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

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that I had received, at the examination at Konigsberg, the first
prize from his hand."

"Go on, go on," said Pollnitz; "you see I am all ear, and I must
know your present position in order to be useful to you."

"The king, as I have said, received me graciously, even kindly; he
made me a cadet in his cavalry corps, and three weeks after, I was
summoned before him; he had heard something of my wonderful memory,
and he wished to prove me."

"Well, how did you stand the proof?"

"I stood with the king at the window, and he called over to me
quickly the names of fifty soldiers who were standing in the court
below, pointing to each man as he called his name. I then repeated
to him every name in the same succession, but backward."

"A wonderful memory, indeed," said Pollnitz, taking a pinch of
Spanish snuff; "a terrible memory, which would make me shudder if I
were your sweetheart!"

"And why?" said the young officer.

"Because you would hold ever in remembrance all her caprices and all
her oaths, and one day, when she no longer loved you, she would be
held to a strict account. Well, did the king subject you to further

"Yes; he gave me the material for two letters, which I dictated at
the same time to his secretaries, one in French and one in Latin. He
then commanded me to draw the plan of the Hare Meadow, and I did

"Was he pleased?"

"He made me cornet of the guard," said Trenck, modestly avoiding a
more direct answer.

"I see you are in high favor: in three weeks you are promoted from
cadet to lieutenant! quick advancement, which the king, no doubt,
signalized by some other act of grace?"

"He sent me two horses from his stable, and when I came to thank
him, he gave me a purse containing two hundred 'Fredericks.'"

Pollnitz gave a spring backward. "Thunder! you are indeed in favor!
the king gives you presents! Ah, my young friend, I would protect
you, but it seems you can patronize me. The king has never made me a
present. And what do you desire to-day of the queen-mother?"

"As I am now a lieutenant, I belong to the court circle, and must
take part in the court festivals. So the king commanded me to pay my
respects to the queen-mother."

"Ah, the king ordered that?" said Pollnitz; "truly, young man, the
king must destine you for great things - he overloads you with
favors. You will make a glittering career, provided you are wise
enough to escape the shoals and quicksands in your way. I can tell
you, there will be adroit and willing hands ready to cast you down;
those who are in favor at court have always bitter enemies."

"Yes, I am aware that I have enemies," said Trenck; "more than once
I have already been charged with being a drunkard and a rioter; but
the king, happily, only laughed at the accusations."

"He is really in high favor, and I would do well to secure his
friendship," thought Pollnitz; "the king will also be pleased with
me if I am kind to him." He held out his hand to the young officer,
and said, with fatherly tenderness: "From this time onward, when
your enemies shall please to attack you, they shall not find you
alone; they will find me a friend ever at your side. You are the son
of the only woman I ever loved - I will cherish you in my heart as my

"And I receive you as my father with my whole heart," said Trenck;
"be my father, my friend, and my counsellor."

"The court is a dangerous and slippery stage, upon which a young and
inexperienced man may lightly slip, unless held up by a strong arm.
Many will hate you because you are in favor, and the hate of many is
like the sting of hornets: one sting is not fatal, but a general
attack sometimes brings death. Make use, therefore, of your
sunshine, and fix yourself strongly in an immovable position."

"The great question is, what shall be my first step to secure it?"

"How! you ask that question, and you are nineteen years old, six
feet high, have a handsome face, a splendid figure, an old, renowned
name, and are graciously received at court! Ah! youngster, I have
seen many arrive at the highest honors and distinctions, who did not
possess half your glittering qualities. If you use the right means
at the right time, you cannot fail of success."

"What do you consider the best means?"

"The admiration and favor of women! You must gain the love of
powerful and influential women. Oh, you are terrified, and your brow
is clouded! perhaps, unhappily, you are already in love?"

"No!" said Frederick von Trenck, violently. "I have never been in
love. I dare say more than that: I have never kissed the lips of a

Pollnitz gazed at him with an expression of indescribable amazement.
"How!" said he; "you are nineteen, and assert that you have never
embraced a woman?" He gave a mocking and cynical laugh.

"Ordinary women have always excited my disgust," said the young
officer, simply; "and until this day I have never seen a woman who
resembled my ideal."

"So, then, the woman with whom you will now become enamored will
receive your first tender vows?"

"Yes, even so."

"And you wear the uniform of the life-guard - you are a lieutenant!"
cried Pollnitz with tragical pathos, and extending his arms toward
heaven. "But how? - what did you say? - that until to-day you had seen
no woman who approached your ideal?"

"I said that."

"And to-day - ?"

"Well, it seems to me, we have both seen an angel to-day! - an angel,
whom you have wronged, in giving her the common name of fairy."

"Aha! the Princess Amelia," said Pollnitz. "You will love this young
maiden, my friend."

"Then, indeed, shall I be most unhappy! She is a royal princess, and
my love must ever be unrequited."

"Who told you that? who told you that this little Amelia was only a
princess? I tell you she is a young girl with a heart of fire. Try
to awake her - she only sleeps! A happy event has already greeted
you. The princess has fixed your enraptured gaze upon her lovely
form, by throwing or rather shooting roses at you. Perhaps the god
of Love has hidden his arrow in a rose. You thought Amelia had only
pelted your cheek with roses, but the arrow has entered your soul.
Try your luck, young man; gain the love of the king's favorite
sister, and you will be all-powerful."

The young officer looked at him with confused and misty eyes.

"You do not dare to suggest," murmured he, "that - "

"I dare to say," cried Pollnitz, interrupting him, "that you are in
favor with the brother; why may you not also gain the sister's good
graces? I say further, that I will assist you, and I will ever be at
your side, as a loving friend and a sagacious counsellor."

"Do you know, baron, that your wild words open a future to my view
before which my brain and heart are reeling? How shall I dare to
love a princess, and seek her love in return?"

"As to the first point, I think you have already dared. As to the
second, I think your rare beauty and wondrous accomplishments might
justify such pretensions."

"You know I never can become the husband of a princess."

"You are right," said Pollnitz, laughing aloud; "you are as innocent
as a girl of sixteen! you have this moment fallen headlong in love,
and begin at once to think of the possibility of marriage, as if
love had no other refuge than marriage, and yet I think I have read
that the god of Love and the god of Hymen are rarely seen together,
though brothers; in point of fact, they despise and flee from each
other. But after all, young man, if your love is virtuous and
requires the priest's blessing, I think that is possible. Only a few
years since the widowed margravine, the aunt of the king, married
the Count Hoditz. What the king's aunt accomplished, might be
possible to the king's sister."

"Silence, silence!" murmured Frederick von Trenck; "your wild words
cloud my understanding like the breath of opium; they make me mad,
drunk. You stand near me like the tempter, showing to my bewildered
eyes more than all the treasures of this world, and saying, 'All
these things will I give thee'; but alas! I am not the Messiah. I
have not the courage to cast down and trample under foot your
devilish temptations. My whole soul springs out to meet them, and
shouts for joy. Oh, sir, what have you done? You have aroused my
youth, my ambition, my passion; you have filled my veins with fire,
and I am drunk with the sweet but deadly poison you have poured into
my ears."

"I have assured you that I will be your father. I will lead you, and
at the right moment I will point out the obstacles against which
your inexperienced feet might stumble," said Pollnitz.

The stony-hearted and egotistical old courtier felt not the least
pity for this poor young man into whose ear, as Trenck had well
said, he was pouring this fatal poison. Frederick von Trenck, the
favorite of the king, was nothing more to him than a ladder by which
he hoped to mount. He took the arm of the young officer and
endeavored to soothe him with cool and moderate words, exhorting him
to be quiet and reasonable. They turned their steps toward the
castle, in order to pay their respects to the queen-mother. The hour
of audience was over, and the two gentlemen lounged arm in arm down
the street.

"Let us go toward the palace," said Pollnitz. "I think we will
behold a rare spectacle, a crowd of old wigs who have disguised
themselves as savans. To-day, the first sitting of the Academy of
Arts and Sciences takes place, and the celebrated President
Maupertius will open the meeting in the name of the king. This is
exactly the time for the renowned worthies to leave the castle. Let
us go and witness this comical show."

The two gentlemen found it impossible to carry out their plans. A
mighty crowd of men advanced upon them at this moment, and compelled
them to stand still. Every face in the vast assemblage was
expectant. Certainly some rare exhibition was to be seen in the
circle which the crowd had left open in their midst. There were
merry laughing and jesting and questioning amongst each other, as to
what all this could mean, and what proclamation that could be which
the drummer had just read in the palace garden.

"It will be repeated here in a moment," said a voice from the crowd,
which increased every moment, and in whose fierce waves Pollnitz and
Trenck were forcibly swallowed up. Pressed, pushed onward by
powerful arms, resistance utterly in vain, the two companions found
themselves at the same moment in the open space just as the drummer
broke into the circle, and, playing his drumsticks with powerful and
zealous hands, he called the crowd to order.

The drum overpowered the wild outcries and rude laughter of the vast
assemblage, and soon silenced them completely. Every man held his
breath to hear what the public crier, who had spoken so much to the
purpose by his drum, had now to declare by word of mouth. He drew
from his pocket a large document sealed with the state seal, and
took advantage of the general quiet to read the formal introductory
to all such proclamations: "We, Frederick, King of Prussia," etc.,

On coming to the throne, Frederick had abolished all that long and
absurd list of titles and dignities which had heretofore adorned the
royal declarations. Even that highest of all titles, "King by the
grace of God," had Frederick the Second set aside. He declared that,
in saying King of Prussia, all was said. His father had called
himself King of Prussia, by the grace of God; he, therefore, would
call himself simply the King of Prussia, and if he did not boast of
God's grace, it was because he would prove by deeds, not words, that
he possessed it.

After this little digression we will return to our drummer, who now
began to read, or rather to cry out the command of the king.

"We, Frederick, King of Prussia, order and command that no one of
our subjects shall, under any circumstances, lend gold to our master
of ceremonies, whom we have again taken into our service, or assist
him in any way to borrow money. Whoever, therefore, shall, in
despite of this proclamation, lend money to said Baron Pollnitz,
must bear the consequences; they shall make no demand for repayment,
and the case shall not be considered in court. Whosoever shall
disobey this command, shall pay a fine of fifty thalers, or suffer
fifteen days' imprisonment."

A wild shout of laughter from the entire assembly was the reply to
this proclamation, in which the worldly-wise Pollnitz joined
heartily, while his young companion had not the courage to raise his
eyes from the ground.

"The old courtier will burst with rage," said a gay voice from the

"He is a desperate borrower," cried another.

"He has richly deserved this public shame and humiliation from the
king," said another.

"And you call this a humiliation, a merited punishment!" cried
Pollnitz. "Why, my good friends, can you not see that this is an
honor which the king shows to his old and faithful servant? Do you
not know that by this proclamation he places Baron Pollnitz exactly
on the same footing with the princes of the blood, with the prince

"How is that? explain that to us," cried a hundred voices in a

"Well, it is very simple. Has not the king recently renewed the law
which forbids, under pain of heavy punishment, the princes of the
blood to borrow money? Is not this law printed in our journals, and
made public in our collections of laws?"

"Yes, yes! so it is," said many voices simultaneously.

"Well, certainly, our exalted sovereign, who loves his royal
brothers so warmly, would not have cast shame upon their honor.
Certainly he would not have wished to humiliate them, and has not
done so. The king, as you must now plainly perceive, has acted
toward Baron Pollnitz precisely as he has done to his brothers."

"And that is, without doubt, a great honor for him," cried many
voices. No one guessed the name of the speaker who was so
fortunately at hand to defend the honor of the master of ceremonies.
A general murmur of applause was heard, and even the public crier
stood still and listened to the eloquent unknown speaker, and forgot
for a while to hurry off to the next street-corner and proclaim the
royal mandate.

"Besides, this law is 'sans consequence,' as we are accustomed to
say," said Pollnitz. "Who would not, in spite of the law, lend our
princes gold if they had need of it? And who has right to take
offence if the state refuses to pay the debts which the princes make
as private persons? The baron occupies precisely the same position.
The king, who has honored the newly returned baron with two highly
important trusts, master of ceremonies and master of the robes, will
frighten his rather lavish old friend from making debts. He chooses,
therefore, the same means by which he seeks to restrain his royal
brothers, and forbids all persons to lend gold to Pollnitz: as he
cannot well place this edict in the laws of the land, he is obliged
to make it known by the drummer. And now," said the speaker, who saw
plainly the favorable impression which his little oration had made -
"and now, best of friends, I pray you to make way and allow me to
pass through the crowd; I must go at once to the palace to thank his
majesty for the special grace and distinction which he has showered
upon me to-day. I, myself, am Baron Pollnitz!"

An outcry of amazement burst from the lips of hundreds, and all who
stood near Pollnitz stepped aside reverentially, in order to give
place to the distinguished gentleman who was treated by the king
exactly as if he were a prince of the blood. Pollnitz stepped with a
friendly smile through the narrow way thus opened for him, and
greeted, with his cool, impertinent manner those who respectfully
stood back.

"I think I have given the king a Roland for his Oliver," he said to
himself. "I have broken the point from the arrow which was aimed at
me, and it glanced from my bosom without wounding me. Public opinion
will be on my side from this time, and that which was intended for
my shame has crowned me with honor. It was, nevertheless, a harsh
and cruel act, for which I will one day hold a reckoning with
Frederick. Ah, King Frederick! King Frederick! I shall not forget,
and I will have my revenge; my cards are also well arranged, and I
hold important trumps. I will wait yet a little while upon our
lovelorn shepherd, this innocent and tender Trenck, who is in a
dangerous way about the little princess."

Pollnitz waited for Trenck, who had with difficulty forced his way
through the crowd and hastened after him.



The ball at the palace was opened. The two queens and the princesses
had just entered the great saloon, in order to receive the
respectful greetings of the ladies of the court; while the king, in
an adjoining room, was surrounded by the gentlemen. A glittering
circle of lovely women, adorned with diamonds and other rich gems,
stood on each side of the room, each one patiently awaiting the
moment when the queens should pass before her, and she might have
the honor of bowing almost to the earth under the glance of the
royal eye.

According to etiquette, Queen Elizabeth Christine, who,
notwithstanding her modest and retired existence, was the reigning
sovereign, should have made the grand tour alone, and received the
first congratulations of the court; but this unhappy, shrinking
woman, had never found the courage to assume the rights or
privileges which belonged to her as wife of the king. She who was
denied the highest and holiest of all distinctions, the first place
in the heart of her husband, cared nothing for these pitiful and
outward advantages. Elizabeth had to-day, as usual, with a soft
smile, given precedence to the queen-mother, Sophia Dorothea, who
was ever thirsting to show that she held the first place at her
son's court, and who, delighted to surround herself with all the
accessories of pomp and power, was ever ready to use her
prerogative. With a proud and erect head, and an almost contemptuous
smile, she walked slowly around the circle of high-born dames, who
bowed humbly before this representative of royalty. Behind her came
the reigning queen, between the two princesses, who now and then
gave special and cordial greetings to their personal friends as they
passed, Elizabeth Christine saw this and sighed bitterly. She had no
personal friend to grace with a loving greeting. No man saw any
thing else in her than a sovereign by sufferance, a woman sans
consequence, a, powerless queen and unbeloved wife. She had never
had a friend into whose sympathetic and silent bosom she could pour
out her griefs. She was alone, so entirely alone and lonely, that
the heavy sighs and complaints dwelling in her heart were ever
reverberating in her cars because of the surrounding silence. And
now, as she made the grand tour with the two princesses, no one
seemed to see her; she was regarded as the statue of a queen, richly
dressed and decked with costly lace and jewels, but only a picture:
yet this picture had a soul and a heart of fire - it was a woman, a
wife, who loved and who endured.

Suddenly she trembled; a light, like the glory of sunshine, flashed
in her eyes, and a soft rosy blush spread over her fair cheek. The
king had entered the room; yes, he was there in all his beauty, his
majesty, his power; Elizabeth felt that the world was bright, her
blood was rushing madly through her veins, her heart was beating as
stormily as that of an impassioned young girl. Oh, it might be that
the eye of the king - that glowing, wondrous eye - might even by
accident rest upon her; it might be that Frederick would be touched
by her patient endurance, her silent resignation, and give her one
friendly word. She had been four years a queen, for four years this
title had been a crown of thorns; during all this weary time her
husband had not vouchsafed to her poor heart, sick unto death, one
single sympathetic word, one affectionate glance; he sat by her side
at the table during the court festivals; he had from time to time,
at the balls and masquerades, opened the dance with her; never,
however, since that day on which he had printed the first kiss upon
her lips, never had he spoken to her; since that moment she was to
him the picture of a queen, the empty form of a woman. [Footnote:
The king never spoke to his wife, but his manner toward her was
considerate and respectful; no one dared to fail in the slightest
mark of courtly observance toward Elizabeth - this the king sternly
exacted. Only once did the king address her. During the seventh year
of their marriage, the queen, by an unhappy accident, had seriously
injured her foot: this was a short time before her birthday, which
event was always celebrated with great pomp and ceremony, the king
honoring the fete with his presence. On this occasion he came as
usual, but in place of the distant and silent bow with which he
usually greeted her, he drew near, gave her his hand, and said with
kindly sympathy, "I sincerely hope that your majesty has recovered
from your accident." A general surprise was pictured in the faces of
all present - but the poor queen was so overcome by this unexpected
happiness, she had no power to reply, she bowed silently. The king
frowned and turned from her. Since that day, the happiness of which
she had bought with an injured foot, the king had not spoken to
her.] But Queen Elizabeth would not despair. Hope was her motto. A
day might come when he would speak to her, when he would forget that
she had been forced upon him as his wife, a day when his heart might
be touched by her grief, her silent and tearless love. Every meeting
with Frederick was to this poor queen a time of hope, of joyful
expectation; this alone sustained her, this gave her strength
silently, even smilingly, to draw her royal robe over her bleeding

And now the king drew near, surrounded by the princesses and the
queen-mother, to whom he gave his hand with an expression of
reverence and filial love. He then bowed silently and indifferently
to his wife, and gave a merry greeting to his two sisters.

"Ladies," said he, in a full, rich voice, "allow me to present to
you and my court my brother, the Prince Augustus William; he is now
placed before you in a new and more distinguished light." He took
the hand of his brother and led him to the queen-mother. "I
introduce your son to you; he will be from this day onward, if it so
please you, also your grandson."

"How is that, your majesty? I confess you have brought about many
seemingly impossible things; but I think it is beyond your power to
make Augustus at the same time both my son and my grandson."

"Ah, mother, if I make him my son, will he not be of necessity, your
grandson? I appoint him my successor; in so doing, I declare him my
son. Embrace him, therefore, your majesty, and be the first to greet
him by his new title. Embrace the Prince of Prussia, my successor."

"I obey," said the queen, "I obey," and she cast her arms
affectionately around her son. "I pray God that this title of
'Prince of Prussia,' which it has pleased your majesty to lend him,
may be long and honorably worn."

The prince bowed low before his mother, who tenderly kissed his
brow, then whispered, "Oh, mother, pray rather that God may soon
release me from this burden."

"How!" cried the queen threateningly, "you have then a strong desire
to be king? Has your vaulting ambition made you forget that to wish
to be king is, at the same time, to wish the death of your brother?"

The prince smiled sadly.

"Mother, I would lay aside this rank of Prince of Prussia, not
because I wish to mount the throne, but I would fain lie down in the
cold and quiet grave."

"Are you always so sad, so hopeless, my son - even now, upon this day
of proud distinction for you? To-day you take your place as Prince
of Prussia."

"Yes, your majesty, to-day I am crowned with honor," said he,
bitterly. "This is also the anniversary of my betrothal."

Augustus turned and drew near to the king, who seized his hand and
led him to his wife and the young princesses, saying with a loud
voice, "Congratulate the Prince of Prussia, ladies." He then
beckoned to some of his generals, and drew back with them to the
window. As he passed the queen, his eye rested upon her for a moment
with an expression of sympathy and curiosity; he observed her with
the searching glance of a physician, who sinks the probe into the
bleeding wound, in order to know its depth and danger.

The queen understood his purpose. That piercing glance was a

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 5 of 42)