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

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has come. You are the last, and no doubt you will conclude the
evening worthily."

"Sire, my case is similar to Bastiani's. There has been no mystery
in my life; only that which seemed miraculous for a priest was
entirely natural and simple in my case. I have travelled a great
deal, have seen the world, known men; and all my experience and the
feelings and convictions of my heart have at last laid me at the
feet of your majesty. I am like the faithful, who, having been
healed by a miracle, hang a copy of the deceased member upon the
miraculous image which cured them. My heart was sick of the world
and of men; your majesty healed it, and I lay it thankfully and
humbly at your feet. This is my whole history, and truly it is a
wonderful one. I have found a manly king and a kingly man."
[Footnote: Algarotti's own words.]

"Truly, such a king is the wonder of the world," said Voltaire. "A
king, who being a king, is still a man, and being a man is still a
noble king. I believe the history of the world gives few such
examples. If we search the records of all people, we will find that
all their kings have committed many crimes and follies, and but few
great, magnanimous deeds. No, no! let us never hope to civilize
kings. In vain have men sought to soften them by the help of art; in
vain taught them to love it and to cultivate it. They are always
lions, who seemed to be tamed when perpetually nattered. They
remain, in truth, always wild, bloodthirsty, and fantastic. In the
moment when you least expect it, the instinct awakens, and we fall a
sacrifice to their claws or their teeth." [Footnote: Thiebault.]

The king, who, up to this time, had listened, with a smiling face,
to the passionate and bitter speech of Voltaire, now rose from his
seat, and pointing his finger threateningly at him, said, good-
humoredly: "Still, still, monsieur! Beware! I believe the king
comes! Lower your voice, Voltaire, that he may not hear you. If he
heard you, he might consider it his duty to be even worse than
yourself. [Footnote: The king's own words.] Besides, it is late. Let
us not await the coming of the king, but withdraw very quietly.
Good-night, messieurs."

With a gracious but proud nod of his head, he greeted the company
and withdrew.



The whole court was in a state of wild excitement, A rare spectacle
was preparing for them - something unheard of in the annals of the
Berliners. Voltaire's new drama of "Catiline," to which he had now
given the name of "Rome Saved," was to be given in the royal palace,
in a private theatre gotten up for the occasion, and the actors and
actresses were to be no common artistes, but selected from the
highest court circles. Princess Amelia had the role of Aurelia,
Prince Henry of Julius Caesar, and Voltaire of Cicero.

The last rehearsal was to take place that morning. Voltaire had
shown himself in his former unbridled license, his biting irony, his
cutting sarcasm. Not an actor or actress escaped his censure or his
scorn. The poor poet D'Arnaud had been the special subject of his
mocking wit. D'Arnaud had once been Voltaire's favorite scholar, and
he had commended him highly to the king. He had the misfortune to
please Frederick, who had addressed to him a flattering poem. For
this reason Voltaire hated him, and sought continually to deprive
him of Frederick's favor and get him banished from court.

This morning, for the first time, there was open strife between
them, and the part which D'Arnaud had to play in "Rome Sauvee" gave
occasion for the difficulty. D'Arnaud, it is true, had but two words
to say, but his enunciation did not please Voltaire. He declared
that D'Arnaud uttered them intentionally and maliciously with
coldness and indifference.

D'Arnaud shrugged his shoulders and said a speech of two words did
not admit of power or action. He asked what declamation could
possibly do for two insignificant words, but make them ridiculous.

This roused Voltaire's rage to the highest pitch. "And this
utterance of two words is then beyond your ability? It appears you
cannot speak two words with proper emphasis!" [Footnote: In a letter
to Madarae Denis, Voltaire wrote: "Tout le monde me reproche que le
roi a fait dos vers pour d'Arnaud, des vers qui ne sont pas ce qu'il
a fait de micux; mais songez qu'a quatre cent lieues de Paris il est
bien difficile de savoir si un homme qu'on lui recommende a du
merite ou non; de plus c'est toujours des vers, et bien ou mal
appliques ils prouvent que le vainqueur de l'Autriche aime les
belles-lettres que j'aime de tout mon coeur. D'ailleurs D'Arnaud est
un bon diable, qui par-oi par-la ne laisoe pas de rencontrer de bons
tirades. Il a du gout, il se forme, et s'il aime qu'il se deforme,
il n'y a pas grand mal. En un mot, la petite meprise du Roi de
Prusse n'empeche pas qu'il ne soit le plus singulier de tous les
homines." - Voyez "Oeuvres Completes."]

And now, with fiery eloquence, he began to show that upon these
words hung the merit of the drama; that this speech was the most
important of all! With jeers and sarcasm he drove poor D'Arnaud to
the wall, who, breathless, raging, choking, could find no words nor
strength to reply. He was dumb, cast down, humiliated.

The merry laughter of the king, who greatly enjoyed the scene, and
the general amusement, increased the pain of his defeat, and made
the triumph of Voltaire more complete.

At last, however, the parts were well learned, and even Voltaire was
content with his company. This evening the entire court was to
witness the performance of the drama, which Voltaire called his

Princess Amelia had the role of Aurelia. She had withdrawn to her
rooms, and had asked permission of the queen-mother to absent
herself from dinner. Her part was difficult, and she needed
preparation and rest.

But the princess was not occupied with her role, or with the
arrangement of her toilet. She lay stretched upon the divan, and
gazed with tearful eyes upon the letter which she held in her
trembling hands. Mademoiselle von Haak was kneeling near her, and
looking up with tender sympathy upon the princess.

"What torture, what martyrdom I suffer!" said Amelia. "I must laugh
while my heart is filled with despair; I must take part in the pomps
and fetes of this riotous court, while thick darkness is round about
me. No gleam of light, no star of hope, do I see. Oh, Ernestine, do
not ask me to be calm and silent! Grant me at least the relief of
giving expression to my sorrow."

"Dear princess, why do you nourish your grief? Why will you tear
open the wounds of your heart once more?"

"Those wounds have never healed," cried Amelia, passionately. "No!
they have been always bleeding - always painful. Do you think so
pitifully of me, Ernestine, as to believe that a few years have been
sufficient to teach me to forget?"

"Am I not also called upon to learn to forget?" cried Ernestine,
bitterly. "Is not my life's happiness destroyed? Am I not eternally
separated from my beloved? Alas! princess, you are much happier than
I! You know where, at least in thought, you can find your unhappy
friend. Not the faintest sound in the distance gives answer to my
wild questionings. My thoughts are wandering listlessly, wearily.
They know not where to seek my lover - whether he lies in the dark
fortress, or in the prison-house of the grave."

"It is true," said Amelia, thoughtfully; "our fates are indeed
pitiable! Oh, Ernestine, what have I not suffered in the last five
years, during which I have not seen Trenck? - five years of self-
restraint, of silence, of desolation! How often have I believed that
I could not support my secret griefs - that death must come to my
relief! How often, with rouged cheeks and laughing lips, conversing
gayly with the glittering court circle whose centre my cruel brother
forced me to be, have my troubled thoughts wandered far, far away to
my darling; from whom the winds brought me no message, the stars no
greeting; and yet I knew that he lived, and loved me still! If
Trenck were dead, he would appear to me in spirit. Had he forgotten
me, I should know it; the knowledge would pierce my heart, and I
should die that instant. I know that he has written to me, and that
all his dear letters have fallen into the hands of the base spies
with which my brother has surrounded me. But I am not mad! I will be
calm; a day may come in which Trenck may require my help. I will not
slay myself; some day I may be necessary to him I love. I have long
lived, as the condemned in hell, who, in the midst of burning
torture, open both eyes and ears waiting for the moment when the
blessed Saviour will come for their release. God has at last been
merciful; He has blinded the eyes of my persecutors, and this letter
came safely to my hands. Oh, Ernestine, look! look! a letter from
Trenck! He loves me - he has not forgotten me - he calls for me! Oh,
my God! my God! why has fate bound me so inexorably? Why was I born
to a throne, whose splendor has not lighted my path, but cast me in
the shadow of death? Why am I not poor and obscure? Then I might
hasten to my beloved when he calls me. I might stand by his side in
his misfortunes, and share his sorrows and his tears."

"Dear princess, you can alleviate his fate. Look at me! I am poor,
obscure, and dependent, and yet I cannot hasten to my beloved; he is
in distress, and yet he does not call upon me for relief. He knows
that I cannot help him. You, princess, thanks to your rank, have
power and influence. Trenck calls you, and you are here to aid and

"God grant that I may. Trenck implores me to turn to my brother, and
ask him to interest the Prussian embassy in Vienna in his favor;
thereby hoping to put an end to the process by which he is about to
be deprived of his only inheritance - the estate left him by his
cousin, the captain of the pandours. Alas! can I speak with my
brother of Trenck? He knows not that for five years his name has
never passed my lips; he knows not that I have never been alone with
my brother the king for one moment since that eventful day in which
I promised to give him up forever. We have both avoided an
interview; he, because he shrank from my prayers and tears, and I,
because a crust of ice had formed over my love for him, and I would
not allow it to melt beneath his smiles and kindly words. I loved
Trenck with my whole heart, I was resolved to be faithful to him,
and I was resentful toward my brother. Now, Ernestine, I must
overcome myself, I must speak with the king; Trenck needs my
services, and I will have courage to plead for him."

"What will your highness ask? think well, princess, before you act.
Who knows but that the king has entirely forgotten Trenck? Perhaps
it were best so. You should not point out to the angry lion the
insect which has awakened him, he will crush it in his passion.
Trenck is in want; send him gold - gold to bribe the men of law. It
is well-known that the counsellors-at-law are dull-eyed enough to
mistake sometimes the glitter of gold for the glitter of the sun of
justice. Send him gold, much gold, and he will tame the tigers who
lie round about the courts of justice, and he will win his suit."

Princess Amelia shrugged her shoulders contemptuously. "He calls
upon me for help; and I send him nothing but empty gold; he asks for
my assistance, and I play the coward and hold my peace. No, no! I
will act, and I will act to-day! You know that only after the most
urgent entreaty of the king, I consented to appear in this drama.
While my brother pleaded with me, he said, with his most winning
smile, 'Grant me this favor, my sister, and be assured that the
first petition you make of me, I will accord cheerfully.' Now, then,
I will remind him of this promise; I will plead for Trenck, and he
dare not refuse. Oh, Ernestine! I know not surely, but it appears to
me that for some little time past the king loves me more tenderly
than heretofore; his eye rests upon me with pleasure, and often it
seems to me his soft glance is imploring my love in return. You may
call me childish, foolish; but I think, sometimes, that my silent
submission has touched his heart, and he is at last disposed to be
merciful, and allow me to be happy - happy, in allowing me to flee
from the vain glory of a court; in forgetting that I am a princess,
and remembering only that I am a woman, to whom God has given a
heart capable of love." Amelia did not see the melancholy gaze with
which her friend regarded her; she was full of ardor and enthusiasm,
and with sparkling eyes and throbbing breast she sprang from the
divan and cried out, "Yes, it is so; my brother will make me happy!"

"Alas, princess, do not dare to rely upon so false a hope! Never
will the king consent that you shall be happy beneath your royal

"Tell me now, Ernestine," said Amelia, with a smile, "is not the
reigning Margravine of Baireuth as high in rank as I am?"

"Yes, your highness," said Ernestine, with surprise, "for the
reigning Margravine of Baireuth is your exalted sister."

"I do not speak of her, but of the widow of the former margrave. She
has also reigned. Well, she has just married the young Duke Hobitz.
The king told me this yesterday, with a merry laugh. The little
Duchess of Hobitz is his aunt, and I am his sister!"

"If the king had had power to control his aunt, as he has to control
his sister, he would not have allowed this marriage."

Amelia heard, but she did not believe. With hasty steps and
sparkling eyes she walked backward and forward in her room; then,
after a long pause, she drew near her friend, and laying her hands
upon her shoulders, she said: "You are a good soul and a faithful
friend; you have ever had a patient and willing ear for all my
complaints. Only think now how charming it will be when I come to
tell you of my great happiness. And now, Ernestine, come, you must
go over my part with me once more, and then arrange my toilet. I
will be lovely this evening, in order to please the king. I will
play like an artiste in order to touch his cold heart. If I act my
part with such truth and burning eloquence that he is forced to weep
over the sorrows of the wretched and loving woman whom I represent,
will not his heart be softened, will he not take pity upon my
blasted life? The tragic part I play will lend me words of fire to
depict my own agony. Come, then, Ernestine, come! I must act well my
tragedy - I must win the heart of my king!"

The princess kept her word; she played with power and genius. Words
of passion and of pain flowed like a stream of lava from her lips;
her oaths of faith and eternal constancy, her wild entreaties, her
resignation, her despair, were not the high-flown, pompous phrases
of the tragedian, but truth in its omnipotence. It was living
passion, it was breathing agony; and, with fast-flowing tears, with
the pallor of death, she told her tale of love; and in that vast
saloon, glittering with jewels, filled with the high-born, the
brave, the beautiful, nothing was heard but long-drawn sighs and
choking sobs.

Queen Elizabeth Christine forgot all etiquette in the remembrance of
her own sad fate so powerfully recalled. She covered her face with
her hands, and bitter tears fell over her slender fingers. The
queen-mother, surprised at her own emotion, whispered lightly that
it was very warm, and while fanning herself she sought to dry her
secret tears unnoticed.

Even the king was moved; his eyes were misty, and indescribable
melancholy played upon his lips. Voltaire was wild with rapture; he
hung upon every movement, every glance of Amelia. Words of glowing
praise, thanks, admiration flowed from his lips. He met the princess
behind the scenes, and forgetting all else he cried out, with
enthusiasm: "You are worthy to be an actress, and to play in
Voltaire's tragedies!"

The princess smiled and passed on silently - what cared she for
Voltaire's praise? She knew that she had gained her object, and that
the king's heart was softened. This knowledge made her bright and
brave; and when at the close of the drama the king came forward,
embraced her with warmth, and thanked her in fond arid tender words
for the rich enjoyment of the evening, due not only to the great
poet Voltaire, but also to the genius of his sister, she reminded
him smilingly that she had a favor to ask.

"I pray you, my sister," said Frederick, gayly, "ask something right
royal from me this evening - I am in the mood to grant all your

Amelia looked at him pleadingly. "Sire," said she, "appoint an hour
to-morrow morning in which I may come to you and make known my
request. Remember, your majesty has promised to grant it in

The king's face was slightly clouded. "This is, indeed, a happy
coincidence," said he. "It was my intention to ask an interview with
you to-morrow, and now you come forward voluntarily to meet my
wishes. At ten in the morning I shall be with you, and I also have
something to ask."

"I will then await you at ten o'clock, and make known my request."

"And when I have granted it, my sister, it will be your part to
fulfil my wishes also."



The Princess Amelia lay the whole of the following night, with wide-
open eyes and loudly-heating heart, pale and breathless upon her
couch. No soft slumber soothed her feverish-glowing brow; no sweet
dream of hope dissipated the frightful pictures drawn by her
tortured fantasy.

"What is it?" said she, again and again - "what is it that the king
will ask of me? what new mysterious horror rises up threateningly
before me, and casts a shadow upon my future?"

She brought every word, every act of the previous day in review
before her mind. Suddenly she recalled the sad and sympathetic
glance of her maid of honor; the light insinuations, the half-
uttered words which seemed to convey a hidden meaning.

"Ernestine knows something that she will not tell me," cried Amelia.
At this thought her brow was covered with cold perspiration, and her
limbs shivered as if with ague. She reached out her hand to ring for
Fraulein von Haak; then suddenly withdrew it, ashamed of her own
impatience. "Why should I wish to know that which I cannot change? I
know that a misfortune threatens me. I will meet it with a clear
brow and a bold heart."

Amelia lay motionless till the morning. When she rose from her bed,
her features wore an expression of inexorable resolve. Her eyes
flashed as boldly, as daringly as her royal brother Frederick's when
upon the battle-field. She dressed herself carefully and
tastefully, advanced to meet her ladies with a gracious greeting,
and chattered calmly and cheerfully with them on indifferent
subjects. At last she was left alone with Fraulein von Haak. She
stepped in front of her, and looked in her eyes long and

"I read it in your face, Ernestine, but I entreat you do not make it
known in words unless my knowledge of the facts would diminish my

Ernestine shook her head sadly. "No," said she, "your royal highness
has no power over the misfortune that threatens you. You are a
princess, and must be obedient to the will of the king."

"Good!" said Amelia, "we will see if my brother has power to subdue
my will. Now, Ernestine, leave me; I am expecting the king."

Scarcely had her maid withdrawn, when the door of the anteroom was
opened, and the king was announced. The princess advanced to meet
him smilingly, but, as the king embraced her and pressed a kiss upon
her brow, she shuddered and looked up at him searchingly. She read
nothing in his face but the most heart-felt kindliness and love.

"If he makes me miserable, it is at least not his intention to do
so," thought she. - "Now, my brother, we are alone," said the
princess, taking a place near the king upon the divan. "And now
allow me to make known my request at once - remember you have
promised to grant it."

The king looked with a piercing glance at the sweet face now
trembling with excitement and impatience. "Amelia," said he, "have
you no tender word of greeting, of warm home-love to say to me? Do
you not know that five years have passed since we have seen each
other alone, and enjoyed that loving and confidential intercourse
which becomes brothers and sisters?"

"I know," said Amelia sadly, "these five years are written on my
countenance, and if they have not left wrinkles on my brow, they
have pierced my heart with many sorrows, and left their shadows
there! Look at me, my brother - am I the same sister Amelia?"

"No," said the king, "no! You are pallid - your cheeks are hollow.
But it is strange - I see this now for the first time. You have been
an image of youth, beauty, and grace up to this hour. The fatigue of
yesterday has exhausted you - that is all."

"No, my brother, you find me pallid and hollow-eyed today, because
you see me without rouge. I have to-day for the first time laid
aside the mask of rosy youth, and the smiling indifference of manner
with which I conceal my face and my heart from the world. You shall
see me to-day as I really am; you shall know what I have suffered.
Perhaps then you will be more willing to fulfil my request? Listen,
my brother, I - "

The king laid his hand softly upon her shoulder. "Stop, Amelia;
since I look upon you, I fear you will ask me something not in my
power to grant."

"You have given me your promise, sire."

"I will not withdraw it; but I ask you to hear my prayer before you
speak. Perhaps it may exert an influence - may modify your request. I
allow myself, therefore, in consideration of your own interest,
solely to beg that I may speak first."

"You are king, sire, and have only to command," said Amelia, coldly.

The king fixed a clear and piercing glance for one moment upon his
sister, then stood up, and, assuming an earnest and thoughtful mien,
he said: "I stand now before you, princess, not as a king, but as
the ambassador of a king. Princess Amelia, through me the King of
Denmark asks your hand; he wishes to wed you, and I have given my
consent. Your approval alone is wanting, and I think you will not
refuse it."

The princess listened with silent and intrepid composure; not a
muscle of her face trembled; her features did not lose for one
moment their expression of quiet resolve.

"Have you finished, sire?" said she, indifferently.

"I have finished, and I await your reply."

"Before I answer, allow me to make known my own request. Perhaps
what I may say may modify your wishes. You will, at least, know if
it is proper for me to accept the hand of the King of Denmark. Does
your majesty allow me to speak?"

"Speak," said the king, seating himself near her.

After a short pause, Amelia said, in an earnest, solemn voice:
"Sire, I pray for pardon for the Baron Frederick von Trenck."
Yielding to an involuntary agitation, she glided from the divan upon
her knees, and raising her clasped hands entreatingly toward her
brother, she repeated: "Sire, I pray for pardon for Baron Frederick
von Trenck!"

The king sprang up, dashed back the hands of his sister violently,
and rushed hastily backward and forward in the room.

Amelia, ashamed of her own humility, rose quickly from her knees,
and, as if to convince herself of her own daring and resolution, she
stepped immediately in front of the king, and said, in a loud, firm
voice for the third time: "Sire, I pray for pardon for Baron
Frederick von Trenck. He is wretched because he is banished from his
home; he is in despair because he receives no justice from the
courts of law, it being well known that he has no protector to
demand his rights. He is poor and almost hopeless because the courts
have refused him the inheritance of his cousin, the captain of the
pandours whose enemies have accused him since his death, only while
they lusted for his millions. His vast estate has been confiscated,
under the pretence that it was unlawfully acquired. But these
accusations have not been established; and yet, now that he is dead,
they refuse to give up this fortune to the rightful heir, Frederick
von Trenck. Sire, I pray that you will regard the interests of your
subject. Be graciously pleased to grant him the favor of your
intercession. Help him, by one powerful word, to obtain possession
of his rights. Ah, sire, you see well how modest, how faint-hearted
I have become. I ask no longer for happiness! I beg for gold, and I
think, sire, we owe him this pitiful reparation for a life's
happiness trodden under foot."

Frederick by a mighty effort succeeded in overcoming his rage. He

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 35 of 42)