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

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first step toward liberty was taken.

"And now, quickly onward to the side door. When we have passed the
sentry-box, we will be at the outer works. We must spring over the
palisades, and woe to the obstacle that lies in our path! - advance!

They reached the wall, they greeted fair Freedom with golden smiles,
but turning a corner, they stood suddenly before the major and his

A cry of horror burst from Schnell's lips. With one bold leap, he
sprang upon the breastworks, and jumped below. With a wild shout of
joy Trenck followed him. His soul bounded with rapture and gladness.
He has mounted the wall, and what he finds below will be liberty in
death, or liberty in life.

He lives! He stretches himself after his wondrous leap, and he is
not injured - he recovers strength and presence of mind quickly.

But where is his friend? where is Schnell? There - there; he lies
upon the ground, with a dislocated ankle, impossible to stand -
impossible to move.

"Remember your oath, friend - kill me! I can go no farther. Here is
my sword - thrust it into my bosom, and fly for your life!"

Trenck laughed gayly, took him in his arms as lovingly and tenderly
as a mother. "Swing yourself on my back, friend, and clasp your arms
about my neck, and hold fast. We will run a race with the reindeer."

"Trenck! Trenck! kill me Leave me here, and hasten on. Escape is
impossible with such a burden."

"You are as light as a feather, and I will die with you rather than
leave you."

Onward! onward! the sun sets and a heavy fog rises suddenly from out
of the earth.

"Trenck, Trenck, do you not hear the alarm - guns thundering from the
citadel? Our pursuers are after us."

"I hear the cannon," said Trenck, hastening on. "We have a half
hour's start."

"A half hour will not suffice. No one has ever escaped from Glatz
who did not have two hours' advance of pursuit. Leave me, Trenck,
and save yourself."

"I will not leave you. I would rather die with you. Let us rest a
moment, and gather breath."

Gently, carefully, he laid his friend upon the ground. Schnell
suppressed his cries of pain, and Trenck restrained his panting
breath - they rested and listened. The white, soft mist settled more
thickly around them. The citadel and the town was entirely hidden
from view.

"God is with us," said Trenck. "He covers us with an impenetrable
veil, and conceals us from our enemies."

"God is against us - our flight was too soon discovered. Already the
whole border is alarmed. Listen to the signals in every village. The
three shots from the citadel have announced that a prisoner has
escaped. The commanding officers are now flying from point to point,
to see if the peasants are doing duty, and if every post is strictly
guarded. The cordon is alarmed; the whole Bohemian boundary has been
signalled. It is too late - we cannot reach the border."

"We will not go then, friend, in the direction our enemies expect
us," said Trenck, merrily. "They saw us running toward the Bohemian
boundary, and they will follow in that direction through night and
fog. We will fly where they are not seeking us - we will cross the
Reise. Do you see there a line of silver shimmering through the fog,
and advancing to meet us? Spring upon my back, Schnell. We must
cross the Reise!"

"I cannot, Trenck, I suffer agony with my foot. It is impossible for
me to swim."

"I can swim for both."

He knelt down, took his friend upon his back, and ran with him to
the river. And now they stood upon the shore. Solemnly, drearily,
the waves dashed over their feet, sweeping onward large blocks of
ice which obstructed the current.

"Is the river deep, comrade?"

"In the middle of the stream, deep enough to cover a giant like

"Onward, then! When I can no longer walk, I can swim. Hold fast,

Onward, in the dark, ice-cold water, bravely onward, with his friend
upon his back! Higher and higher rose the waves! Now they reached
his shoulder!

"Hold fast to my hair, Schnell, we must swim!"

With herculean strength he swam through the dark, wild waters, and
dashed the ice-blocks which rushed against him from his path.

Now they have reached the other shore. Not yet safe - but safe from
immediate danger. The blessed night conceals their course, and their
pursuers seek them on the other shore.

Suddenly the fog is dispersed; a rough bleak wind freezes the
moisture in the atmosphere, and the moon rose in cloudless majesty
in the heavens. It was a cold, clear December night, and the wet
clothes of the fugitives were frozen stiff, like a harness, upon
them. Trenck felt neither cold nor stiff; he carried his friend upon
his shoulders, and that kept him warm; he walked so rapidly, his
limbs could not stiffen.

Onward, ever onward to the mountains! They reached the first hill,
under whose protecting shadows they sank down to rest, and take
counsel together.

"Trenck, I suffer great agony; I implore you to leave me here and
save yourself. In a few hours you can pass the border. Leave me,
then, and save yourself!"

"I will never desert a friend in necessity. Come, I am refreshed."

He took up his comrade and pressed on. The moon had concealed
herself behind the clouds; the cold, cutting winds howled through
the mountains. Stooping, Trenck waded on through the snow. He was
scarcely able now to hold himself erect. Hope inspired him with
strength and courage - they had wandered far, they must soon reach
the border.

Day broke! the pale rays of the December sun melted the mountain
vapors into morning. The two comrades were encamped upon the snow,
exhausted with their long march, hopefully peering here and there
after the Bohemian boundary.

"Great God! what is that? Are not those the towers of Glatz? and
that dark spectre which raises itself so threateningly against the
horizon, is not that the citadel?"

And so it was. The poor fugitives have wandered round and round the
whole night through, and they are now, alas! exactly where they

"We are lost," murmured Schnell; "there is no hope!" "No, we are not
lost!" shouted Trenck; "we have young, healthy limbs, and weapons.
They shall never take us alive."

"But we cannot escape them. Our appearance will instantly betray us;
I am in full uniform, and you in your red coat of the body-guard,
both of us without hats. Any man would know we were deserters."

"Woe to him who calls us so! we will slay him, and walk over his
dead body. And now for some desperate resolve. We cannot go
backward, we must advance, and pass right through the midst of our
enemies in order to reach the border. You know the way, and the
whole region round about. Come. Schnell, let us hold a council of

"We must pass through that village in front of us. How shall we
attempt to do so unchallenged?"

Half an hour later a singular couple drew near to the last house of
the village. One was a severely wounded, bleeding officer of the
king's body-guard; his face was covered with blood, a bloody
handkerchief was bound about his brow, and his hands tied behind his
back. Following him, limped an officer in full parade dress, but
bareheaded. With rude, coarse words he drove the poor prisoner
before him, and cried for help. Immediately two peasants rushed from
the house.

"Run to the village," said the officer, "and tell the judge to have
a carriage got ready immediately, that I may take this deserter to
the fortress. I succeeded in capturing him, but he shot my horse,
and I fear I broke a bone in falling; you see, though, how I have
cut him to pieces. I think he is mortally wounded. Bring a carriage
instantly, that I may take him, while yet alive, to the citadel."

One of the men started at once, the other nodded to them to enter
his hut.

Stumbling and stammering out words of pain, the wounded man followed
him; cursing and railing, the officer limped behind him. On entering
the room, the wounded man sank upon the floor, groaning aloud. A
young girl advanced hastily, and took his wounded head in her arms;
while an old woman, who stood upon the hearth, brought a vessel of
warm milk to comfort him.

The old peasant stood at the window, and looked, with a peculiar
smile, at the officer, who seated himself upon a bench near the
fire, and drank the milk greedily which the old woman handed him.
Suddenly the old man advanced in front of the officer and laid his
hand on his shoulder.

"Your disguise is not necessary, Lieutenant Schnell, I know you; my
son served in your company. There was an officer from the citadel
here last night, and informed us of the two deserters. You are one,
Lieutenant Schnell, and that is the other. That is Baron Trenck."

And now, the wounded man, as if cured by magic, sprang to his feet.
The sound of his name had given him health and strength, and healed
the wound in his forehead. He threw the handkerchief off, and rushed
out, while Schnell with prayers and threats held back the old man,
and entreated him to show them the nearest way to the border.

Trenck hastened to the stable - two horses were in the stalls. The
young girl, who had held his head so tenderly, came up behind him.

"What are you doing, sir?" she said anxiously, as Trenck released
the horses. "You will not surely take my father's horses? - if you
do, I will cry aloud for help."

"If you dare to cry aloud, I will murder you," said Trenck, with
flaming eyes, "and then I will kill myself! I have sworn that I will
not be taken alive into the fortress. Have pity, beautiful child -
your eyes are soft and kindly, and betray a tender heart. Help me -
think how beautiful, how glorious is the world and life and liberty
to the young! My enemies will deprive me of all this, and chain me
in a cell, like a wild beast. Oh, help me to escape!"

"How can I help you?" said Mariandel, greatly touched.

"Give me saddles and bridles for these horses, in order that I may
flee. I swear to you, by God and by my beloved, that they shall be
returned to you!"

"You have then a sweetheart, sir?"

"I have - and she weeps day and night for me."

"I will give you the saddles in remembrance of my own beloved, who
is far away from me. Come, saddle your horse quickly - I will saddle
the other."

"Now, farewell, Mariandel - one kiss at parting - farewell,
compassionate child! Schnell, Schnell, quick, quick to horse, to

Schnell rushed out of the hut, the peasant after him. He saw with
horror that his horses were saddled; that Schnell, in spite of his
foot, had mounted one, and Trenck was seated upon the other.

"My God! will you steal my horses? Help! help!"

Mariandel laid her hand upon her father's lips, and suppressed his
cries for help. "Father, he has a bride, and she weeps for him! -
think upon Joseph, and let them go."

The fugitives dashed away. Their long hair fluttered in the wind,
their cheeks glowed with excitement and expectation. Already the
village lay far behind them. Onward, over the plains, over the
meadows, over the stubble-fields!

"Schnell. Schnell, I see houses - I see towns. Schnell, there lies a

"That is Wunschelburg, and we must ride directly through it, for
this is the nearest way to Bohemia."

"There is a garrison there, but we must ride through them. Aha! this
is royal sport! We will dash right through the circle of our
enemies. They will be so amazed at our insolence, that they will
allow us to escape. Hei! here are the gates - the bells are ringing
for church. Onward, onward, my gallant steed, you must fly as if you
had wings!"

Huzza! how the flint strikes fire! how the horses' hoofs resound on
the pavement! how the gayly-dressed church-goers, who were advancing
so worthily up the street, fly screaming to every side! how the lazy
hussars thinking no harm, stand at the house doors, and fix their
eyes with horror upon these two bold riders, who dash past them like
a storm-wind!

And now they have reached the outer gate - the city lies behind them.
Forward, forward, in mad haste! The horses bow, their knees give
way, but the bold riders rein them up with powerful arms, and they
spring onward.

Onward, still onward! "But what is that? who is this advancing
directly in front of us? Schnell, do you not know him? That is
Captain Zerbtz!"

Yes, that is Captain Zerbtz, who has been sent with his hussars to
arrest the fugitives; but he is alone, and his men are not in sight.
He rode on just in front of them. When near enough to be heard, he
said, "Brothers, hasten! Go to the left, pass that solitary house.
That is the boundary-line. [Footnote: Trenck's Memoirs.] My hussars
have gone to the right."

He turned his horse quickly, and dashed away. The fugitives flew to
the left, passed the lonely house, passed the white stone which
marked the border, and now just a little farther on.

"Oh, comrade, let our horses breathe! Let us rest and thank God, for
we are saved - we have passed the border!"

"We are free, free!" cried Trenck, with so loud a shout of joy that
the mountains echoed with the happy sound, and reechoed back, "Free,



Swiftly, noiselessly, and unheeded the days of prosperity and peace
passed away. King Frederick has been happy; he does not even
remember that more than two years of calm content and enjoyment have
been granted him - two years in which he dared lay aside his sword,
and rest quietly upon his laurels. This happy season had been rich
in blessings; bringing its laughing tribute of perfumed roses and
blooming myrtles. Two years of such happiness seems almost
miraculous in the life of a king.

Our happy days are ever uneventful. True love is silent and
retiring; it does not speak its rapture to the profane world, but
hides itself in the shadows of holy solitude and starry night. Let
us not, then, lift the veil with which King Frederick had concealed
his love. These two years of bloom and fragrance shall pass by

When the sun is most lustrous, we turn away our eyes, lest they be
blinded by his rays; but when clouds and darkness are around about
us, we look up curiously and questioningly. King Frederick's sun is
no longer clear and dazzling, dark clouds are passing over it; a
shadow from these clouds has fallen upon the young and handsome face
of the king, quenched the flashing glance of his eye, and checked
the rapid beating of his heart.

What was it which made King Frederick so restless and unhappy? He
did not know himself, or, rather, he would not know. An Alp seemed
resting upon his heart, repressing every joyful emotion, and making
exertion impossible. He sought distraction in work, and in the early
morning he called his ministers to council, but his thoughts were
far away; he listened without hearing, and the most important
statements seemed to him trivial. He mistrusted himself, and
dismissed his ministers. It was Frederick's custom to read every
letter and petition himself, and write his answer upon the margin.
This being done, he turned to his ordinary studies and occupations,
and commenced writing in his "Histoire de Man Temps." Soon, however,
he found himself gazing upon the paper, lost in wandering thoughts
and wild, fantastic dreams. He threw his pen aside, and tried to
lose himself in the beautiful creations of his favorite poet, all
things in nature and fiction seemed alike vain.

Frederick threw his book aside in despair. "What is the matter with
me?" he exclaimed angrily. "I am not myself; some wicked fairy has
cast a spell about me, and bound my soul in magic fetters. I cannot
work, I cannot think; content and quiet peace are banished from my
breast! What does this signify? and why - " He did not complete his
sentence, but gazed with breathless attention to the door. He had
heard one tone of a voice without which made his heart tremble and
his eyes glow with their wonted fire.

"Announce to his majesty that I am here, and plead importunately for
an audience," said a soft, sweet voice.

"The king has commanded that no one shall be admitted."

"Announce me, nevertheless," said the petitioner imperiously.

"That is impossible!"

Frederick had heard enough. He stepped to the door and threw it
open. "Signora, I am ready to receive you; have the goodness to
enter." He stepped abruptly forward, and, giving his hand to
Barbarina, led her into his cabinet.

Barbarina greeted him with a sweet smile, and gave a glance of
triumph to the guard, who had dared to refuse her entrance.

The king conducted her silently to his boudoir, and nodded to her to
seat herself upon the divan. But Barbarina remained standing, and
fixed her great burning eyes upon his face.

"I see a cloud upon your brow, sire," said she, in a fond and
flattering tone. "What poor insect has dared to vex my royal lion?
Was it an insect? Was it - "

"No, no," said Frederick, interrupting her, "an angel or a devil has
tortured me, and banished joy and peace from my heart. Now tell me,
Barbarina, what are you? Are you a demon, come to martyr me, or an
angel of light, who will transform my wild dreams of love and bliss
into reality? There are hours of rapture in which I believe the
latter, in which your glance of light and glory wafts my soul on
golden, wings into the heaven of heavens, and I say to myself, 'I am
not only a king, but a god, for I have an angel by my side to
minister to me.' But then, alas! come weary times in which you seem
to me an evil demon, and I see in your flashing eyes that eternal
hatred which you swore to cherish in the first hour of our meeting."

"Alas! does your majesty still remember that?" said Barbarina, in a
tone of tender reproof.

"You have taken care that I shall not forget it. You once told me
that from hatred to love was but a small step. If you have truly
advanced so far, how can I be assured but you will one day step

"How can you be assured?" said she, pointing a rosy finger with
indescribable grace at the king. "Ah. sire! your divine beauty, your
eyes, which have borrowed lightning from Jove and glory from the
sun - your brow, where majesty and wisdom sit enthroned, and that
youthful and enchanting smile which illuminates the whole - all these
make assurance doubly sure! I will not allude to your throne, and
its pomp and power! What is it to me that you are a king? For me you
are a man, a hero, a god. Had I met you as a shepherd in the fields,
I should have said, 'There is a god in disguise!' The fable is
verified, and 'Apollo is before me!' Apollo, I adore, I worship you!
let one ray from your heavenly eyes fall upon my face!" She knelt
before him, folding her hands, extended them pleadingly toward the
king, and looked upon him with a ravishing smile.

The king raised her, and pressed her - in his arms, then took her
small head in his hands, and turning it backward, gazed searchingly
in her face.

"Oh! Barbarina," said he, sadly, "to-day you are an angel, why were
you a demon yesterday? Why did you martyr and torture me with your
childish moods and passionate temper? Why is your heart, which can
be so soft and warm, sometimes cold as an iceberg and wholly
pitiless? Child! child! do you not know I have been wounded by many
griefs, and that every rough word and every angry glance is like a
poisoned dagger to my soul? I had looked forward with such delight
to our meeting yesterday at Rothenberg's! I expected so much
happiness, and I had earned it by a diligent and weary day's work.
Alas! you spoiled all by your frowning brow and sullen silence. It
was your fault that T returned home sad and heartless. I could not
sleep, but passed the night in trying to find out the cause of your
melancholy. This morning I could not work, and have robbed my
kingdom and my people of the hours which properly belong to them;
weak and powerless, I have been swayed wholly by gloom and
discontent. What was it, Barbarina, which veiled your clear brow
with frowns, and made your sweet voice so harsh and stern?"

"What was it?" said Barbarina, sadly; and resting on the arm of the
king, she leaned her head back and looked up at him with half-closed
eyes. "It was ambition which tortured me. But I did wrong to conceal
any thing from you. I should, without sullen or angry looks, have
made known the cause of my despair. I should have felt that I had
only to breathe my request, and that the noble and magnanimous heart
of my king would understand me. I should have known that the man who
had won laurels in the broad fields of science and on the bloody
battle-field, would appreciate this thirst for renown; this glowing,
burning hate toward those who cross our paths and wish to share our

"Jealous? you are jealous, then, of some other artiste," said the
king, releasing Barbarina from his arms.

"Yes, sire, I am jealous! - jealous of your smiles, of your applause;
of the public voice, of the bravos, which like a golden shower have
fallen upon me alone, and which I must now divide with another!"

"Of whom, then, are you jealous?" said the king.

She threw her head back proudly, a crimson blush blazed upon her
cheeks, and her eyes sparkled angrily.

"Why has this Marianna Cochois been engaged? Why has Baron von
Swartz put this contempt upon me?" said she fiercely. "To engage
another artiste is to say to the world, that Barbarina no longer
pleases, that she no longer has the power to enrapture the public,
that her triumphs are over, and her day is past! Oh! this thought
has made me wild! Is not Barbarina the first dancer of the world?
Can it be that another prima donna, and not the Barbarina, is
engaged for the principal role in a new and splendid ballet? Does
Barbarina live, and has she not murdered the one who dared to do
this, to bring this humiliation upon her?"

Tears gushed from her eyes, and sobbing loudly, she hid her face in
her hands. The king gazed sadly upon her, and a weary smile played
upon his lip.

"You are all alike - all," said he, bitterly, "and the great artiste
is even as narrow-minded and pitiful as the unknown and humble; you
are all weak, vain, envious, and swayed by small passions; and to
think that you, Barbarina, are not an exception; that the Barbarina
weeps because Marianna Cochois is to play the principal role in the
new ballet, 'Toste Galanti.'"

"She shall not, she dare not," cried Barbarina; "I will not suffer
this humiliation; I will not be disgraced, dishonored in Berlin; I
will not sit unnoticed in a loge, and listen to the bravos and
plaudits awarded to another artiste which belong to me alone! Oh,
sire, do not allow this shame to be put upon me! Command that this
part, which is mine, which belongs to me by right of the world-wide
fame which I have achieved, be given to me! I implore your majesty
to take this role from the Cochois, and restore it to me."

"That is impossible, Barbarina. The Cochois, like every other
artiste, must have her debut. Baron Swartz has given her the
principal part in 'Toste Galanti,' and I cannot blame him."

"Oh! your majesty, I beseech you to listen. Is it not true - will you
not bear witness to the fact that Barbarina has never put your
liberality and magnanimity to the test; that she has never shown
herself to be egotistical or mercenary? I ask nothing from my king
but his heart, the happiness to sit at his feet, and in the sunshine
of his eyes to bathe my being in light and gladness. Sire, you have
often complained that I desired and would accept nothing from you;
that diamonds and pearls had no attraction for me. You know that not
the slightest shadow of selfishness has fallen upon my love! Now,
then, I have a request to-day: I ask something from my king which is
more precious in my eyes than all the diamonds of the world. Give me
this role; that is, allow me to remain in the undisturbed possession
of my fame." She bowed her knee once more before the king, but this
time he did not raise her in his arms.

"Barbarina," said he, sadly and thoughtfully, "put away from you
this unworthy and pitiful envy. Cast it off as you do the tinsel
robes and rouge of the stage with which you conceal your beauty. Be
yourself again. The noble, proud, and great-hearted woman who shines
without the aid of garish ornament, who is ever the queen of grace
and beauty, and needs not the borrowed and false purple and ermine
of the stage. Grant graciously to the Cochois this small glory, you
who are everywhere and always a queen in your own right!"

Barbarina sprang from her knees with flashing eyes. "Sire," said
she, "you refuse my request - my first request - you will not order
that this part shall be given to me?"

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 27 of 42)