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

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feel inclined to mention."

"Shall I make it known to you, madame?" said the king, with
severity. "He carried on an imprudent and treasonable
correspondence, and if tried by court-martial, would be found guilty
of high treason. But, in consideration of his youth, and several
extenuating circumstances with which I alone am acquainted, I will
be lenient with him. Be satisfied with this assurance: in a year
your son will be free; and when solitude has brought him to
reflection, and the consciousness of his crime, when he is more
humble and wiser, I will again be a gracious king to him. [Footnote:
Trenck's Memoirs, i., 82.] Write this to your son, madame, and
receive my best wishes for yourself."

"Oh, sire, you do not yet know all. I have another confession to
make, and - "

A light knock at the door communicating with the antechamber
interrupted her, and a voice from the outside exclaimed: "Sire, a
courier with important dispatches from Silesia."

"Retire to the adjoining apartment, and wait there," said the king,
turning to his sister.

Both ladies left the room.

"Dispatches from Silesia," whispered the countess. "The king will
now learn all, I fear."

"Well, if he does," said the princess, almost defiantly, "we are
here to save him, and we will save him."

A short time elapsed; then the door was violently thrown open, and
the king appeared on the threshold, his eyes flashing with anger.

"Madame," said he, pointing to the papers which he held in his hand,
"from these papers I have undoubtedly learned what it was your
intention to have communicated to me. Your son has attempted to
escape from prison like a cowardly criminal, a malefactor weighed
down with guilt. In this attempt he has killed and wounded soldiers,
disarmed the governor of the fortress, and, in his insolent frenzy,
has endeavored to scale the palisades in broad daylight. Madame,
nothing but the consciousness of his own guilt could have induced
him to attempt so daring a flight, and he must have had criminal
accomplices who advised him to this step - accomplices who bribed the
sentinel on duty before his door; who secretly conveyed money to
him, and held horses in readiness for his flight. Woe to them if I
should ever discover the criminals who treasonably induced my
soldiers and officers to break their oath of fidelity!"

"I, your majesty, I was this criminal," said the countess. "A mother
may well dare to achieve the freedom of her son at any price. It is
her privilege to defend him with any weapon. I bribed the soldiers,
placed the horses in readiness, and conveyed money to my son. It was
Trenck's mother who endeavored to liberate him."

"And you have only brought him to greater, to more hopeless misery!
For now, madame, there can be no mercy. The fugitive, the deserter,
has forfeited the favor of his king. Shame, misery, and perpetual
captivity will henceforth be his portion. This is my determination.
Hope for no mercy. The articles of war condemn the deserter to
death. I will give him his life, but freedom I cannot give him, for
I now know that he would abuse it. Farewell."

"Mercy! mercy for my son!" sobbed the countess. "He is so young! he
has a long life before him."

"A life of remorse and repentance," said the king with severity. "I
will accord him no other. Go!"

He was on the point of reentering the library. A hand was laid on
his shoulder; he turned and saw the pale countenance of his sister.

"My brother," said the princess, in a firm voice, "permit me to
speak with you alone for a moment. Proceed, I will follow you."

Her bearing was proud, almost dictatorial. Her sternly tranquil
manner, her clear and earnest brow, showed plainly that she had
formed an heroic determination. She was no longer the young girl,
timidly praying for her lover; she was the fearless woman,
determined to defend him, or die for him. The king read this in her
countenance, it was plainly indicated in her royal bearing; and with
the reverence and consideration which great spirits ever accord to
misfortune, he did homage to this woman toward whom he was so
strongly drawn by sympathy and pity.

"Come, my sister, come," said he, offering his hand.

Amelia did not take his hand; by his side she walked into the
library, and softly locked the door behind her. One moment she
rested against the wall, as if to gather strength. The king hastily
crossed the room, and looked out at the window. Hearing the rustle
of her dress behind him, he turned and advanced toward the princess.
She regarded him fixedly with cold and tearless eyes.

"Is it sufficient if I promise never to see him again?" said she.

"The promise is superfluous, for I will make a future meeting

She inclined her head slightly, as if this answer had been expected.

"Is it enough if I swear never to write to him again, nevermore to
give him a token of my love?"

"I would not believe this oath. If I set him at liberty he would
compromise you and your family, by boasting of a love which yielded
to circumstances and necessity only, and not to reason and
indifference. I will make you no reproaches at present, for I think
your conscience is doing that for me. But this much I will say: I
will not set him at liberty until he no longer believes in your

"Will you liberate him if I rob him of this belief? If I hurl the
broken bond of my promised faith in his face? If I tell him that
fear and cowardice have extinguished my love, and that I bid him
farewell forever?"

"Write him this, and I promise you that he shall be free in a few
months; but, understand me well, free to go where he will, but
banished from my kingdom."

"Shall I write at once?" said she with an expression of utter
indifference, and with icy tranquillity.

"Write; you will find all that is necessary on my escritoire."

She walked composedly to the table and seated herself. When she
commenced writing, a deathly pallor came over her face; her breath
came and went hurriedly and painfully. The king stood near,
regarding her with an expression of deep solicitude.

"Have you finished?" said he, as she pushed the paper aside on which
she had been writing.

"No," said she calmly, "it was only a tear that had fallen on the
paper. I must begin again." And with perfect composure she took
another sheet of paper, and began writing anew.

The king turned away with a sigh. He felt that if he longer regarded
this pale, resigned face, he would lose sight of reason and duty,
and restore to her her lover. He again advanced to the window, and
looked thoughtfully out at the sky. "Is it possible? can it be?" he
asked himself. "May I forget my duties as head of my family, and
only remember that she is my sister, and that she is suffering and
weeping? Must we then all pay for this empty grandeur, this frippery
of earthly magnificence, with our heart's blood and our best hopes?
And if I now deprive her of her dreams of happiness, what
compensation can I offer? With what can I replace her hopes, her
love, the happiness of her youth? At the best, with a little earthly
splendor, with the purple and the crown, and eventually, perhaps,
with my love. Yes, I will love her truly and cordially; she shall
forgive the brother for the king's harshness; she shall - "

"I have finished," said the sad voice of his sister.

The king turned from the window; Amelia stood at the escritoire,
holding the paper on which she had been writing in one hand, and
sustaining herself by the table with the other.

"Read what you have written," said the king, approaching her.

The princess bowed her head and read:

"I pity you, but your misfortune is irremediable; and I cannot and
will not attempt to alleviate it, for fear of compromising myself.
This is, therefore, my last letter - I can risk nothing more for you.
Do not attempt to write to me, for I should return your letter
unopened. Our separation must be forever, but I will always remain
your friend; and if I can ever serve you hereafter, I will do so
gladly. Farewell, unhappy friend, you deserve a better fate."
[Footnote: Trenck's Memoirs, i., 86.]

"That is all?" said the king, as his sister ceased reading.

"That is all, sire."

"And you imagine that he will no longer believe in your love, when
he receives this letter?" said the king, with a sad smile.

"I am sure he will not, for I tell him in this letter that I will
risk nothing more for him; that I will not even attempt to alleviate
his misery. Only when one is cowardly enough to sacrifice love to
selfish fears, could one do this. I shall have purchased his liberty
with his contempt."

"What would you have written if you had been permitted to follow the
promptings of your heart?"

A rosy hue flitted over her countenance, and love beamed in her
eyes. "I would have written, 'Believe in me, trust in me! For
henceforth the one aim of my life will be to liberate you. Let me
die when I have attained this aim, but die in the consciousness of
having saved you, and of having been true to my love.'"

"You would have written that?"

"I would have written that," said she, proudly and joyfully. "And
the truth of that letter he would not have doubted."

"Oh, woman's heart! inexhaustible source of love and devotion!"
murmured the king, turning away to conceal his emotion from his

"Is this letter sufficient?" demanded the princess. "Shall Trenck be

"I have promised it, and will keep my word. Fold the letter and
direct it. It shall be forwarded at once."

"And when will he be free?"

"I cannot set him at liberty immediately. It would be setting my
officers a bad example. But in three months he shall be free."

"In three months, then. Here is the letter, sire."

The king took the letter and placed it in his bosom.

"And now, my sister, come to my heart," said he, holding out his
arms. "The king was angry with you, the brother will weep with you.
Come, Amelia, come to your brother's heart."

Amelia did not throw herself in his arms; she stood still, and
seemed not to have heard, not to have understood his words.

"I pray that your majesty will allow me to retire," said she. "I
think we have finished - we have to other business to transact."

"Oh! my sister," said Frederick, mournfully, "think of what you are
doing; do not harden your heart against me. Believe me, I suffer
with you; and if the only question were the sacrifice of my personal
wishes, I would gladly yield. But I must consider my ancestors, the
history of my house, and the prejudices of the world. Amelia, I
cannot, I dare not do otherwise. Forgive me, my sister. And now,
once more, let us hold firmly to each other in love and trust. Let
me fold you to my heart."

He advanced and extended his hand, but his sister slowly recoiled.

"Allow me to remind your majesty that a poor unhappy woman is
awaiting a word of consolation in the next room, and that this woman
is Trenck's mother. She, at least, will be happy when I inform her
that her son will soon be free. Permit me, therefore, sire, to take
my leave, and bear her this good news."

She bowed formally and profoundly, and walked slowly across the
room. The king no longer endeavored to hold her back. He followed
her with a mournful, questioning glance, still hoping that she would
turn and seek a reconciliation. She reached the door, now she
turned. The king stepped forward rapidly, hut Princess Amelia bowed
ceremoniously and disappeared.

"Lost! I have lost her," sighed the king. "Oh, my God! must I then
part from all that I love? Was it not enough to lose my friends by
death? will cruel fate also rob me of a loved and living sister? Ah!
I am a poor, a wretched man, and yet they call me a king."

Frederick slowly seated himself, and covered his face with his
hands. He remained in this position for a long time, his sighs being
the only interruption to the silence which reigned in the apartment.

"Work! I will work," said he proudly. "This is at least a
consolation, and teaches forgetfulness."

He walked hurriedly to his escritoire, seated himself, and regarded
the manuscripts and papers which lay before him. He took up one of
the manuscripts and began to read, but with an impatient gesture he
soon laid it aside.

"The letters swim before my eyes in inextricable confusion. My God,
how hard it is to do one's duty!"

He rested his head on his hand, and was lost in thought for a long
time. Gradually his expression brightened, and a wondrous light
beamed in his eyes.

"Yes," said he, with a smile, "yes, so it shall be. I have just lost
a much-loved sister. Well, it is customary to erect a monument in
memory of those we love. Poor, lost sister, I will erect a monument
to your memory. The king has been compelled to make his sister
unhappy, and for this he will endeavor to make his people happy. And
if there is no law to which a princess can appeal against the king,
there shall at least be laws for all my subjects, which protect
them, and are in strict accordance with reason, with justice, and
the godly principle of equality. Yes, I will give my people a new
code of laws. [Footnote: Rodenbeck, Diary, p. 137.] This, Amelia,
shall be the monument which I will erect to you in my heart. In this
very hour I will write to Cocceji, and request him to sketch the
outlines of this new code of laws."

The king seized his pen and commenced writing. "The judges," said
he, hastily penning his words, "the judges must administer equal and
impartial justice to all without respect to rank or wealth, as they
expect to answer for the same before the righteous judgment-seat of
God, and in order that the sighs of the widows and orphans, and of
all that are oppressed, may not be visited upon themselves and their
children. No rescripts, although issued from this cabinet, shall be
deemed worthy of the slightest consideration, if they contain aught
manifestly incompatible with equity, or if the strict course of
justice is thereby hindered or interrupted; but the judges shall
proceed according to the dictates of duty and conscience."

The king continued writing, his countenance becoming more and more
radiant with pleasure, while his pen flew over the paper. He was so
completely occupied with his thoughts that he did not hear the door
open behind him, and did not perceive the merry and intelligent face
of his favorite, General Rothenberg, looking in.

The king wrote on. Rothenberg stooped and placed something which he
held in his arms on the floor. He looked over toward the king, and
then at the graceful little greyhound which stood quietly before
him. This was no other than the favorite dog of the king, which had
been lost and a captive. [Footnote: The greyhound had fallen into
the hands of the Austrians at the battle of Sohr, and had been
presented by General Nadasti to his wife as a trophy. When this lady
learned that Biche had been a pet of the king, she at first refused
to give it up: and only after several demands, and with much
difficulty, could she be induced to return it. Rodenbeck, Diary, p.

The little Biche stood still for a moment, looking around
intelligently, and then ran lightly across the apartment, sprang
upon the table and laid its forepaw on the king's neck.

"Biche, my faithful little friend, is it you?" said Frederick,
throwing his pen aside and taking the little animal in his arms.
Biche began to bark with delight, nestle closely to her master, and
look lovingly at him with her bright little eyes. And the king - he
inclined his face on the head of his faithful little friend, and
tears ran slowly down his cheeks. [Footnote: Muchler, "Frederick the
Great," p. 350. Rodenbeck, Diary, p. 137.]

"You have not forgotten me, my little Biche? Ah, if men were true,
and loved me as you do, my faithful little dog, I should be a rich,
a happy king!"

General Rothenberg still stood at the half-opened door. "Sire, said
he, "is it only Biche who has the grandes and petites entrees, or
have I also?"

"Ah, it was then you who brought Biche?" said Frederick, beckoning
to the general to approach.

"Yes, sire, it was I, but I almost regret having done so, for I
perceive that Biche is a dangerous rival, and I am jealous of her."

"You are my best gentleman-friend, and Biche is my best lady-
friend," said the king, laughing. "I shall never forget that Biche
on one occasion might have discovered me to the Austrians, and did
not betray me, as thousands of men would have done in her place. Had
she barked at the time when I had concealed myself under the bridge,
while the regiment of pandours was passing over, I should have been
lost. But she conquered herself. From love to me she renounced her
instincts, and was silent. She nestled close to my side, regarding
me with her discreet little eyes, and licking my hand lovingly. Ah,
my friend, dogs are better and truer than mankind, and the so-called
images of God could learn a great deal from them!"



Two months had passed since Trenck's last attempted escape; two
months of anguish, of despair. But he was not depressed, not
hopeless; he had one great aim before his eyes - to be free, to
escape from this prison. The commandant had just assured him he
would never leave it alive.

This frightful picture of a life-long imprisonment did not terrify
him, did not agitate a nerve or relax a muscle. He felt his blood
bounding in fiery streams through his veins. With a merry laugh and
sparkling eye he declared that no man could be imprisoned during his
whole life who felt himself strong enough to achieve his freedom.

"I have strength and endurance like Atlas. I can bear the world on
my shoulders, and shall I never be able to burst these doors and
gates, to surmount these miserable fortress walls which separate me
from liberty, the world of action, the golden sunshine? No, no,
before the close of this year I shall be free. Yes, free! free to
fly to her and give her back this letter, and ask her if she did
truly write it? if these cold words came from her heart? No, some
one has dared to imitate her writing, and thus deprive me of the
only ray of sunshine which enters my dark prison. I must be free in
order to know this. I will believe in nothing which I do not see
written in her beautiful face; only when her lips speak these
fearful words, will I believe them. I must be free, and until then I
must forget all other things, even this terrible letter. My
thoughts, my eyes, my heart, my soul, must have but one aim - my

Alas! the year drew near its close, and the goal was not reached;
indeed, the difficulties were greatly increased. The commandant, Von
Fouquet, had just received stern orders from Berlin; the watch had
been doubled, and the officers in the citadel had been peremptorily
forbidden to enter the cell of the prisoner, or in any way to show
him kindness or attention.

The officers loved the young and cheerful prisoner; by his fresh and
hopeful spirit, his gay laugh and merry jest, he had broken up the
everlasting monotony of their garrison-life; by his powerful
intellect and rich fancy he had, in some degree, dissipated their
weariness and stupidity. They felt pity for his youth, his beauty,
his geniality, his energetic self-confidence; his bold courage
imposed upon them, and they were watching curiously and anxiously to
see the finale of this contest between the poor, powerless,
imprisoned youth, and the haughty, stern commander, who had sworn to
Trenck that he should not succeed in making even an attempt to
escape, to which Trenck had laughingly replied:

"I will not only make an attempt to escape, I will fly in defiance
of all guards, and all fortress walls, and all commandants. I inhale
already the breath of liberty which is wafted through my prison. Do
you not see how the Goddess of Liberty, with her enchanting smile,
stands at the head of my wretched bed, sings her sweet evening songs
to the poor prisoner, and wakes him in the early morning with the
sound of trumpets? Oh, sir commandant, Liberty loves me, and soon
will she take me like a bride in her fair arms, and bear me off to

The commandant had doubled the guard, and forbidden the officers,
under heavy penalty, to have any intercourse with Trenck. Formerly,
the officers who had kept watch over Trenck, had been allowed to
enter, to remain and eat with him; now the door was closed against
them, the major kept the key, and Trenck's food was handed him
through the window. [Footnote: Trenck's Memoirs.] But this window
was large, and the officer on guard could put his head in and chat
awhile with the prisoner. The major had the principal key, but the
officer had a night-key, and, by this means, entered often in the
evenings and passed a few hours with the prisoner, listening with
astonishment to his plans of escape, and his dreams of a happy

But they did not all come to speak of indifferent things, and to be
cheered and brightened by his gay humor. There were some who truly
loved him, and wished to give him counsel and aid. One came because
he had promised his beloved mistress, his bride, to liberate Trenck,
cost what it would. This was Lieutenant Schnell, the bridegroom of
Amelia's maid of honor. One day, thanks to the night-key, he entered
Trenck's cell.

"I will stand by you, and assist you to escape. More than that, I
will fly with you. The commandant, Fouquet, hates me - he says I know
too much for an officer; that I do not confine myself to my military
duties, but love books, and art, and science. He has often railed at
me, and I have twice demanded my dismissal, which he refused, and
threatened me with arrest if I should again demand it. Like
yourself, I am not free, and, like you, I wish to fly from bondage.
And now let us consult together, and arrange our plan of escape."

"Yes," said Trenck, with a glowing countenance, and embracing his
new-found friend, "we will be unconquerable. Like Briareus, we will
have a hundred arms and a hundred heads. When two young and powerful
men unite their wills, nothing can restrain them - nothing withstand
them. Let us make our arrangements."

The plan of escape was marked out, and was, indeed, ripe for action.
On the last day of the year, Lieutenant Schnell was to be Trenck's
night-guard, and then they would escape. The dark shadows of night
would assist them. Horses were already engaged. There was gold to
bribe the guard, and there were loaded pistols for those who could
not be tempted. These had been already smuggled into Trenck's cell,
and concealed in the ashes of the fireplace.

And now it was Christmas eve. This was a grand festal day even for
all the officers of the citadel. With the exception of the night-
watch, they were all invited to dine with the commandant. A day of
joy and rejoicing to all but the poor prisoner, who sat solitary in
his cell, and recalled, with a sad heart, the happy days of his
childhood. "The holy evening" had been to him a golden book of
promise, and a munificent cornucopia of happiness and peace.

The door of his cell was hastily opened, and Schnell rushed in.

"Comrade, we are betrayed!" said he breathlessly. "Our plan of
flight has been discovered. The adjutant of the commander has just
secretly informed me that when the guard is changed I am to be
arrested. You see, then, we are lost, unless we adopt some rash and
energetic resolution."

"We will fly before the hour of your arrest," said Trenck, gayly.

"If you think that possible, so be it!" said Schnell. He drew a
sword from under his mantle, and handed it to Trenck. "Swear to me
upon this sword, that come what may, you will never allow me to fall
alive into the hands of my enemies."

"I swear it, so truly as God will help me! And now, Schnell, take
the same oath."

"I swear it! And now friend, one last grasp of the hand, and then
forward. May God be with us! Hide your sword under your coat. Let us
assume an indifferent and careless expression - come!"

Arm in arm, the two young men left the prison door. They appeared
calm and cheerful; each one kept a hand in his bosom, and this hand
held a loaded pistol.

The guard saluted the officer of the night-watch, who passed by him
in full uniform. In passing, he said: "I am conducting the prisoner
to the officers' room. Remain here - I will return quickly."

Slowly, quietly, they passed down the whole length of the corridor;
they reached the officer's room, and opened the door. The guard
walked with measured step slowly before the open door of Trenck's
cell, suspecting nothing. The door closed behind the fugitives - the

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 26 of 42)