L. Mühlbach.

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

. (page 19 of 42)
Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 19 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"To-morrow at five you will enjoy your rendezvous, and you will not
only speak of God, and love, and the stars, but also a little of
earthly things - of pomp and gold, and - Farewell!"

With a gay laugh Pollnitz took leave, but he no sooner found himself
alone upon the street than his face grew black arid his eye was full
of malice.

"He has no gold for me, but I have his secret, and I will know how
to squeeze some gold out of that," murmured Pollnitz. "Truly I think
this secret of Trenck's is worth some thousand thalers, and the king
must find the means to pay for it. But stop! The hour of my
interesting rendezvous draws near. I am curious to know how I am to
be convinced at eleven o'clock, and in the middle of the street,
that the king has no gold. I will be punctual, but I have still time
to visit a few friends, and seek if possible to win a few louis
d'ors at faro."



It was a dark, still night. As the clock struck ten the night might
really be said to begin in Berlin. The streets were not lighted
except by accidental rays from the windows and the carriage-lamps,
and the glare of torches carried by the servants who accompanied
their masters to places of amusement. By eleven o'clock the streets
were deserted. Pollnitz was therefore sure to meet no one on his way
to the castle. He directed his steps to that door which opened upon
the River Spree, as Fredersdorf had advised him.

Silence reigned in the palace. The sentinel stepped slowly backward
and forward in the courtyard, and in the distance was heard the
baying of two hounds, entertaining each other with their melancholy
music. The master of ceremonies began to be impatient; he thought
that, the impertinent private secretary had been indulging in some
practical joke or mystification at his expense; but as he drew near
to the Spree, he heard the light stroke of oars in the water.
Pollnitz hastened forward, and his eyes, accustomed to the darkness,
discovered a skiff drawn up near the Elector's Bridge.

"This is the point! here we must wait," whispered a manly voice.

"I think we will not have to wait long," said another. "I see lights
in the windows."

The side of the castle next the Spree was now suddenly lighted;
first the upper story, then the lower, and a pale light was now seen
in the vestibule.

"Truly, I have not been deceived; something is going on," said
Pollnitz, hastening forward.

As he entered the court, a curious train was seen descending the
steps. In front were two servants with torches; they were followed
by twelve heyducks, their shoulders weighed down with dishes, cans,
cups, plates, whose silver surface, illumined by the golden glare of
the torches, seemed to dance and glimmer along the wall and steps
like "will o' the wisps." Two servants with towels brought up the
rear, and behind these the pale, sad face of Fredersdorf was seen.

"You are punctual," said he to Pollnitz; "you wish to convince
yourself that the king has no gold?"

"Certainly! though this conviction will deprive me of my last hope,
and one does not adopt such a course eagerly."

"I think you will be fully convinced. Come, let us follow the

He took the arm of the baron, and they soon reached the border of
the Spree. The large skiff, which had been lying so dark and still,
was now lighted by the torches of the servants, who ranged
themselves on each side; it was brilliantly lighted, and great
activity prevailed. The twelve heyducks, bending under their heavy
burden, entered the skiff, and piled up the silver-ware, then sprang
again ashore.

"We are going to the treasure-room, will you follow us?" said

"Certainly; if not, you may perhaps expect to leave me here as

"That is not at all necessary; there are some soldiers with loaded
muskets in the skiff. Come."

Silently and hastily they all mounted the steps and reached at last
the large room where the royal silver had been kept; the door was
open, but guarded by sentinels, and Melchoir, who had had the silver
in charge, now walked before the door with a disturbed and sad

"May I enter, Melchoir?" said Pollnitz to his old acquaintance,
greeting him with a friendly smile.

"There is no necessity to ask," said Melchoir, sadly. "My kingdom is
at an end, as you see, when the silver is gone; there is no
necessity for a steward, and the old Melchoir will be set aside,
with all those who yet remain of the good old times of the ever-
blessed Frederick William!"

Pollnitz entered the room with Fredersdorf, and his eye wandered
over the rich treasures spread out before him, and which the
heyducks were now packing in large sacks.

"Oh, if these plates and dishes could speak and converse with me,
what curious things we would have to confide with each other!" said
Pollnitz, twirling one of the plates between his fingers. "How often
have I dined from your rich abundance! Under the first pomp-and-
splendor-loving Frederick, you furnished me with gala dinners; under
the parsimonious Frederick William, with solid family dinners! How
often have I seen my smiling face reflected in your polished
surface! how often has this silver fork conveyed the rarest morsels
to my lips! I declare to you, Fredersdorf, I think a dinner plate
fulfils a noble mission; within its narrow bound lie the bone and
sinew, as also the best enjoyments of life. But tell me, for God's
sake, how can you bear that these rascals should handle the king's
silver so roughly? Only look, now, at that heyduck, he has
completely doubled up one of those beautiful salad-bowls, in order
to force it into the mouth of the sack."

"What signifies, dear baron? That said salad-bowl will never again
he used for salad, henceforth it is only silver."

"You speak in riddles, and I do not understand you. Well, well,
those fellows have already filled their twelve sacks, and this room
is now as empty and forlorn as the heart of an old bachelor. Now
tell me what you are going to do with all these treasures?"

"Can you not guess?"

"I think the king, who now lives in Potsdam, needs his silver
service, and as he does not wish to make a new purchase, he sends to
Berlin for this. Am I right?"

"You shall soon know. Let us follow the heyducks, the room is empty.
Adieu, Melchoir, your duties will be light hereafter; you need not
fear the robbers. Come, baron."

They soon reached the skiff, and found that the twelve sacks had
been placed beside the huge pile of dishes, plates, etc.

"Alas!" said Fredersdorf, gloomily, "all this might have been
avoided if I had already reached the goal I am aiming at; if I had
fathomed the great mystery which God has suspended over mankind,
upon whose sharp angles and edges thousands of learned and wise men
have dashed their brains and destroyed their life's happiness! My
God! I have accomplished so much, so little remains to be done! let
me only find a sufficiently hardened substance, and the work is
done. I shall have laid bare God's great mystery - I shall make

"Do you think ever of this, Fredersdorf?"

"I think ever of this, and shall think only of this as long as I
live. This thought swallows up all other thoughts; it has destroyed
my love, my rest, my sleep, my earthly happiness! But wait,
Pollnitz, only wait; one day I shall lift the philosopher's stone,
and make gold. On that day you will love me dearly, Baron Pollnitz.
On that day I will not be obliged to prove to you, as I have just
done, that the king has no money."

"I have seen no proof yet," said Pollnitz.

"You shall have it now, baron," said Fredersdorf, springing into the
skiff. "Will you not go with us? Forward, forward at once!"

"But - what is your destination?"

"Come nearer, that I may whisper in your ear."

Pollnitz bowed his head.

"We are going to the mint," whispered Fredersdorf. "All this
beautiful silver will be melted. The king will give no more dinners,
he will give battle. The king changes his dishes and plates into
good thalers to feed his brave army. And now, are you not convinced
that the king has no money to pay your debts?"

"I am convinced."

"Then farewell. Take the rudder, boys, and go forward; enter the arm
of the Spree which flows by the mint, and there anchor. The mint is
our goal."

"The mint is the goal," murmured Pollnitz, with a grim look, gazing
after the skiff, which moved slowly over the water, and which,
lighted by the torches, shone brilliantly in the midst of the
surrounding darkness. The golden light, playing upon the rich
liveries of the heyducks and the tower of silver in their midst,
formed a scene of wonder and enchantment.

Pollnitz watched them until the torches seemed like little stars in
the distance. "There go all the pomp and glory of the world, the
joys of peace and luxurious rest. The silver will be melted, iron
and steel will take its place. Yes, the iron age begins. Alas! it
begins also for me - why cannot I go into the mint and be melted down
with these plates and dishes?"



During this night Pollnitz slept but little; when, however, he rose
from his couch the next morning, his brow was clear and his
countenance gayer than it had been for a long time; he had made his
plans, and was convinced that he would succeed.

"I will earn a hundred ducats," said he, smiling to himself, as in a
superb toilet he left his dwelling, "yes, a hundred ducats, and I
will revenge myself upon the king for that trumpeting and outcry.
This shall be a blessed and beautiful morning."

He walked first to the apartment of Colonel Jaschinsky, and
announced himself as coming upon most important business. The
colonel hastened to meet him, ready to be of service, and full of

"Lead me to a room where we are absolutely certain not to be
observed or listened to," said Pollnitz.

They entered the colonel's cabinet.

"Here, baron, we are secure."

"Without circumlocution, then, count, you know the law which forbids
officers to make debts?"

"I know it," said Jaschinsky, turning pale, "and I believe that
Baron Pollnitz is well content not to belong to the officers."

"Perhaps you, sir count, may also cease to belong to them?"

"What do you mean by that?" said Jaschinsky, anxiously.

"I mean simply that Colonel Jaschinsky belongs to those officers who
are forbidden to make debts, but that he disregards the law."

"You came here, as it appears, to threaten me?"

"No, principally to warn you; you know that the king is particularly
severe against his body-guard. You are the colonel of this splendid
regiment, and should, without doubt, set the other officers a good
example. I doubt if the king would consider that you did your duty,
if he knew that you not only made debts, but borrowed money from the
officers of your own regiment."

"Take care, Baron von Pollnitz!" said Jaschinsky, threateningly.

Pollnitz said, smilingly: "It appears that you are menacing ME, that
is wholly unnecessary. Listen quietly to what I have to say. I have
come to arrange a little matter of business with you. Day before
yesterday you borrowed two hundred ducats from Baron Trenck. Give me
one hundred of them, and I give you my word of honor not to expose
you - deny me, and I give you my word of honor I will go instantly to
the king, and relate the whole history. You know, count, you would
be instantly cashiered."

"I do not know that his majesty would grant a ready belief to the
statement of Baron Pollnitz, and you have no proof to confirm it."

"I have proof. You gave your note for the money. I think that would
be convincing testimony."

The count was pale and agitated. "If I give you a hundred ducats,
you promise on your word of honor not to expose me to the king?"

"I give you my word of honor; more than that, I promise you to
defend you, if any one shall accuse you to the king."

Jaschinsky did not reply; he stepped to his desk and took out two
rolls of ducats. "Baron," said he, "here is half of the money I
borrowed from Trenck; before I hand it to you I have one request to

"Well, speak."

"How did you learn that I borrowed this money?"

"I saw your note which you gave to Trenck."

"Ah! he showed it to you," cried Jaschinsky, with such an expression
of hate, scorn, and revenge, that even Pollnitz was moved by it.

He took the gold and let it slide slowly into his pocket. "I owe you
a hundred ducats; I cannot promise you to return them; but I can
promise you that Trenck will never produce your draft, and I will
show you how to revenge yourself upon the handsome officer."

"If you assist me in that, I will present you with my best horse."

"You shall be revenged," said Pollnitz, solemnly. "You can send the
horse to my stable; Frederick von Trenck will soon cease to be
dangerous to any one; he is a lost man! - And now to the king," said
Pollnitz, as he left the colonel's quarters. "Yes, to the king; I
must thank him for the confidence he showed me last night."

The king was making his preparations for war with the most profound
secrecy; he worked only at night, and gave up his entire time
seemingly to pleasures and amusements. He was daily occupied with
concerts, balls, operas, and ballets; he had just returned from
seeing the rehearsal of a new opera, in which Barbarina danced; he
was gay and gracious.

He received his master of ceremonies jestingly, and asked him if he
came to announce that he had become a Jew. "You have tried every
other religion at least twice; I know that you have had of late much
to do with the 'chosen people;' I suppose you are now full of
religious zeal, and wish to turn Israelite. It would, perhaps, be a
wise operation. The Jews have plenty of gold, and they would surely
aid with all their strength their new and distinguished brother.
Speak, then, make known your purpose."

"I come to thank your majesty for the supper you graciously accorded
me last night."

"A supper! what do you mean?"

"Your majesty, through your private secretary, invited me to table,
with all your splendid silver-ware. Truly the meal was indigestible
and lies like a stone upon my stomach; but, I say with the good
soldiers, after the lash, 'I thank your majesty for gracious

"You are an intolerable fool; but mark me, no word of what you have
seen. I wished to prove to you that I had no money, and to be freed
from your everlasting complaints and petitions. I have therefore
allowed you to see that my silver has gone to the mint. It is to be
hoped that you will now compose yourself, and seek no more gold from
me. Do not ask gold of kings, but of Jews! Kings are poor, the
poorest people of the state, for they have no personal property."
[Footnote: The king's own words.]

"Oh, that the whole world could hear the exalted and high-hearted
words of my king!" cried Pollnitz, with well-acted enthusiasm.
"Thrice blessed is that nation which has such a ruler!"

The king looked at him searchingly. "You flatter me; you want
something, of course."

"No, sire, I swear I come with the purest intentions."

"Intentions? You have, then, intentions?"

"Yes, sire, but now that I stand here face to face with you, I feel
that my courage fails, and I cannot speak what I intended."

"Now truly," said the king, laughing, "the circumstances must indeed
be dangerous which deprive Baron Pollnitz of the power of speech."

"Words, your majesty, are important things. Once a few words saved
me from death; it may be that a few words, spoken this day to your
majesty, may bring me into disfavor, and that would be worse than

"What were the words which saved you from death?"

"These, sire: 'Va-t-en, noble guerrier!'"

"This took place in France?"

"In Paris, sire. I was dining in a small hotel in the village of
Etampes, near Paris. A very elegant cavalier sat next me and from
time to time, as if accidentally, addressed me in a refined and
winning way; he informed himself as to my intentions and
circumstances. I was an inexperienced youth, and the cavalier was
adroit in questioning. This was at the time of the Mississippi
speculation of the great financier Law. I had gained that day, in
the Rue Quinquempois, the sum of four hundred thousand francs. I had
this money with me, and after dinner I proposed to go to Versailles.
I was not without apprehension, the streets were unsafe, and
Cartouche with his whole band of robbers had for some time taken
possession of the environs of Paris, and made them the theatre of
his daring deeds."

"So you received your new friend trustingly?" said the king,
laughing heartily.

"Yes, sire, and we had just agreed as to the hour of our departure,
when a little maiden appeared under the window of our dining-room
and sang in a loud, clear voice, 'Va-t-en, noble guerrier!' The
strange cavalier rose and stepped to the window to give her a few
sous, then went out - and I saw him no more."

"And you conclude from this that the words of the song saved your
life? you think that the man with whom you were eating was a

"I thought nothing, sire, and forgot the adventure. A year after, I
was standing in the street as Cartouche was being led to execution.
All Paris was abroad to see the famous brigand. I had a good place,
the procession passed immediately by me, and look you, I recognized
in the poor sinner now being led to execution, the elegant gentleman
of the cabaret at Etampes! He knew me also and stood still for a
moment. 'Sir,' said he, 'I dined with you a year ago. The words of
an old song gave me notice to leave the cabaret immediately. They
announced to me that the pursuers were on my heels; your star was in
the ascendant, stranger; had I accompanied you to Versailles, you
would have lost your gold and your life.' Your majesty will now
understand that these words, 'Va-t-en, noble guerrier,' saved my

"I confess it, and I am now most curious to hear the words which you
fear will bring my displeasure upon you."

"Sire, I have been for more than forty years a faithful servant of
your exalted house. Will you not admit this?"

"Faithful?" repeated Frederick; "you were faithful to us when it was
to your advantage: you deserted us when you thought it to your
interest to do so. I reproached you with this in former times, but
now that I know the world better, I forgive you. Go on, then, with
your pathetic appeal."

"Your majesty has often commanded me to make known to you every
thing which the good people say of your royal family, and when any
one dared to whisper a slander against you or yours, to inform you
of it at once."

"Does any one dare to do that?" said the king, with an expression of
anguish upon his noble face.

"Yes, sire."

The king breathed a heavy sigh, and walked hastily up and down; then
placing himself before the window, and turning his back on Pollnitz,
he said, "Go on."

"Sire, it is lightly whispered that the young Lieutenant Trenck has
dared to love a lady who is so far above him in her bright radiance
and royal birth, that he should not dare to lift his eyes to her
face except in holy reverence."

"I have been told that he was the lover of Mademoiselle von
Marwitz," said the king.

"The world and the good Berliners believe that, but the initiated
know that this pretended love is only a veil thrown by the bold
youth over a highly traitorous passion."

Pollnitz was silent; he waited for the king to speak, and watched
him with a malicious smile. Frederick still stood with his face to
the window, and saw nothing of this.

"Shall I go on?" said Pollnitz at last.

"I command you to do so," said the king.

Pollnitz drew nearer. "Sire," said he, half aloud, "allow me to say
what no one knows but myself. Baron Trenck visits Mademoiselle von
Marwitz every day, but a third person is ever present at these

"And this third person is - "

"The Princess Amelia!"

The king turned hastily, and the glance which he fixed upon Pollnitz
was so flashing, so threatening, that even the bold and insolent
master of ceremonies trembled. "Are you convinced of the truth of
what you have stated?" said he harshly.

"Sire," said he, "if you wish to convince yourself, it is only
necessary to go this evening between five and six o'clock,
unannounced, into the rooms of the Princess Amelia. You will then
see that I have spoken truth."

Frederick did not reply; he stepped again to the window. and looked
silently into the street. Once more he turned to Pollnitz, and his
face was clear and smiling.

"Pollnitz, you are an old fox; but you have laid your foundation
badly, and your whole plot is poorly conceived. Look you! I
understand this intrigue perfectly. You hate poor Trenck; I have
long seen that. You hate him because I honor and promote him, and
you courtiers always regard those as your enemies who stand higher
in favor than yourselves. Trenck deserves his good fortune, in spite
of his youth; he is a learned and accomplished officer, and a most
amiable and elegant gentleman. You cannot forgive him for this, and
therefore you accuse him. This time you shall not succeed. I tell
you I don't believe one word of this silly scandal. I will forget
what you have dared to say; but look to it, that you also forget.
Woe to you if you do not forget; woe to you if your lips ever again
utter this folly to me or to any other person! I hold you wholly
responsible. In your own mad, malicious brain is this fairy tale
conceived; it will be your fault if it goes farther, and is ever
spoken of. Conform yourself to this, sir, and retreat in time. I
repeat to you, I hold you responsible. Now go, without a word, and
send me my adjutant - it is high time for parade."

"Flashed in the pan, completely flashed," said Pollnitz to himself,
as with a courtly bow and a smiling lip he took leave of the king.
"I had hoped at least for a small reward, if it was only to see that
I had made him angry. Alas! this man is invulnerable; all my files
wear away on him."

Could he have seen what an expression of care and anguish
overshadowed the king's face when he was alone - could he have heard
the king's sighs and the broken words of sorrow and despair which he
uttered, the wicked heart of the master of ceremonies would have
been filled with gladness. But Frederick indulged himself in this
weakness but a short time; he drew his royal mantle over his aching
heart, he cast the veil of sadness from his eyes, and armed them
with the might of majesty.

"This rendezvous shall not take place; this romantic adventure shall
come to an end. I will it!" said he, with an energy which only those
can feel whose will is law, and from whose words there is no appeal.

Frederick took his hat and entered the vestibule, where his staff
awaited to accompany him to the parade. The king greeted them all
sternly, and, passing by them rapidly, he descended the steps.

"The king is very ungracious," whispered the officers amongst each
other. "Woe to him upon whom his anger falls to-day!"

A storm-cloud did indeed rest upon the brow of the king; his eye
looked fierce and dangerous. The regiment stood in line, the king
drew up in front; suddenly he paused, his face grew black - his eye
had found an object for destruction.

"Lieutenant Trenck," said he, in a loud and threatening tone, "you
have this moment arrived, you are again too late. I demand of my
officers that they shall be punctual in my service. More than once I
have shown you consideration, and you seem to be incurable. I will
now try the power of severity. Colonel Jaschinsky, Lieutenant Trenck
is in arrest, till you hear further from me; take his sword from
him, and transport him to Potsdam."

The king passed on; the cloud had discharged itself; his brow was
clear, and he conversed cordially with his generals. He did not give
one glance to the poor young officer, who, pale and speechless,
handed his sword to his malicious colonel, looked with anguish
inexpressible toward the castle of Monbijou, and followed the two
officers whose duty it was to conduct him to Potsdam.

That afternoon Mademoiselle von Marwitz waited in vain for her
lover; that afternoon the Princess Amelia shed her first tears; and,
for the first time, entered the ballroom by the side of her royal
mother, with dejected mien and weary eyes. The glare of light, the
sound of music, the laugh and jest of the gay crowd, filled her
oppressed heart with indescribable woe. She longed to utter one mad
cry and rush away, far away from all this pomp and splendor; to take
refuge in her dark and lonely room; to weep, to pray, and thus

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 19 of 42)