case. This fortunate providence was a convincing
proof of the danger of an engagement which might never hope to be
crowned with success, never exist except under the shadows of
silence and gloom, with bleeding hearts and tearful eyes; this dream
of love was given up at once, fearing that at no distant day both
honor and liberty might be lost in its pursuit. They separated! An
eternal farewell was faltered!"

"That is to say, you would now deceive your confidant and former
aid, in order to place yourself more securely - and some day,
perhaps, when suspicion is aroused, you can call him as a witness to
prove that all intercourse was long ago given up; he must know it,
being the confidant from the beginning. This was a well-conceived
plot, but you only seem to forget that Pollnitz was not the man to
be deceived. He has had too much experience, and has studied the
hearts of men, and especially of women, too diligently. A woman who
is enjoying her first love and believes in its holy power, convinces
herself that it can achieve wonders and overcome all obstacles. She
does not sacrifice her love to other duties or to danger, not even
if she is a common woman, far less if she is a princess. Princess
Amelia has not given up her young and handsome lover; she clings to
him with a frenzied constancy, which I confess to you, if I had the
honor and glory of being her suitor, would fill me with apprehension
and regret. No, no, the princess is just now in a paroxysm of
youthful passion, and would rather die than resign her love, and she
is fantastic enough to believe in the possibility of a legitimate
marriage! Poor thing, she expects to mould the world to her wishes,
and arms herself, I suppose, with hair-pins! Princess Amelia was
forced to give up her interviews upon the balcony, but she sought
other means to gratify her passion. This was simple and easy to do.
The maid of honor was taken into her confidence. Marwitz swore to
guard the secret fearfully till death; a plan was then arranged with
her which was truly well conceived. Lieutenant von Trenck must be
spoken of as the suitor of Mademoiselle von Marwitz; he must act at
the court-balls and fetes as the tender, sighing, and eager lover of
the maid of honor; he must at last make a formal declaration, and
receive permission to visit her in her rooms. This is now his daily
habit, and the good city of Berlin and the short-sighted, silly
court are completely deceived, and look upon Frederick von Trenck as
the happy bridegroom of Marwitz, and no one guesses that when the
young officer is with the maid of honor, the Princess Amelia is also
present, and changes the role with Marwitz."

"I see it is in vain," said Trenck, sighing; "you know all: but if
you have any real friendship for me, you will tell me who betrayed

Pollnitz laughed aloud, "You betrayed yourself, my friend; or, if
you prefer it, my worldly wisdom and cunning betrayed you. My young
and innocent friend, a man like Pollnitz is not easily deceived; his
eyes are sharp enough to pierce the veil of the most charming little
intrigue, and probe it to the bottom! I know the Princess Amelia; I
have known her too long, not to know that she would not so quickly,
and without a struggle, sacrifice her love; and further when I saw
at the last court-ball, with what a long and dreary face you stood
behind the chair of the poor Marwitz, and with what calm and smiling
content the princess watched the couple amoureuse, look you, Trenck,
then I knew and understood all."

"Well, then, as you understand all, I make no further attempt to
deceive you. Yes, God be praised! the princess loves me still. It is
indeed the princess whom I meet in the apartment of the maid of
honor; to Marwitz are the letters directed which my servant carries
every morning to the palace, and from the Princess Amelia do I
receive my answers. Yes, God be thanked! Amelia loves me, and one
day she will be mine in the eyes of the whole world, even as she is
now mine in the eyes of God and the angels; one day - "

"Stop, stop!" cried Pollnitz interrupting him; "that last sentence
must be explained before you rush on with your dithyrambics. You
have declared that the princess is yours in the sight of God: what
does that mean?"

"That means," said Trenck, "that God, who looks into our hearts,
knows the eternity and boundlessness of our love; that means that,
under God's heaven, and calling upon His holy name, we have sworn
never to forget our love and our faith, and never to form any other

"So nothing more than that - no secret marriage? Are you never alone
with the princess?"

"No, never! I have given her my word of honor never even to ask it,
and I will keep my oath. And, after all, the good Marwitz disturbs
us not; she gets as far from us as possible: she seems to see us
not, and we speak in such low tones, that she does not hear a word
we utter."

"Ah! so the Marwitz does not disturb you?" cried Pollnitz, with a
cynical laugh. "O sancta simplicitas! and this is an officer of the
life-guard? The world is going to destruction; or it is becoming
innocent and pure as Paradise. It is time for me to die; I no longer
understand this pitiful world."

"I do not understand you, and I will not understand you," said
Trenck gravely. "You laugh at me, and call me a silly boy, and I
allow it. I know we cannot understand each other in such matters;
you cannot conceive what strength, what self-denial, what energy I
exert to make myself worthy of the pure, modest, and exalted love
which Amelia has consecrated to me. You cannot comprehend how often
my good and evil genius struggle for the mastery, how often I pray
God to keep me from temptation. No, I have sworn that this love
shall wave pure and unblemished, like a glorious banner over my
whole life; come death rather than dishonor! And now, friend,
explain your meaning: why all these plots and counterplots? What is
your object?"

"Nothing more than to warn you to prudence. I do not believe all the
world is deceived by your comedy with Marwitz. The king, who appears
to see nothing, sees all. He has his spies everywhere, and knows all
that happens in his family. Be careful, be ever on your guard."

"I thank you for your warning," said Trenck, pressing the hand of
the master of ceremonies. "We must soon separate; you know that in a
few weeks we go to Silesia. The king is silently preparing for war."

"I know it, and I pity you."

"Pity me! Ah, you do not understand me. I long for my first battle
as a lover does for his first sweet kiss. The battle-field is for me
a consecrated garden, where my laurels and myrtles grow. I shall
pluck them and weave wreaths for my bride-wedding wreaths. Pollnitz,
on the other side, beyond the bloody battle-ground, lies my title of
prince, and Amelia's bridle-wreath."

"Dreamer, fantastic, hopeless dreamer!" cried Pollnitz, laughing.
"Well, God grant that you do not embrace death on the battle-field,
or on the other side find a prison, to either of which you have a
better claim than to a prince's title. Make use, therefore, of your
time, and enjoy these charming interviews. Is one arranged for this

"No, but to-morrow. The reigning queen gives a ball to-morrow.
Immediately before the ball I am to meet the princess. Oh, my
friend, to-morrow evening at five think of me! I shall be the
happiest and most amiable of mortals. I shall be with my beloved!"

"Alas! how strange is life, and how little do the fates of men
resemble! To-morrow, at the hour when you will be so unspeakably
happy, I shall be walking in a thorny, a cursed path; I shall be on
my way to the usurer."

"To the usurer? That is indeed a sad alternative for a cavalier like
the Baron von Pollnitz."

"But that is still better than imprisonment for debt, and I have
only the choice between these two, unless you, dearest friend, will
take pity upon me and lend me a hundred louis d'ors."

Frederick Trenck said nothing. He stepped to his desk. The eyes of
the baron glittered with joy as he saw Trenck take out a pocket-
book, in which he knew by pleasant experience that the young officer
sometimes kept gold. His joy was of short duration. No gold was
seen. Trenck took out a small, modest, unsealed paper and handed it
to him.

"Look at this draft," said he. "Had you come yesterday I could have
accommodated you joyfully. To-day it is impossible. I have this
morning lent my colonel two hundred ducats, and my purse is empty."

"Well, you must soon fill it," said Pollnitz, with a coarse laugh.

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 18 of 42)