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

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"To-morrow, at ten, we will see each other. At that time I am to
receive my diploma. I pray you, bring Fredersdorf with you."

"So be it; to-morrow, at ten, in the university. Till then,
farewell."

"Farewell."

They clasped hands, looked deep into each other's eyes, and took a
silent leave. Lupinus stood in the middle of the room and gazed
after Eckhof till he had reached the threshold, then rushed forward,
threw himself upon his neck, clasped him in his arms, and murmured,
in a voice choked with tears: "Farewell, farewell! Think of me,
Eckhof! think that no woman has ever loved you as I have loved you!
God bless you! God bless you, my beloved!"

One last glowing kiss, one last earnest look, and he pushed him
forward and closed the door; then with a wild cry sank upon the
floor.

How long he lay there, how long he wept, prayed, and despaired, he
knew not himself. The hours of anguish drag slowly and drearily; the
moments given to weeping seem to stretch out to eternity. Suddenly
he heard heavy steps upon the stairs; he recognized them, and knew
what they signified. The door opened, and two men entered: the first
with a proud, imposing form, with gray hair, and stern, strongly-
marked features; the other, a young man, pale and delicate, with a
mild and soft countenance.

The old man looked at Lupinus with a frowning brow and angry glance;
the other greeted him with a sweet smile, and his clear blue eye
rested upon him with an expression of undying love.

"My father!" said Lupinus, hastening forward to throw himself into
his arms; but he waved him back, and his look was darker, sterner.

"We have received your letter, and therefore are we here to-day. We
hope and believe it was written in fever or in madness. If we are
mistaken in this, you shall repeat to us what was written in that
letter, which I tore and trampled under my feet. Speak, then! we
came to listen."

"Not so," said the young man, "recover yourself first; consider your
words; reflect that they will decide the question of your own
happiness, of your father's, and of mine. Be firm and sure in your
determination. Let no thought of others, no secondary consideration
influence you. Think only of your own happiness, and endeavor to
build it upon a sure foundation."

Lupinus shook his head sadly. "I have no happiness, I expect none."

"What was written in that letter?" said the old Lupinus sternly.

"That I had been faithful to my oath, and betrayed the secret I
promised you to guard, to no one; that to-morrow I would receive my
diploma; that you had promised, when I had accomplished this I
should be free to choose my own future, and to confess my secret."

"Was that all the letter contained?"

"No - that I had resolved to choose a new career, resolved to leave
the old paths, to break away from the past, and begin a new life at
Eckhof's side." "My child at the side of a comedian!" cried the old
doctor contemptuously. "Yes, I remember that was written, but I
believed it not, and therefore have I come. Was your letter true?
Did you write the truth to Ervelman?"

Lupinus cast his eyes down, and gave his hand to his father. "No,"
said he, "it was not true; it was a fantasy of fever. It is past,
and I have recovered. To-morrow, after I receive my diploma, I will
accompany you home, and you, friend, will go with us."

The next day the students rushed in crowds to the university to
listen to the discourse of the learned and worthy Herr Lupinus. Not
only the students and the professors, but many other persons, were
assembled in the hall to honor the young man, of whom the professors
said that he was not only a model of scholarship, but of modesty and
virtue. Even actors were seen to grace the holy halls of science on
this occasion, and the students laughed with delight and cried
"Bravo!" as they recognized near Fredersdorf the noble and sharp
profile of Eckhof. They had often rushed madly to thee theatre; why
should he not sometimes honor the university?

But Eckhof was indifferent to the joyful greeting of the students;
he gazed steadily toward the door, through which his young friend
must enter the hall; and now, as the hour struck, he stooped over
Fredersdorf and seized his hand.

"Friend," said he, "a wondrous anxiety oppresses me. It seems to me
I am in the presence of a sphinx, who is in the act of solving a
great mystery! I am a coward, and would take refuge in flight, but
curiosity binds me to my seat."

"You promised poor Lupinus to be here," said Fredersdorf, earnestly.
"It is, perhaps, the last friendly service you can ever show him -
Ah! there he is."

A cry of surprise burst from the lips of all. There, in the open
door, stood, not the student Lupinus, but a young maiden, in a white
satin robe-a young maiden with the pale, thoughtful, gentle face of
Lupinus. A man stood on each side of her, and she leaned upon the
arm of one of them, as if for support, as they walked slowly through
the room. Her large eyes wandered questioningly and anxiously over
the audience; and now, her glance met Eckhof's, and a deadly pallor
covered her face. She tried to smile, and bowed her head in
greeting.

"This is the secret from which I wished to fly," murmured Eckhof. "I
guessed it yesterday."

"I knew it long since," said Fredersdorf, sadly; "it was my most
beautiful and cherished dream that your hearts should find and love
each other. Have I not often told you that Lupinus was not your
friend, but your bride; that no woman would ever love you as he did?
You would not understand me. Your heart was of stone, and her
happiness has been crushed by it."

"Poor, unhappy girl!" sighed Eckhof, and tears ran slowly down his
cheeks. "I have acted the part of a barbarian toward you! Yesterday
with smiling lips I pressed a dagger in her heart; she did not
curse, but blessed me!"

"Listen! she speaks!"

It was the maiden's father who spoke. In simple phrase he asked
forgiveness of the Faculty, for having dared to send them a
daughter, in place of a son. But it had been his cherished wish to
prove that only the arrogance and prejudice of men had banished
women from the universities. Heaven had denied him a son. He had
soon discovered that his daughter was rarely endowed; he determined
to educate her as a son, and thus repair the loss fate had prepared
for him. His daughter entered readily into his plans, and solemnly
swore to guard her secret until she had completed her studies. She
had fulfilled this promise, and now stood here to ask the Faculty if
they would grant a woman a diploma.

The professors spoke awhile with each other, and then announced to
the audience that Lupinus had been the most industrious and
promising of all their students; the pride and favorite of all the
professors. The announcement that she was a woman would make no
change in her merit or their intentions; that the maiden LUPINA
would be received by them with as much joy and satisfaction as the
youth LUPINUS would have been. The disputation might now begin.

A murmur of applause was heard from the benches, and now the clear,
soft, but slightly trembling voice of the young girl commenced to
read. How strangely did the heavy, pompous Latin words contrast with
the slight, fairy form of the youthful girl! She stood adorned like
a bride, in satin array; not like a bride of earth, inspired by
love, but a bride of heaven, in the act of laying down before God's
altar all her earthly hopes and passions! She felt thus. She
dedicated herself to a joyless and unselfish existence at the altar
of science; she would not lead an idle, useless, musing, cloister-
life. With a holy oath she swore to serve her race; to soothe the
pain of those who suffered; to stand by the sick-beds of women and
children; to give that love to suffering, weeping humanity which she
had once consecrated to one alone, and which had come home, like a
bleeding dove, with broken wings, powerless and hopeless!

The disputation was at an end. The deacon declared the maiden,
Dorothea Christine Lupinus, a doctor. The students uttered wild
applause, and the professors drew near the old Lupinus, to
congratulate him, and to renew the acquaintance of former days.

The fair young Bride of Arts thought not of this. She looked toward
Eckhof; their glances were rooted in each other firmly but
tearlessly. She waved to him with her hand, and obedient to her wish
he advanced to the door, then turned once more; their eyes met, and
she had the courage to look softly upon the friend of her youth,
Ervelman, who had accompanied her father, and say:

"I will fulfil my father's vow - I will be a faithful wife. Look,
you, Ervelman, the star has gone out which blinded my eyes, and now
I see again clearly." She pointed, with a trembling hand, to Eckhof,
who was disappearing.

"Friend," said Eckhof, to Fredersdorf, "if the gods truly demand a
great sacrifice as a propitiation, I think I have offered one this
day. I have cast my Polycrates' ring into the sea, and a part of my
heart's blood was cleaving to it. May fate be reconciled, and grant
me the happiness this pale and lovely maiden has consecrated with
her tears. Farewell, Christine, farewell! Our paths in life are
widely separated. Who knows, perhaps we will meet again in heaven?
You belong to the saints, and I am a poor comedian, who makes a
false show throughout a wild, tumultuous life, with some pompous
shreds and tatters of art and beauty, to whom, perhaps, the angels
in heaven will deny a place, even as the priests on earth deny him a
grave." [Footnote: Eckhof lived to awake respect and love for the
national theatre throughout all Germany. He had his own theatre in
Gotha, where he was born, and where he died in 1778. He performed
the double service of exalting the German stage, and obtaining for
the actors consideration and respect.]


CHAPTER XII.

TRENCK'S FIRST FLIGHT.


"This is, then, the day of his liberation?" said Princess Amelia to
her confidante, Mademoiselle von Haak. "To-day, after five months of
torture, he will again be free, will again enjoy life and liberty.
And to me, happy princess, will he owe all these blessings; to me,
whom God has permitted to survive all these torments, that I might
be the means of effecting his deliverance, for, without doubt, our
work will succeed, will it not?"

"Undoubtedly," said Ernestine von Haak; "we shall and must succeed."

"Let us reconsider the whole plan, if only to enliven the tedious
hours with pleasant thought. When the commandant of the prison,
Major von Doo, pays the customary Sunday-morning visit to Trenck's
cell, and while he is carefully examining every nook to assure
himself that the captive nobleman has not been endeavoring to make a
pathway to liberty, Trenck will suddenly overpower him, deprive him
of his sword, and rush past him out of the cell. At the door he will
be met by the soldier Nicolai, who is in our confidence, and will
not seem to notice his escape. Once over the palisades, he will find
a horse, which we have placed in readiness. Concealed by the
military cloak thrown over him, and armed with the pistols with
which his saddle-holsters have been furnished, he will fly on the
wings of the wind toward Bohemia. Near the border, at the village of
Lonnschutz, a second horse will await him. He will mount and hurry
on until the boundary and liberty are obtained. All seems so safe,
Ernestine, so easy of execution, that I can scarcely believe in the
possibility of a failure."

"It will not fail," said Ernestine von Haak. "Our scheme is good,
and will be ably assisted - it must succeed."

"Provided he find the places where the horses stand concealed."

"These he cannot fail to find. They are accurately designated in a
little note which my lover, when he has charge of the prison-yard,
will contrive to convey to him. Schnell's known fidelity vouches for
the horses being in readiness. As your royal highness was not
willing that we should enlist accomplices among the soldiers, the
only question that need give us uneasiness is this: Will Trenck be
able to overcome unaided all obstacles within the fortifications?"

"No," said Amelia, proudly; "Trenck shall be liberated, but I will
not corrupt my brother's soldiers. To do the first, is my right and
my duty, for I love Trenck. Should I do the second, I would be
guilty of high treason to my king, and this even love could not
excuse. Only to himself and to me shall Trenck owe his freedom. Our
only allies shall be my means and his own strength. He has the
courage of a hero and the strength of a giant. He will force his way
through his enemies like Briareus; they will fall before him like
grain before the reaper. If he cannot kill them all with his sword,
he will annihilate them with the lightning of his glances, for a
heavenly power dwells in his eyes. Moreover, your lover writes that
he is beloved by the officers of the garrison, that all the soldiers
sympathize with him. It is well that it is not necessary to bribe
them with miserable dross; Trenck has already bribed them with his
youth and manly beauty, his misfortunes and his amiability. He will
find no opposition; no one will dispute his passage to liberty."

"God grant that it may be as your highness predicts!" said
Ernestine, with a sigh.

"Four days of uncertainty are still before us - would that they had
passed!" exclaimed Princess Amelia. "I have no doubts of his safety,
but I fear I shall not survive these four days of anxiety.
Impatience will destroy me. I had the courage to endure misery, but
I feel already that the expectation of happiness tortures me. God
grant, at least, that his freedom is secured!"

"Never speak of dying with the rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes your
highness has to-day," said Mademoiselle von Haak, with a smile.
"Your increasing pallor, caused no doubt by your grief, has given me
much pain. I am no longer uneasy, however, for you have recovered
health and strength, now that you are again hopeful. As for the four
days of expectancy, we will kill them with merry laughter, gayety,
and dancing. Does not the queen give a ball to-day? is there not a
masquerade at the opera to-morrow? For the last five months your
highness has taken part in these festivities because you were
compelled; you will now do so of your own accord. You will no longer
dance because the king commands, but because you are young, happy,
and full of hope for the future. On the first and second day you
will dance and fatigue yourself so much, that you will have the
happiness of sleeping a great deal on the third. The fourth day will
dawn upon your weary eyes, and whisper in your ear that Trenck is
free, and that it is you who have given him his freedom."

"Yes, let us be gay, let us laugh, dance, and be merry," exclaimed
Princess Amelia. "My brother shall be satisfied with me; he need no
longer regard me in so gloomy and threatening a manner; I will laugh
and jest, I will adorn myself, and surpass all the ladies with the
magnificence of my attire and my sparkling eyes. Come, Ernestine,
come. We will arrange my toilet for this evening. It shall be
magnificent. I will wear flowers in my hair and flowers on my
breast, but no pearls. Pearls signify tears, and I will weep no
more."

Joyously she danced through the room, drawing her friend to the
boudoir; joyously she passed the three following days of
expectation; joyously she closed her eyes on the evening of the
third day, to see, in her dreams, her lover kneeling at her feet,
thanking her for his liberty, and vowing eternal fidelity and
gratitude.

Amelia greeted the fourth day with a happy smile, never doubting but
that it would bring her glad tidings. But hours passed away, and
still Mademoiselle von Haak did not appear. Amelia had said to her:
"I do not wish to see you to-morrow until you can bring me good
news. This will, however, be in your power at an early hour, and you
shall flutter into my chamber with these tidings, like the dove with
the olive-branch."

Mademoiselle von Haak has still not yet arrived. But now the door
opens - she is there, but her face is pale, her eyes tearful; and
this pale lady in black, whose noble and beautiful features recall
to Amelia such charming and delightful remembrances - who is she?
What brings her here? Why does she hurry forward to the princess
with streaming eyes? Why does she kneel, raise her hands
imploringly, and whisper, "Mercy, Princess Amelia, mercy!"

Amelia rises from her seat, pale and trembling, gazes with widely
extended eyes at the kneeling figure, and, almost speechless with
terror, asks in low tones, "Who are you, madame? What do you desire
of me?"

The pale woman at her feet cries in heart-rending accents, "I am the
mother of the unfortunate Frederick von Trenck, and I come to
implore mercy at the hands of your royal highness. My son attempted
to escape, but God did not favor his undertaking. He was overtaken
by misfortune, after having overcome almost all obstacles, when
nothing but the palisades separated him from liberty and safety; he
was attacked by his pursuers, disarmed, and carried back to prison,
wounded and bleeding." [Footnote: Trenck's Biography, i., 80.]

Amelia uttered a cry of horror, and fell back on her seat pale and
breathless, almost senseless. Mademoiselle von Haak took her gently
in her arms, and, amid her tears, whispered words of consolation, of
sympathy, and of hope. But Amelia scarcely heeded her; she looked
down vacantly upon the pallid, weeping woman who still knelt at her
feet.

"Have mercy, princess, have mercy! You alone can assist me;
therefore have I come to you; therefore have I entreated
Mademoiselle von Haak with tears until she could no longer refuse to
conduct me to your presence. Regardless, at last, of etiquette and
ceremony, she permitted me to fall at your feet, and to cry to you
for help. You are an angel of goodness and mercy; pity an
unfortunate mother, who wishes to save her son!"

"And you believe that I can do this?" said Amelia, breathlessly.

"You alone, royal highness, have the power to save my son's life!"

"Tell me by what means, countess, and I will save him, if it costs
my heart's blood."

"Conduct me to the king. That is all that I require of you. He has
not yet been informed of my son's unfortunate attempt. I must be the
first to bring him this intelligence. I will confess that it was I
who assisted my son in this attempt, who bribed the non-commissioned
officer, Nicolai, with flattery and tears, with gold and promises;
that it was I who placed the horses and loaded pistols in readiness
beyond the outer palisade; that I sent my son the thousand ducats
which were found on his person; that I wrote him the letter
containing vows of eternal love and fidelity. The king will pardon a
mother who, in endeavoring to liberate her son, left no means of
success untried."

"You are a noble, a generous woman!" exclaimed the princess, with
enthusiasm. "You are worthy to be Trenck's mother! You say that I
must save him, and you have come to save me! But I will not accept
this sacrifice; I will not be cowardly and timidly silent, when you
have the courage to speak. Let the king know all; let him know that
Trenck was not the son, but the lover of her who endeavored to give
him his freedom, and that - "

"If you would save him, be silent! The king can be merciful when it
was the mother who attempted to liberate the son; he will be
inexorable if another has made this mad attempt; and, above all, if
he cannot punish the transgressor, my son's punishment will be
doubled."

"Listen to her words, princess, adopt her counsel," whispered the
weeping Ernestine. "Preserve yourself for the unfortunate Trenck;
protect his friends by your silence, and we may still hope to form a
better and happier plan of escape."

"Be it so," said the princess with a sigh. "I will bring him this
additional sacrifice. I will be silent. God knows that I would
willingly lay down my life for him. I would find this easier than to
veil my love in cowardly silence. Come, I will conduct you to the
king."

"But I have not yet told your royal highness that the king is in his
library, and has ordered that no one should be admitted to his
presence."

"I will be admitted. I will conduct you through the private corridor
and the king's apartments, and not by the way of the grand
antechamber. Come."

She seized the countess's hand and led her away.

The king was alone in his library, sitting at a table covered with
books and papers, busily engaged in writing. From time to time he
paused, and thoughtfully regarded what he had written. "I have
commenced a new work, which it is to be hoped will be as great a
success in the field of science as several that I have achieved with
the sword on another field. I know my wish and my aim; I have
undertaken a truly noble task. I will write the history of my times,
not in the form of memoirs, nor as a commentary, but as a free,
independent, and impartial history. I will describe the decline of
Europe, and will endeavor to portray the follies and weaknesses of
her rulers. [Footnote: The king's own words. "OEuvres posthumes:
Correspondance avec Voltaire."] My respected colleagues, the kings
and princes, have provided me with rich materials for a ludicrous
picture. To do this work justice, the pencil of a Hollenbreughel and
the pen of a Thucydides were desirable. Ah! glory is so piquant a
dish, that the more we indulge, the more we thirst after its
enjoyment. Why am I not satisfied with being called a good general?
why do I long for the honor of being crowned in the capitol? Well,
it certainly will not be his holiness the pope who crowns me or
elevates me to the rank of a saint - truly, I am not envious of such
titles. I shall be contented if posterity shall call me a good
prince, a brave soldier, and a good lawgiver, and forgives me for
having sometimes mounted the Pegasus instead of the war horse."

With a merry smile, the king now resumed his writing. The door which
communicated with his apartments was opened softly, and Princess
Amelia, her countenance pale and sorrowful, looked searchingly into
the room. Seeing that the king was still writing, she knocked
gently. The king turned hastily and angrily.

"Did I not say that I desired to be alone?" said he, indignantly.
Perceiving his sister, he now arose, an expression of anxiety
pervading his countenance. "Ah, my sister! your sad face proclaims
you the bearer of bad news," said he; "and very important it must
have been to bring you unannounced to my presence."

"My brother, misfortune has always the privilege of coming
unannounced to the presence of princes, to implore pity and mercy at
their hands. I claim this holy privilege for the unfortunate lady
who has prayed for my intercession in her behalf. Sire, will you
graciously accord her an audience?"

"Who is she?" asked the king, discontentedly,

"Sire, it is the Countess Lostange," said Amelia, in a scarcely
audible voice.

"The mother of the rebellious Lieutenant von Trenck!" exclaimed the
king, in an almost threatening tone, his eyes flashing angrily.

"Yes, it is the mother of the unfortunate Von Trenck who implores
mercy of your majesty!" exclaimed the countess, falling on her knees
at the threshold of the door.

The king recoiled a step, and his eye grew darker. "Really, you
obtain your audiences in a daring manner - you conquer them, and make
the princess your herald."

"Sire, I was refused admission. In the anguish of my heart, I turned
to the princess, who was generous enough to incur the displeasure of
her royal brother for my sake."

"And was that which you had to say really so urgent?"

"Sire, for five months has my son been languishing in prison, and
you ask if there is an urgent necessity for his mother's appeal. My
son has incurred your majesty's displeasure; why, I know not. He is
a prisoner, and stands accused of I know not what. Be merciful - let
me know his crime, that I may endeavor to atone for it."

"Madame, a mother is not responsible for her son; a woman cannot
atone for a man's crimes. Leave your son to his destiny; it may be a
brighter one at some future day, if he is wise and prudent, and
heeds the warning which is now knocking at his benighted heart." At
these words, the king's glance rested for a moment on the
countenance of the princess, as if this warning had also been
intended for her.

"It is, then, your majesty's intention to cheer a mother's heart
with hope? My son will not be long a captive. You will pardon him
for this crime of which I have no knowledge, and which you do not



Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 25 of 42)