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

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warning; it gave her courage, self-possession, and proud
resignation. Her husband had spoken to her with his eyes; that must
ever be a consolation, a painful but sweet joy. She controlled
herself so far as to give her hand to the prince with a cordial

"You are most welcome in your double character," she said, in a
voice loud enough to be heard by the king and all around her. "Until
to-day, you have been my beloved brother; and from this time will
you be to me, as also to my husband, a dear son. By the decrees of
Providence a son has been denied me; I accept you, therefore,
joyfully, and receive you as my son and brother."

A profound silence followed these words; here and there in the
crowd, slight and derisive smiles were seen, and a few whispered and
significant words were uttered. The queen had now received the last
and severest blow; in the fulness and maturity of her beauty she had
been placed before the court as unworthy or incapable of giving a
successor to the throne; but she still wished to save appearances:
she would, if possible, make the world believe that the decree of
Providence alone denied to her a mother's honors. She had the cruel
courage to conceal the truth by prevarication.

The watchful eyes of the court had long since discovered the mystery
of this royal marriage: they had long known that the queen was not
the wife of Frederick; her words, therefore, produced contemptuous

Elizabeth cared for none of these things. She looked toward her
husband, whose eyes were fixed upon her; she would read in his
countenance if he were pleased with her words. A smile played upon
the lips of the king, and he bowed his head almost imperceptibly as
a greeting to his wife.

A golden ray of sunlight seemed to play upon her face; content was
written in her eyes; twice to-day her glance had met her husband's,
and both times his eyes had spoken. Elizabeth was happier than she
had been for many days; she laughed and jested with the ladies, and
conversed gayly over the great event of the evening - the first
appearance of the Signora Barbarina. The princesses, also, conversed
unceremoniously with the ladies near them. A cloud darkened the
usually clear brow of the Princess Amelia, and she seemed to be in a
nervous and highly excited state.

At this moment the master of ceremonies, Pollnitz, drew near, with
Count Tessin, the Swedish ambassador. The princess immediately
assumed so scornful an expression, that even Pollnitz scarcely found
courage to present Count Tessin.

"Ah! you come from Sweden," said Amelia, immediately after the
presentation. "Sweden is a dark and gloomy country, and you have
indeed done well to save yourself, by taking refuge in our gay and
sunny clime."

The count was evidently wounded.

"Your royal highness calls this a refuge," said he; "you must, then,
think those to be pitied who dwell in my fatherland?"

"I do not feel it necessary to confide my views on that subject to
Count Tessin," said Amelia, with a short, rude laugh.

"Yes, sister, it is necessary," said Ulrica, with a magical smile,
"you must justify yourself to the count, for you have cast contempt
upon his country."

"Ah! your highness is pleased to think better of my fatherland,"
said Tessin, bowing low to Ulrica. "It is true, Sweden is rich in
beauty, and nowhere is nature more romantic or more lovely. The
Swedes love their country passionately, and, like the Swiss, they
die of homesickness when banished from her borders. They languish
and pine away if one is cruel enough to think lightly of their

"Well, sir, I commit this cruelty," cried Amelia, "and yet I
scarcely think you will languish and pine away on that account."

"Dear sister, I think you are out of temper to-day," said Ulrica,

"And you are wise to remind me of it in this courtly style," said
Amelia; "have you taken the role of governess for my benefit to-

Ulrica shrugged her shoulders and turned again to the count, who was
watching the young Amelia with a mixture of astonishment and anger.
She had been represented at the Swedish court as a model of
gentleness, amiability, and grace; he found her rude and
contradictory, fitful and childish. The Princess Ulrica soon led the
thoughts of the count in another direction, and managed to retain
him at her side by her piquant and intellectual conversation; she
brought every power of her mind into action; she was gracious in the
extreme; she overcame her proud nature, and assumed a winning
gentleness; in short, she flattered the ambassador with such
delicate refinement, that he swallowed the magical food offered to
his vanity, without suspecting that he was victimized.

Neither the princess nor the count seemed any longer to remember
Amelia, who still stood near them with a lowering visage. Pollnitz
made use of this opportunity to draw near with his young protege,
Frederick von Trenck, and present him to the princess, who
immediately assumed a gay and laughing expression; she wished to
give the ambassador a new proof of her stormy and fitful nature: she
would humble him by proving that she was not harsh and rude to all
the world. She received the two gentlemen, therefore, with great
cordiality, and laughed heartily over the adventure of the morning;
she recounted to them, merrily and wittily, how and why she had
thrown the sweet roses away. Amelia was now so lovely and so
spirited to look upon, so radiant with youth, animation, and
innocence, that the eyes of the poor young officer were dazzled and
sought the floor; completely intoxicated and bewildered, he could
not join in the conversation, uttering here and there only a
trembling monosyllable.

This did not escape the cunning eye of the master of ceremonies. "I
must withdraw," thought he; "I will grant them a first tete-a-tete.
I will observe them from a distance, and be able to decide if my
plan will succeed." Excusing himself upon the plea of duty, Pollnitz
withdrew; he glided into a window and concealed himself behind the
curtains, in order to watch the countenances of his two victims.
Pollnitz had rightly judged. The necessity of taking part in the
conversation with the princess restored to the young officer his
intellect and his courage, and, in the effort to overcome his
timidity, he became too earnest, too impassioned.

But the princess did not remark this; she rejoiced in an opportunity
to show the Swedish ambassador how amiable and gracious she could be
to others, and thus make him more sensible of her rudeness to
himself; he should see and confess that she could be winning and
attractive when it suited her purpose. The count observed her
narrowly, even while conversing with Ulrica; he saw her ready smile,
her beaming eye, her perhaps rather demonstrative cordiality to the
young officer. "She is changeable and coquettish," he said to
himself, while still carrying on his conversation with the talented,
refined, and thoroughly maidenly Princess Ulrica.

The great and, as we have said, somewhat too strongly marked
kindliness of Amelia, added fuel to the passion of Trenck; he became
more daring.

"I have to implore your highness for a special grace," said he in a
suppressed voice.

"Speak on," said she, feeling at that moment an inexplicable emotion
which made her heart beat high, and banished the blood from her

"I have dared to preserve one of the roses which you threw into the
garden. It was a mad theft, I know it, but I was under the power of
enchantment; I could not resist, and would at that moment have paid
for the little blossom with my heart's blood. Oh, if your royal
highness could have seen, when I entered my room and closed the
door, with what rapture I regarded my treasure, how I knelt before
it and worshipped it, scarcely daring to touch it with my lips! it
recalled to me a lovely fairy tale of my childhood."

"How could a simple rose recall a fairy tale?" said Amelia.

"It is a legend of a poor shepherd-boy, who, lonely and neglected,
had fallen asleep under a tree near the highway. Before sleeping, he
had prayed to God to have pity upon him; to fill this great and
painful void in his heart, or to send His Minister, Death, to his
release. While sleeping he had a beautiful dream. He thought he saw
the heavens open, and an angel of enchanting grace and beauty
floated toward him. Her eyes glowed like two of the brightest stars.
'You shall be no longer lonely,' she whispered; 'my image shall
abide ever in your heart, and strengthen and stimulate you to all
things good and beautiful.' While saying this, she laid a wondrous
rose upon his eyes, and, floating off, soon disappeared in the
clouds. The poor shepherd-boy awoke, and was enraptured with what he
supposed had been a wild dream. But lo! there was the rose, and with
unspeakable joy he pressed it to his heart. He thanked God for this
sweet flower, which proved to him that the angel was no dream, but a
reality. The rose, the visible emblem of his good angel, was the joy
and comfort of his life, and he wore it ever in his heart. - I
thought of this fairy tale, princess, as I looked upon my rose, but
I felt immediately that I dared not call it mine without the consent
of your highness. Decide, therefore; dare I keep this rose?"

Amelia did not reply. She had listened with a strange embarrassment
to this impassioned tale. The world - all, was forgotten; she was no
longer a princess, she was but a simple young girl, who listened for
the first time to words of burning passion, and whose heart trembled
with sweet alarm.

"Princess, dare I guard this rose?" repeated Frederick, with a
trembling voice.

She looked at him; their eyes met; the young maiden trembled, but
the man stood erect. He felt strong, proud, and a conqueror; his
glance was like the eagle's, when about to seize a lamb and bear it
to his eyrie.

"He goes too far; truly, he goes too far," whispered Pollnitz, who
had seen all, and from their glances and movements had almost read
their thoughts and words. "I must bring this tete-a-tete to an end,
and I shall do so in a profitable manner."

"Dare I keep this rose?" said Frederick von Trenck, a third time.

Amelia turned her head aside and whispered, "Keep it."

Trenck would have answered, but in that moment a hand was laid upon
his arm, and Pollnitz stood near him.

"Prudence," whispered he, anxiously. "Do you not see that you are
observed? You will make of your insane and treasonable passion a
fairy tale for the whole court."

Amelia uttered a slight cry, and looked anxiously at Pollnitz. She
had heard his whispered words, and the sly baron intended that she

"Will your royal highness dismiss this madman," whispered he, "and
allow me to awake his sleeping reason?"

"Go, Herr von Trenck," said she lightly.

Pollnitz took the arm of the young officer and led him off, saying
to himself, with a chuckle: "That was a good stroke, and I feel that
I shall succeed; I have betrayed his passion to her, and forced
myself into their confidence. I shall soon be employed as Love's
messenger, and that is ever with princesses a profitable service.
Ah, King Frederick, King Frederick, you have made it impossible for
me to borrow money! Well, I shall not find that necessary; my hands
shall be filled from the royal treasures. When the casket of the
princess is empty, the king must of course replenish it." And the
baron laughed too loudly for a master of ceremonies.



The princess regarded their retreating figures with dreamy eyes.
Then, yielding to an unconquerable desire to be alone, to give
herself up to undisturbed thought, she was about to withdraw; but
the Princess Ulrica, who thought it necessary that the Swedish
ambassador should have another opportunity of observing the proud
and sullen temper of her sister, called her back.

"Remain a moment longer, Amelia," said the princess. "You shall
decide between Count Tessin and myself. Will you accept my sister as
umpire, count?"

"Without doubt," said the count. "I should be greatly honored if the
princess will be so gracious. Perhaps I may be more fortunate on
this occasion."

"It appears to me," said Amelia, rudely interrupting him, "that
'fortunate' and 'unfortunate' are not terms which can be properly
used in any connection between a princess of Prussia and yourself."
Amelia then turned toward her sister and gave her a glance which
plainly said: Well, do I not play my role in masterly style? Have I
not hastened to follow your counsels? "Speak, sister; name the point
which Count Tessin dares to contest with you."

"Oh, the count is a man and a scholar, and has full right to
differ," said Ulrica, graciously. "The question was a comparison of
Queen Elizabeth of England and Queen Christina of Sweden. I maintain
that Christina had a stronger and more powerful intellect; that she
knew better how to conquer her spirit, to master her womanly
weaknesses; that she was more thoroughly cultivated, and studied
philosophy and science, not as Elizabeth, for glitter and show, but
because she had an inward thirst for knowledge. The count asserts
that Elizabeth was better versed in statecraft, and a more amiable
woman. Now, Amelia, to which of these two queens do you give the

"Oh, without doubt, to Queen Christina of Sweden. This great woman
was wise enough not to regard the crown of Sweden as a rare and
precious gem; she chose a simple life of obscurity and poverty in
beautiful Italy, rather than a throne in cold and unfruitful Sweden.
This act alone establishes her superiority. Yes, sister, you are
right. Christina was the greater woman, even because she scorned to
be Queen of Sweden."

So saying, Amelia bowed slightingly, and, turning aside, she
summoned Madame von Kleist, and commenced a merry chat with her.
Count Tessin regarded her with a dark and scornful glance, and
pressed his lips tightly together, as if to restrain his anger.

"I beseech you, count," said Ulrica, in a low, soft voice, "not to
be offended at the thoughtless words of my dear little sister. It is
true, she is a little rude and resentful to-day; but you will see -
to-morrow, perhaps, will be one of her glorious sunny days, and you
will find her irresistibly charming. Her moods are changeable, and
for that reason we call her our little 'April fee.'"

"Ah, the princess is, then, as uncertain as April?" said the count,
with a frosty smile.

"More uncertain than April," said Ulrica, sweetly. "But what would
you, sir? we all, brothers and sisters, are responsible for that.
You must know that she is our favorite, and is always indulged. I
counsel you not to find fault with our little sister, Count Tessin;
that would be to bring an accusation against us all. You have
suffered to-day from a shower of her April moods; to-morrow you may
rejoice in the sunshine of her favor."

"I shall, however, be doubtful and anxious," said the ambassador,
coolly; "the April sun is sometimes accompanied by rain and storm,
and these sudden changes bring sickness and death."

"Allow me to make one request," said Ulrica. "Let not the king guess
that you have suffered from these April changes."

"Certainly not; and if your royal highness will graciously allow me
to bask in the sunshine of your presence, I shall soon recover from
the chilling effect of these April showers."

"Well, I think we have played our parts admirably," said Ulrica to
herself, as she found time, during the course of the evening, to
meditate upon the events of the day. "Amelia will accomplish her
purpose, and will not be Queen of Sweden. She would have it so, and
I shall not reproach myself."

Princess Ulrica leaned comfortably back in her arm-chair, and gave
her attention to a play of Voltaire, which was now being performed.
This representation took place in the small theatre in the royal
palace. There was no public theatre in Berlin, and the king justly
pronounced the large opera-house unsuited to declamation. Frederick
generally gave his undivided attention to the play, but this evening
he was restless and impatient, and he accorded less applause to this
piquant and witty drama of his favorite author than he was wont to
do. The king was impatient, because the king was waiting. He had so
far restrained all outward expression of his impatient curiosity;
the French play had not commenced one moment earlier than usual.
Frederick had, according to custom, gone behind the scenes, to say a
few friendly and encouraging words to the performers, to call their
attention to his favorite passages, and exhort them to be truly
eloquent in their recitations. And now the king waited; he felt
feverishly impatient to see and judge for himself this capricious
beauty, this world-renowned artiste, this Signora Barbarina, whose
rare loveliness and grace enchanted and bewildered all who looked
upon her.

At length the curtain fell. In a few moments he would see the
Barbarina dance her celebrated solo. A breathless stillness reigned
throughout the assembly; every eye was fixed upon the curtain. The
bell sounded, the curtain flew up, and a lovely landscape met the
eye: in the background a village church, rose-bushes in rich bloom,
and shady trees on every side; the declining sun gilded the summit
of the mountain, against the base of which the little village
nestled. The distant sound of the evening bell was calling the
simple cottagers to "Ave Maria." It was an enchanting picture of
innocence and peace; in striking contrast to this courtly
assemblage, glittering with gems and starry orders - a startling
opposite to that sweet, pure idyl. And now this select circle seemed
agitated as by an electric shock. There, upon the stage, floated the
Signora Barbarina.

The king raised himself involuntarily a little higher in his arm-
chair, in order to examine the signora more closely; he leaned back,
however, ashamed of his impatience, and a light cloud was on his
brow; he felt himself oppressed and overcome by this magical beauty.
He who had looked death in the face without emotion, who had seen
the deadly cannon-balls falling thickly around him without a
trembling of the eyelids, now felt a presentiment of danger, and
shrank from it.

Barbarina was indeed lovely, irresistibly lovely, in her ravishing
costume of a shepherdess; her dress was of crimson satin, her black
velvet bodice was fastened over her voluptuous bosom by rich golden
cords, finished off by tassels glittering with diamonds. A wreath of
crimson roses adorned her hair, which fell in graceful ringlets
about her wondrous brow, and formed a rich frame around her pure,
oval face. The dark incarnate of her full, ripe lip contrasted
richly with the light, rosy blush of her fair, smooth cheek.
Barbarina's smile was a promise of love and bliss; and, when those
great fiery eyes looked at you earnestly, there was such an intense
glow, such a depth of power and passion in their rays, you could not
but feel that there was danger in her love as in her scorn.

To-day, she would neither threaten nor inspire; she was only a
smiling, joyous, simple peasant-girl, who had returned wild with joy
to her native village, and whose rapture found expression in the gay
and graceful mazes of the dance. She floated here and there, like a
wood-nymph, smiling, happy, careless, wonderful to look upon in her
loveliness and beauty, but more wonderful still in her art.
Simplicity and grace marked every movement; there seemed no
difficulties in her path - to dance was her happiness.

The dance was at an end. Barbarina, breathless, glowing, smiling,
bowed low. Then all was still; no hand was moved, no applause
greeted her. Her great burning eyes wandered threateningly and
questioningly over the saloon; then, raising her lovely head
proudly, she stepped back.

The curtain fell, and now all eyes were fixed upon the king, in
whose face the courtiers expected to read the impression which the
signora had made upon him; but the countenance of the king told
nothing; he was quiet and thoughtful, his brow was stern, and his
lips compressed. The courtiers concluded that he was disappointed,
and began at once to find fault, and make disparaging remarks.
Frederick did not regard them. At this moment he was not a king, he
was only a man - a man who, in silent rapture, had gazed upon this
wondrous combination of grace and beauty. The king was a hero, but
he trembled before this woman, and a sort of terror laid hold upon

The curtain rose, and the second act of the drama began; no one
looked at the stage; after this living, breathing, impersonation of
a simple story, a spoken drama seemed oppressive. Every one rejoiced
when the second act was at an end. The curtain would soon rise for

But this did not occur; there was a long delay; there was eager
expectation; the curtain did not rise; the bell did not ring. At
last, Baron Swartz crossed the stage and drew near to the king.

"Sire," said he, "the Signora Barbarina declares she will not dance
again; she is exhausted by grief and anxiety, and fatigued by her

"Go and say to her that I command her to dance," said Frederick, who
felt himself once more a king, and rejoiced in his power over this
enchantress, who almost held him in her toils.

Baron Swartz hastened behind the scenes, but soon returned, somewhat
cast down.

"Sire, the signora affirms that she will not dance, and that the
king has no power to compel her. She dances to please herself."

"Ah! that is a menace," said the king, threateningly; and without
further speech he stepped upon the stage, followed by Baron Swartz.
"Where is this person?" said the king.

"She is in her own room, your majesty; shall I call her?"

"No, I will go to her. Show me the way."

The baron stepped forward, and Frederick endeavored to collect
himself and assume a cool and grave bearing.

"Sire, this is the chamber of the Signora Barbarina."

"Open the door." But before the baron had time to obey the command,
the impatient hand of the king had opened the door, and he had
entered the room.



Barbarina was resting, half reclining, and wholly abstracted, upon a
small crimson divan; her rounded arms were crossed over her breast.
She fixed her blazing, glowing eyes upon the intruders, and seemed
petrified, in her stubborn immobility, her determined silence. She
had the glance of a panther who has prepared herself for death, or
to slay her enemy.

The king stood a moment quiet and waiting, but Barbarina did not
move. Baron Swartz, alarmed by her contemptuous and disrespectful
bearing, drew near, in order to say that the king had vouchsafed to
visit her, but Frederick motioned him to withdraw; and, in order
that Barbarina might not understand him, he told him in German to
leave the room and await him in the corridor.

"I do not wish the signora to know that I am the king," said he. As
the baron withdrew, Frederick said to him, "Leave the door open."

Barbarina was motionless, only her large black eyes wandered
questioningly from one to the other; she sought to read the meaning
of their words, not one of which she understood; but her features
expressed no anxiety, no disquiet; she did not look like a culprit
or a rebel; she had rather the air of a stern queen, withholding her
royal favor. The king drew near her. Her eyes were fixed upon him
with inexpressible, earnest calm; and this cool indifference, so
rarely seen by a king, embarrassed Frederick, and at the same time
intoxicated him.

"You are, then, determined not to dance again?" said the king.

"Fully determined," said she, in a rich and sonorous voice.

"Beware! beware!" said he; but he could not assume that threatening
tone which he wished. "The king may perhaps compel you."

"Compel me! me, the Barbarina!" said she, with a mocking laugh, aim
disclosing two row? of pearly teeth. "And how can the king compel me
to dance?"

"You must be convinced that he has some power over you, since he
brought you here against your will."

"Yes, that is true," said she, raising herself up proudly; "he
brought me here by force; he has acted like a barbarian, a cold-
blooded tyrant!"

"Signora," said Frederick, menacingly, "one does not speak so of

"And why not?" she said, passionately. "What is your king to me?
What claim has he upon my love, upon my consideration, or even my
obedience? What has he done for me, that I should regard him
otherwise than as a tyrant? What is he to me? I am myself a queen;
yes, and believe me, a proud and an obstinate one! Who and what is

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 6 of 42)