Part 9 out of 11
At the same moment wrote Frederick, King of Prussia, to Algarotti:
"Voltaire is here; he has of late, as you know, been guilty of an
act unworthy of him. He deserves to be branded upon Parnassus. It is
a shame that so base a soul should be united to so exalted a genius.
Of all this, however, I shall take no notice; he is necessary to me
in my study of the French language. One can learn beautiful things
from an evil-doer. I must learn his French. I have nothing to do
with his morals. He unites in himself the strangest opposites. The
world worships his genius and despises his character." [Footnote:
Oeuvres de Frederic le Grand.]
"And now, friends, let us be joyful, and forget all the cares and
sorrows of the world," cried the king, with a ringing laugh; "raise
your glasses and strike them merrily. Long life to mirth, to jest,
The glasses were raised, and as they met they rang out cheerily;
they were pressed to the lips and emptied at a draught; the guests
then seated themselves silently at the table. Frederick glanced at
the circle of his friends who sat with him at the round table; his
eyes dwelt searchingly upon every laughing face, then turned to the
garden of Sans-Souci, which sent its perfumed breath, its song of
birds, its evening breeze, through the open doors and windows, while
the moon, rising in cloudless majesty, shone down upon them and
rivalled with her silver rays the myriads of wax-lights which
glittered in the crystal chandeliers.
"This is a glorious evening," said the king, "and we will enjoy it
He ordered the servants to close the doors, place the dessert and
champagne upon the table, and leave the room. Noiselessly and
silently this command was fulfilled. Frederick then greeted each one
of his guests with a kindly nod.
"Welcome, thrice welcome are you all!" said he. "I have longed to
have you all together, and now, at last, you are here. There sits
Voltaire, whose divine Emile was delivered first of a book, then of
a child, and then released from life before he was free to come to
Berlin. There is Algarotti, the swan of Italy, who spreads his wings
and would gladly fly to the land of oranges and myrtles. There is La
Mettrie, who only remains here because he is convinced that my Cape
wine is pure, and my pates de foie gras truly from Strasbourg. There
is D'Argens, who sought safety in Prussia because in every other
land in Europe there are sweethearts waiting and sighing for him, to
whom he has sworn a thousand oaths of constancy. There is Bastiani,
who only remains with us while the Silesian dames, who have frankly
confessed their sins to him and been absolved, find time and
opportunity to commit other peccadilloes, which they will do
zealously, in order to confess them once more to the handsome Abbe
Bastiani. And lastly, there is my Lord Marshal, the noblest and best
of all, whose presence we owe to the firmness of his political
principles and the misfortunes of the house of Stuart."
"And there is the Solomon of the North," cried Voltaire--"there is
Frederick, the youngest of us all, and the wisest--the philosopher
of Sans-Souci. There sits Apollo, son of the gods, who has descended
from Olympus to be our king."
"Let us not speak of kings," said Frederick. "When the sun goes down
there is no king at Sans-Souci; he leaves the house and retires into
another castle, God only knows where. We are all equal and wholly
sans gene. At this table, there are no distinctions; we are seven
friends, who laugh and chat freely with each other; or, if you
prefer it, seven wise men."
"This is then the Confidence-Table," said Voltaire, "of which
D'Argens has so often spoken to me, and which has seemed to me like
the Round-Table of King Arthur. Long live the Confidence-Table!"
"It shall live," cried the king, "and we will each one honor this,
our first sitting, by showing our confidence in each other. Every
one shall relate something piquant and strange of his past life,
some lively anecdote, or some sweet little mystery which we dare
trust to our friends, but not to our wives. The oldest begins
"I am afraid I am that," said Voltaire, "but your majesty must
confess that my heart has neither white hair nor wrinkles. Old age
is a terrible old woman who slides quietly, grinning and
threatening, behind every man, and watches the moment when she dares
lay upon him the mask of weary years through which he has lived and
suffered. She has, alas! fastened her wrinkled mask upon my face,
but my heart is young and green, and if the women were not so short-
sighted as to look only upon my outward visage, if they would
condescend to look within, they would no longer call me the old
Voltaire, but would love and adore me, even as they did in my
"Listen well, friends, he will no doubt tell us of some duchess who
placed him upon an altar and bowed down and worshipped him."
"No, sire, I will tell you of an injury, the bitterest I ever
experienced, and which I can never forget."
"As if he had ever forgotten an injury, unless he had revenged it
threefold!" cried D'Argens.
"And chopped up his enemy for pastry and eaten him," said La
"Truly, if I should eat all my enemies, I should suffer from an
everlasting indigestion, and, in my despair, I might fly to La
Mettrie for help. It is well known that when you suffer from
incurable diseases, you seek, at last, counsel of the quack."
"You forget that La Mettrie is a regular physician," said the king,
with seeming earnestness.
"On the contrary, he remembered it well," said La Mettrie, smiling.
"The best physician is the greatest quack, or the most active grave-
digger, if you prefer it."
"Silence!" said the king. "Voltaire has the floor; he will tell us
of the greatest offence he ever received. Give attention."
"Alas! my heart is sad, sire; of all other pain, the pain of looking
back into the past is the most bitter. I see myself again a young
man, the Arouet to whom Ninon de l'Enclos gave her library and a
pension, and who was confined for twenty years to the Bastile
because he loved God and the king too little, and the charming
Marquise de Villiers and some other ladies of the court too much.
Besides these exalted ladies, there was a beautiful young maiden
whom I loved--perhaps because she had one quality which I had never
remarked in the possession of my more noble mistresses--she was
innocent! Ah, friends, you should have seen Phillis, and you would
have confessed that no rose-bud was lovelier, no lily purer, than
she. Phillis was the daughter of a gypsy and a mouse-catcher, and
danced on the tight-rope in the city-gardens."
"Ah, it appears to me the goddess of innocence dances always upon
the tight-rope in this world," said the king. "I should not be
surprised to hear that even your little Phillis had a fall."
"Sire, she fell, but in my arms; and we swore eternal love and
constancy. You all know from experience the quality and fate of such
oaths; they are the kindling-wood upon which the fire of love is
sustained; but, alas, kindling and fire soon burnt out! Who is
responsible? Our fire burned long; but, think you my Phillis, whom I
had removed from the tight-rope, and exalted to a dancer upon the
stage, was so innocent and naive, as to believe that our love must
at last be crowned with marriage! I, however, was a republican, and
feared all crowns. I declared that Ninon de l'Enclos had made me
swear never to marry, lest my grandchildren should fall in love with
me, as hers had done with her."
"Precaution is praiseworthy," said La Mettrie. "The devil's
grandmother had also a husband, and her grandsons might have fallen
in love with her."
"Phillis did not take me for the devil's grandfather, but for the
devil himself. She cried, and shrieked, and cast my oaths of
constancy in my teeth. I did not die of remorse, nor she of love,
and to prove her constancy, she married a rich Duke de Ventadour."
"And you, no doubt, gave away the bride, and swore you had never
known a purer woman!"
"No, sire, I was at that time again in the Bastile, and left it only
as an exile from France. When at last I was allowed to return to
Paris, I sought out my Duchess de Ventadour, my Phillis of former
times. I found her a distinguished lady; she had forgotten the
follies of her youth; had forgotten her father, the rope-dancer; her
mother, the mouse-catcher. She had no remembrance of the young
Arouet, to whom she had sworn to say only 'tu' and 'toi.' Now she
was grave and dignified, and 'Vous, monsieur,' was on her fair lip.
Thanks to the heraldry office, she had become the daughter of a
distinguished Spaniard, blessed with at least seven ancestors.
Phillis gave good dinners, had good wine, and the world overlooked
her somewhat obscure lineage. She was the acknowledged and respected
Duchess Ventadour. She was still beautiful, but quite deaf;
consequently her voice was loud and coarse, when she believed
herself to be whispering. She invited me to read some selections
from my new work in her saloon, and I was weak enough to accept the
invitation. I had just completed my 'Brutus,' and burned with
ambition to receive the applause of the Parisiennes. I commenced to
read aloud my tragedy of 'Brutus' in the saloon of the duchess,
surrounded by a circle of distinguished nobles, eminent in knowledge
and art. I was listened to in breathless attention. In the deep
silence which surrounded me, in the glowing eyes of my audience, in
the murmurs of applause which greeted me, I saw that I was still
Voltaire, and that the hangman's hands, which had burned my 'Lettres
Philosophiques,' had not destroyed my fame or extinguished my
genius. While I read, a servant entered upon tiptoe, to rekindle the
fire. The Duchess Ventadour sat near the chimney. She whispered, or
thought she whispered, to her servant. I read a little louder to
drown her words. I was in the midst of one of the grandest scenes of
my tragedy. My own heart trembled with emotion. Here and there I saw
eyes, which were not wont to weep, filled with tears, and heard
sighs from trembling lips, accustomed only to laughter and smiles.
And now I came to the soliloquy of Brutus. He was resolving whether
he would sacrifice his son's life to his fatherland. There was a
solemn pause, and now, in the midst of the profound silence, the
Duchess Ventadour in a shrill voice, which she believed to be
inaudible, said to her servant: 'Do not fail to serve mustard with
the pig's head!'"
A peal of laughter interrupted Voltaire, in which he reluctantly
joined, being completely carried away by the general mirth.
"That was indeed very piquant, and I think you must have been
"Did you eat of the pig's head, or were your teeth on edge?"
"No, they were sharp enough to bite, and I bit! In my first rage I
closed my book, and cried out: 'Madame--! Well! as you have a pig's
head, you do not require that Brutus should offer up the head of his
son!' I was on the point of leaving the room, but the poor duchess,
who was just beginning to comprehend her unfortunate interruption,
hastened after me, and entreated me so earnestly to remain and read
further, that I consented. I remained and read, but not from
'Brutus.' My rage made me, for the moment, an improvisator. Seated
near to the duchess, surrounded by the proud and hypocritical
nobles, who acknowledged Phillis only because she had a fine house
and gave good dinners, I improvised a poem which recalled to the
grand duchess and her satellites the early days of the fair Phillis,
and brought the laugh on my side. My poem was called 'Le tu et le
vous.' Now, gentlemen, this is the story of my 'Brutus' and the
"I acknowledge that it is a good story. It will be difficult for
you, D'Argens, to relate so good a one," said the king.
"I dare not make the attempt, sire. Voltaire was ever the child of
good fortune, and his life and adventures have been extraordinary,
while I was near sharing the common fate of younger sons. I was
destined for the priesthood."
"That's a droll idea, indeed!" said Frederick. "D'Argens, who
believes in nothing, intended for a priest! How did you escape this
"Through the example of my dear brother, who was of a passionate
piety, and became in the school of the Jesuits so complete a fanatic
and bigot that he thundered out his fierce tirades against all
earthly joys and pastimes, no matter how innocent they were. To
resemble the holy Xavier and the sanctified and childlike Alois
Gonzago, was his highest ideal. In the extremity of his piety and
prudery he slipped into the art-gallery of our eldest brother and
destroyed Titian's most splendid paintings and the glorious statues
of the olden time. He gloried in this act, and called it a holy
offering to virtue. He could not understand that it was vandalism.
Our family had serious fears for the intellect of this poor young
saint, maddened by the fanaticism of the Jesuits. They sought
counsel of the oldest and wisest of our house, the Bishop of Bannes.
After thinking awhile, the bishop said: 'I will soon cure the young
man of this folly; I will make him a priest.'"
"Truly, your uncle, the bishop, was a wise man; he drove out folly
with folly. He knew well that no one had less reverence for the
churches than those who have built them, and are their priests."
"That was the opinion of my very worthy uncle. He said, with a sly
laugh: 'When he has heard a few confessions, he will understand the
ways of the world better!' The bishop was right. My brother was
consecrated. In a short time he became very tolerant and
considerate, as a man and as a father confessor."
"But you have not told us, marquis, how the fanaticism of your
brother liberated you from the tonsure?" said the king.
"My father found I would commence my priestly life with as much
intolerance as my brother had done. He therefore proposed to me to
consecrate myself to the world, and, instead of praying in the
church, to fight for the cross. The thought pleased me, and I became
a Knight of Malta."
"Your first deed of arms was, without doubt, to seat yourself and
write your 'Lettres Juives,'" said the king; "those inspiring
letters in which the knight of the cross mocks at Christianity and
casts his glove as a challenge to revealed religion."
"No, sire, I began my knightly course by entering the land of
heathen and idolaters, to see if a man could be truly happy and
contented in a land where there was neither Messiah nor crucifix--I
went to Turkey."
"But you carried your talisman with you?" said the Abbe Bastiani--
"you wore the cross upon your mantle?"
"A remark worthy of our pious abbe," said Frederick; "no one knows
better the protecting power of the cross than the priest who founded
it. Tell us, marquis, did your talisman protect you? Did you become
an apostate to the true faith?"
"Sire, I wished first to see their temples and their mode of
worship, before I decided whether I would be an unbelieving believer
or a believing unbeliever."
"I think," said Voltaire, "you have never been a believer, or made a
convert; you have made nothing but debts."
"That is, perhaps, because I am not a great writer, and do not
understand usury and speculation," said D'Argens, quietly. "Besides,
no courtesan made me her heir, and no mistress obtained me a
"Look now," said the king, "our good marquis is learning from you,
Voltaire; he is learning to scratch and bite."
"Yes," said Voltaire; "there are creatures whom all men imitate,
even in their vile passions and habits; perhaps they take them for
The face of the marquis was suffused; he rose angrily, and was about
to answer, but the king laid his hand upon his arm. "Do not reply to
him; you know that our great poet changes himself sometimes into a
wicked tiger, and does not understand the courtly language of men.
Do not regard him, but go on with your story."
The king--drew back his hand suddenly, and, seemingly by accident,
touched the silver salt-cellar; it fell and scattered the salt upon
the table. The marquis uttered a light cry, and turned pale.
"Alas!" cried the king, with well-affected horror, "what a
misfortune! Quick, quick, my friends! let us use an antidote against
the wiles of the demons, which our good marquis maintains springs
always from an overturned salt-cellar. Quick, quick! take each of
you a pinch of salt, and throw it upon the burners of the
chandeliers; listen how it crackles and splutters! These are the
evil spirits in hell-fire, are they not, marquis? Now let each one
take another pinch, and throw it, laughing merrily, over the left
shoulder. You, Voltaire, take the largest portion, and cast it from
you; I think you have always too much salt, and your most beautiful
poems are thereby made unpalatable."
"Ah, sire, you speak of the salt of my wit. No one remembers that
the tears which have bathed my face have fallen upon my lips, and
become crystallized into biting sarcasms. Only the wretched and
sorely tried are sharp of wit and bitter of speech."
"Not so," said La Mettrie; "these things are the consequence of bad
digestion. This machine is not acted upon by what you poets call
spirit, and I call brain; it reacts upon itself. When a man is
melancholy, it comes from his stomach. To be gay and cheery, to have
your spirits clear and fresh, you have nothing more to do than to
eat heartily and have a good digestion. Moliere could not have
written such glorious comedies if he had fed upon sour krout and old
peas, instead of the woodcock, grouse, and truffles which fell to
him from King Louis's table. Man is only a machine, nothing more."
"La Mettrie, I will give you to-morrow nothing but grouse and
truffles to eat: woe to you, then, if the day after you do not write
me just such a comedy as Moliere's! But we entirely forget that the
marquis owes us the conclusion of his story; we left him a Knight of
Malta, and we cannot abandon him in this position; that would be to
condemn him to piety and virtue. Go on, dear marquis, we have thrown
the salt and banished the demons--go on, then, with your history."
"Well," said the marquis, "to relate it is less dangerous than to
live through it. I must confess, however, that the perils of life
have also their charms. I wished, as I had the honor to say to you,
to witness a religious service in the great mosque at
Constantinople, and by my prayers, supported by a handful of gold
pieces, I succeeded in convincing the Turk, who had the care of the
key to the superb Sophia, that it was not an unpardonable sin to
allow an unbelieving Christian to witness the holy worship of an
unbelieving Mussulman. Indeed, he risked nothing but the bastinado;
while I, if discovered, would be given over to the hangman, and
could only escape my fate by becoming a Mussulman."
"What an earnest and profitable Christian Holy Mother Church would
thus have lost in the author of Les Lettres Juives!" said Frederick,
"But what an exquisite harem the city of Constantinople would have
won!" cried Voltaire.
"What a happiness for you, my Lord Marshal, that your beautiful
Mohammedan was not then born; the marquis would without doubt have
bought her from you!"
"If Zuleima will allow herself to be bought, there will be nothing
to pay," said Lord Marshal, with a soft smile.
"You are right, my lord," said the marquis, with a meaning side
glance at Voltaire, "you are right; nothing is more despicable than
the friendship which can be purchased."
"You succeeded, however, in bribing the good Mussulman," said
Algarotti, "and enjoyed the unheard-of happiness of witnessing their
"Yes, the night before a grand fete, my Turk led me to the mosque,
and hid me behind a great picture which was placed before one of the
doors of the tribune. This was seemingly a safe hiding-place. The
tribune was not used, and years had passed since the door had been
opened. It lay, too, upon the southern side of the mosque, and you
know that the worshippers of Mohammed must ever turn their faces
toward Mecca, that is, to the morning sun; I was sure, therefore,
that none of these pious unbelievers would ever look toward me. From
my concealment I could with entire comfort observe all that passed;
but I made my Turk most unhappy in the eagerness of my curiosity. I
sometimes stepped from behind my picture, and leaned a little over
the railing. My poor Mussulman entreated me with such a piteous
mien, and pointed to the soles of his feet with such anguish, that I
was forced to take pity on him and withdraw into my concealment. But
at last, in spite of the solemnities, and my own ardent piety, the
animal was roused within and overcame me. I was hungry! and as I had
expected this result, I had placed a good bottle of wine and some
ham and fresh bread in my pocket. I now took them out, spread my
treasures upon the floor, and began to breakfast. The Turk looked at
me with horror, and he would not have been surprised if the roof of
the holy mosque had fallen upon the Christian hound who dared to
desecrate it by drinking wine and eating ham within its precincts,
both of which were strictly forbidden by the prophet. But the roof
did not fall, not even when I forced my Mussulman to eat ham and
drink wine with me, by threatening to show myself openly if he
refused. He commenced his unholy meal with dark frowns and
threatening glances, ever looking up, as if he feared the sword of
the prophet would cleave him asunder. Soon, however, he familiarized
himself with his sin, and forgot the holy ceremonies which were
being solemnized. When the service was over, and all others had left
the mosque, he prayed me to wait yet a little longer, and as the
best of friends, we finished the rest of my bacon and drank the last
drop of my wine to the health of the prophet, laughing merrily over
the dangers we had escaped. As at last we were about to separate, my
good Turk was sad and thoughtful, and he confessed to me that he had
the most glowing desire to become a Christian. The bacon and wine
had refreshed him marvellously, and he was enthusiastic for a
religion which offered such glorious food, not only for the soul,
but for the body. I was too good a Christian not to encourage his
holy desires. I took him into my service, and when we had left
Turkey, and found ourselves on Christian soil, my Mussulman
gratified the thirst of his soul, and became a son of Holy Mother
Church, and felt no remorse of conscience in eating ham and drinking
wine. So my visit to the holy mosque was rich in blessed
consequences; it saved a soul, and my wine and my ham plucked a man
from the hell-fire of unbelief. That is, I believe, the only time I
ever succeeded in making a proselyte."
"The salvation of that soul will free you from condemnation and
insure your own eternal happiness. When you come to die, marquis,
you dare say, 'I have not lived in vain, I have won a soul to
"Provided," said Voltaire, "that the bacon with which you converted
the Turk was not part of one of the beasts into which the devils
were cast, as is written in the Holy Scriptures. If this was so,
then the newly-baked Christian has certainly eaten of everlasting
"Let us hope that this is not so," said Frederick; "and now, my Lord
Marshal, it is your turn to give us a piquant anecdote; or, if you
prefer it, an heroic deed from your life, so rich in virtue,
magnanimity, truth, and constancy. Ah, messieurs, let us now be
thoughtful, cast down our eyes, and exalt our hearts. A virtuous man
is about to speak: truly virtue is a holy goddess loved by few, to
whom few altars are erected, and who has few priests in her service.
My Lord Marshal is consecrated to her altar; you may well believe
this when I assure you of it--I, who have been so often deceived,
and often tempted to believe no longer in the existence of virtue.
My noble Keith has forced me to be credulous. This faith comforts
me, and I thank him."
With a glance of inexpressible love he gave his hand to his friend,
who pressed it to his breast. The faces of all present were grave,
almost stern. The words of the king were a reproach, and they felt
wounded. Frederick thought not of them; he looked alone upon the
noble, handsome face of Lord Marshal, not remembering that the love
and consideration manifested for him might excite the envy and
jealousy of his other friends.
"Now, my lord, will you commence your history, or are we too impure
and sinful to listen to any of the holy mysteries of your pure
"Ah, sire, there are no mysteries in my simple life; it lies like an
open book before the eyes of my king, and, indeed, to all the
"In that pure book I am sure that all can learn wisdom and
experience," said Frederick. "It is a book of rarest value, in which
every nobleman can learn how to be faithful to his king in dire
misfortune and to the gates of death. Ah, my lord, there are few men
like yourself, who can count it as imperishable fame to have been
condemned to the scaffold. The Pretender must, indeed, be a most
noble prince, as you were willing to give your life for him."
"He was my rightful king and lord, and I owed him allegiance. That I
was condemned for him, and pardoned, and banished from England, I
cannot now consider a misfortune, as I have thereby enjoyed the
great happiness of being near your majesty. But you must not think
too highly of my constancy to 'the Pretender;' it was not pure
loyalty, and if I carelessly and rashly cast my life upon a wild
chance, it was because the world had but little value for me. In the
despair and anguish of my heart I should have called Death a welcome
friend. Had I been happier I should have been less brave."
"And will you tell us, my lord, why you were unhappy?"
"Sire, mine is a simple little history, such as is daily acted out
in this weary world. We are all, however, proud to think that none
have suffered as we have done. There are many living hearts covered
as with a gravestone, under which every earthly happiness is
shrouded, but the world is ignorant, and goes laughing by. My heart
has bled in secret, and my happiness is a remembrance; my life once
promised to be bright and clear as the golden morning sun. The
future beckoned to me with a thousand glorious promises and greeted
me with winning, magic smiles. I saw a young, lovely, innocent,
modest maiden, like a spring rose, with heaven's dew still hanging
untouched upon its soft leaves. I saw and loved; it seemed to me God
had sent me in her His most wondrous revelation. I loved, I
worshipped her. She was the daughter of a distinguished French
noble. I went to Paris, a young and modest man, highly commended to
many influential and powerful families of the court. We met daily;
at first with wonder and surprise; then, with deep emotion, we heard
each other's voices without daring to speak together; and then, at
last, I no longer dared to utter a word in her presence, because my
voice trembled and I could not control it. One day, as we sat
silently next each other in a large assembly, I murmured in low,
broken tones: 'If I dared to love you, would you forgive me?' She
did not look up, but she said, 'I should be happy.' We then sank
again into our accustomed silence, only looking from time to time
into each other's happy eyes. This lasted six weeks, six weeks of
silent but inexpressible happiness. At last I overcame my timidity
and made known the sweet mystery of my love. I demanded the hand of
my Victoire from her father; he gave a cheerful consent, and led me
to my beloved. I pressed her to my heart, drunk with excess of joy.
At this moment her grandmother entered with a stern face and
scornful glance. She asked if I was a Protestant. This fearful
question waked me from my dream of bliss. In the rapture of the last
few months I had thought of nothing but my love. Love had become my
religion, and I needed no other influence to lead me to worship God.
But this, alas, was not sufficient! I declared myself a Protestant.
Victoire uttered a cry of anguish, and sank insensible into her
father's arms. Two days afterward I left France. Victoire would not
see me, and refused my hand. I returned to England, broken-hearted,
desperate, almost insane. In this delirium of grief I joined 'the
Pretender,' and undertook for him and his cause the wildest and most
dangerous adventures, which ended, at last, in my being captured and
condemned to the block. This, your majesty, was the only love of my
life. You see I had, indeed, but little to relate."
Frederick said nothing, and no one dared to break the silence. Even
Voltaire repressed the malicious jest which played upon his lip, and
was forced to content himself with a mocking smile.
"What were the words that your father spoke when he sent you forth
as a man into the world? I think you once repeated them to me," said
"Quand vos yeux, en naissant, s'ouvraient a la lumiere,
Chacun vous souriait, mon fils, et vous pleuriez.
Vivez si bien, qu'un jour, a votre derniere heure,
Chacun verse des pleurs, et qu'on vous voie sourire."
"You have fulfilled your father's wish," said the king. "You have so
lived, that you can smile when all others are weeping for you, and
no man who has loved can forget you. I am sure your Victoire will
never forget you. Have you not seen her since that first parting?"
"Yes, sire, I have seen her once again, as I came to Prussia, after
being banished forever from England. Ah, sire, that was a happy
meeting after twenty years of separation. The pain and grief of love
were over, but the love remained. We confessed this to each other.
In the beginning there was suffering and sorrow, then a sweet, soft
remembrance of our love, for we had never ceased to think upon each
other. It seems that to love faithfully and eternally it is only
necessary to love truly and honorably, and then to separate. Custom
and daily meeting cannot then brush the bloom from love's light
wings; its source is in heaven, and it returns to the skies and
shines forever and inextinguishable a star over our heads. When I
looked again. upon Victoire she had been a long time married, and to
the world she had, perhaps, ceased to be beautiful. To me she will
be ever lovely; and as she looked upon me it seemed to me that the
clouds and shadows had been lifted from my life, and my sun was
shining clear. But, sire, all this has no interest for you. How
tenderly I loved Victoire you will know, when I tell you that the
only poem my unpoetical brain has ever produced was written for
"Let us hear it, my lord," said the king.
"If your majesty commands it, and Voltaire will forgive it," said
"I forgive it, my lord," cried Voltaire. "Since I listened to you I
live in a land of wonders and soft enchantments, whose existence I
have never even guessed, and upon whose blooming, perfumed beauty I
scarcely dare open my unholy eyes. The fairy tales of my dreamy
youth seem now to be true, and I hear a language which we, poor sons
of France, living under the regency of the Duke of Orleans, have no
knowledge of. I entreat you, my lord, let us hear your poem."
Lord Marshal bowed, and, leaning back in his chair, in a full rich
voice, he recited the following verses:
"'Un trait lance par caprice
M'atteignit dans mon printemps;
J'en porte la cicatrice
Encore, sous mes cheveux blancs.
Craignez les maux qu'amour cause,
Et plaignez un insense
Qui n'a point cueilli la rose,
Et qui l'epine a blesse.'
[Footnote: Memoires de la Marquise de Crequi.]
"And now," said Lord Marshal rapidly, wishing to interrupt all
praise and all remark as to his poem; "I have yet a confession to
make, and if you have not laughed over my verses, you will surely
laugh at what I now state. Out of love for my lost mistress, I
became a Catholic. I thought that the faith, to which my Victoire
offered up her love, must be the true religion in which all love was
grounded. I wished to be hers in spirit, in life, and in death. In
spirit, in truth, I am a Catholic; and now, gentlemen, you may
"Sublime!" whispered Voltaire.
"No one will smile," said the king, sternly. "Joy and peace to him
who is a believer, and can lay his heart upon the cross, and feel
strengthened and supported by it. He will not wander in strange and
forbidden paths, as we poor, short-sighted mortals often do. Will
you tell us the name of your beloved mistress, or is that a secret?"
"Sire, our love was pure and innocent; we dare avow it to the whole
world. My beloved's name was Victoire de Froulay; she is now
Marquise de Crequi."
"Ah, the Marquise de Crequi!" said Voltaire, with animation: "one of
the wittiest and most celebrated women of Paris."
"She is still living?" said the king, thoughtfully. "would you like
to meet her again, my lord?"
"Yes, your majesty, for one hour, to say to her that I am a
Catholic, and that we shall meet in heaven!"
"I will send you as ambassador to Paris, my lord, and you shall bear
the marquise my greetings." [Footnote: Lord Marshal went to Paris,
as an ambassador from Prussia, in 1751.]
"Your majesty will thus be acting an epigram for George of England,"
said Voltaire, laughing. "Two of his noblest rebels will be
cementing the friendship of France and Prussia. Lord Tyrconnel, the
Irishman, is ambassador from France to Prussia, and my Lord Marshal
Keith is to be ambassador from Prussia to France. All, my lord! how
will the noble marquise rejoice when her faithful knight shall
introduce to her his most beautiful possession--the young and lovely
Mohammedan Zuleima! How happy will Zuleima be when you point out to
her the woman who loved you so fondly! She will then know, my lord,
that you also once had a heart, and have been beloved by a woman."
"I will present my little Zuleima to the marquise," said Lord
Marshal; "and, when I tell her that she was a bequest of my dear
brother, who, at the storming of Oschakow, where he commanded as
field-marshal, rescued her from the flames, she will find it just
and kind that I gave the poor orphan a home and a father. I wish
first, however, to give Zuleima a husband, if your majesty will
allow it. The Tartar Ivan, my chamberlain, loves Zuleima, and she
shall be his wife if your majesty consents."
"By all means," said Frederick; "but I fear it will be difficult to
have this marriage solemnized in Berlin. Your Tartar, I believe, has
the honor to be heathen."
"Sire, he is, in faith, a Persian."
"A fire-worshipper, then," said Frederick. "Well, I propose that
Voltaire shall bless this marriage; where fire is worshipped as a
god, Voltaire, the man of fire and flame, may well be priest."
"Ah, sire, I believe we are all Persians; surely we all worship the
light, and turn aside from darkness. You are to us the god Ormuzd,
from whom all light proceeds; and every priest is for us as Ahriman,
the god of darkness. Be gracious to me, then, your majesty, and do
not call upon me to play the role of priest even in jest. But why
does this happy son of the heathen require a priest? Is not the
sungod Ormuzd himself present? With your majesty's permission, we
will place the loving pair upon the upper terrace of Sans-Souci,
where they will be baptized in holy fire by the clear rays of the
mid-day sun. Then the divine Marianna, Cochois, and Denys will
perform some mystical dance, and so the marriage will be solemnized
according to Persian rites and ceremonies."
"And then, I dare hope your majesty will give a splendid wedding-
feast, where costly wines and rich and rare viands will not fail
us," said La Mettrie.
"Look, now, how his eyes sparkle with anticipated delights!" cried
the king. "La Mettrie would consent to wed every woman in the world
if he could thereby spend his whole life in one continuous wedding-
feast; but listen, sir, before you eat again, you have a story to
relate. Discharge this duty at once, and give us a piquant anecdote
from your gay life."
THE CONFIDENTIAL DINNER.
"Your majesty desires a piquant anecdote out of my own life," said
La Mettrie. "Is there any thing on earth more piquant than a
truffle-pie? Can any thing deserve more ardent praise, and fonder,
sweeter remembrance, than this beautiful revelation of man's genius?
Yes, sire, a successful truffle-pie is a sort of revealed religion,
and I am its devout, consecrated priest! One day I relinquished, for
the love of it, a considerable fortune, a handsome house, and a very
pretty bride, and I confess that even now a truffle-pie has more
irresistible charms for me than any bride, even though richly
"And was there ever a father mad enough to give his daughter to the
'homme machine?'" said the king
"Sire, I had just then written my 'Penelope.' Monsieur van Swiet, of
Leyden, a poor invalid, who had been for weeks confined to his bed
by a cold, read it, and laughed so heartily over the mockery and
derision at the gentlemen doctors, that he fell into a profuse
perspiration--a result which neither the art of the physicians nor
the prayers of the priests had been able to accomplish. The
stiffness in his limbs was healed; in fact, he was restored to
health! His first excursion was to see me, and he implored me to
suggest a mode by which he could manifest his gratitude. 'Send me
every day a truffle-pie and a bottle of Hungarian wine,' I replied.
Swiet was greatly amused. 'I have something better than a truffle-
pie,' said he. 'I have a daughter who will inherit all my fortune.
You are not rich in ducats, but largely endowed with wit. I wish
that my grandchildren, who will be immensely wealthy, may have a
father who will endow them richly with intellect. Wed my daughter,
and present me with a grandson exactly like yourself.' I accepted
this proposition, and promised the good Van Swiet to become his son-
in-law in eight days; to dwell with him in his house, and to cheer
and enliven him daily for a few hours after dinner, with merry,
witty conversation, that his liver might be kept in motion, and his
"Just think of this tender Hollander, this disinterested father, who
selects a husband for his daughter in order to improve his
"Did you not see your bride before the wedding? Perhaps she was a
changeling, whom the father wished to get rid of in some respectable
manner, and therefore gave her to you."
"I saw my bride, sire, and indeed Esther was a lovely girl, who had
but one fault--she did not love me. She had the naivete to tell me
so, and indeed to confess that she ardently loved another, a poor
clerk of her father's, who, when their love was discovered, a short
time before, had been turned out of the house. They loved each other
none the less glowingly for all this. I shrugged my shoulders, and
recalled the wish of her father, and my promise to him. But when the
little Esther implored me to refuse her hand, and plead with her
father for her beloved, I laughed and jested no longer, but began to
look at the thing gravely. I did go to her father, and informed him
of all that had passed. He listened to me quietly, and then asked
me, with a fearful grimace, if I preferred prison fare to truffle-
pie, every day, at my own table. You can imagine that I did not
hesitate in my choice.
"'Well, then,' said my good Swiet, 'if you do not wed my daughter, I
will withdraw my protecting hand from you, and your enemies will
find a means to cast you into prison. A new book, "L'Homme Machine,"
has just appeared, and every man swears it is your production,
though your name is not affixed to the title-page. The whole city,
not only the priests, but the worldlings, are enraged over this
book. They declare it is a monster of unbelief and materialism. If,
in spite of all this, I accept you as my son-in-law, it is because I
wish to show the world that I despise it, and am not in the
slightest degree influenced by its prejudices and opinions, but am a
bold, independent, freethinker. Decide, then! Will you marry my
daughter and eat truffle-pie daily, or will you be cast into
"'I will marry your daughter! I swear that in eight days she shall
be my wife!'
"Herr van Swiet embraced me warmly, and commenced his preparations
for the wedding immediately. Esther, however, my bride, never spoke
to me; never seemed to see me. Her eyes were swollen, and she was
half-blind from weeping. Once we met alone in the saloon. She
hastened to leave it; but, as she passed by me, she raised her arms
to heaven, then extended them threateningly toward me. 'You are a
cruel and bad man. You will sacrifice a human soul to your greed and
your irresistible and inordinate desires! If God is just, you will
die of a truffle-pie! I say not that you will yield up your spirit,
for you have none! You will, you must die like a beast--from beastly
"The maiden possessed the wisdom of a sibyl," said the king, "and I
fear she has prophesied correctly as to your sad future. HATE has
sometimes the gift of prophecy, and sees the future clearly, while
Love is blind. It appears to me your Esther did not suffer from the
passion of love."
"No, sire, she hated me. But her lover, the young Mieritz, did not
share this dislike. He seemed warmly attached to me; was my
inseparable companion; embraced me with tears, and forgave me for
robbing him of his beloved, declaring that I was more worthy of her
than himself. He went so far in his manifestations of friendship as
to invite me to breakfast on the morning of my wedding-day, at which
time he wished to present me with something sumptuous he had brought
from Amsterdam. I accepted the invitation, and as the wedding-
ceremony was to take place at twelve o'clock, in the cathedral, we
were compelled to breakfast at eleven. I was content. I thought I
could better support the wearisome ceremony if sustained by the fond
remembrance of the luxurious meal I had just enjoyed. Our breakfast
began punctually at eleven, and I assure your majesty it was a rare
and costly feast. My young friend Mieritz declared, however, that
the dish which crowned the feast was yet to come. At last he stepped
to the kitchen himself to bring this jewel of his breakfast. With a
mysterious smile he quickly returned, bringing upon a silver dish a
smoking pie. A delicious fragrance immediately pervaded the whole
room--a fragrance which then recalled the hour most rich in blessing
of my whole life. Beside myself--filled with prophetic expectation--
I rushed forward and raised the top crust of the pie. Yes, it was
there!--it met my ravished gaze!--the pie which I had only eaten
once, at the table of the Duke de Grammont! Alas! I lost the good
duke at the battle of Fontenoy, and the great mystery of this pasty
went down with him into the hero's grave. And now that it was
exhumed, it surrounded me with its costly aroma; it smiled upon me
with glistening lips and voluptuous eyes. I snatched the dish from
the hands of my friend, and placed it before me on the table. At
this moment the clock struck twelve.
"'Miserable wretch!' I cried, 'you bring me this pie, and this is
the hour of my marriage!'
"'Well,' said Mieritz, with the cool phlegm of a Hollander, 'let us
go first to the wedding, and then this pasty can be warmed up.'
"'Warmed up!' roared I; 'warm up this pie, whose delicious odor has
already brought my nose into its magic circle! Can you believe I
would outlive such a vandalism, that I would consent to such
sacrilege? To warm a pie!--it is to rob the blossom of its
fragrance, the butterfly of the purple and azure of its wings,
beauty of its innocence, the golden day of its glory. No, I will
never be guilty of such deadly crime! This pie THIRSTS to be eaten!
I will, therefore, eat it!'
"I ate it, sire, and it overpowered me with heavenly rapture. I was
like the opium-eater, wrapped in elysium, carried into the heaven of
heavens. All the wonders of creation were combined in this heavenly
food, which I thrust into my mouth devoutly, and trembling with
gladness. It was not necessary for Mieritz to tell me that this pie
was made of Indian birds'-nests, and truffles from Perigord. I knew
it--I felt it! This wonder of India had unveiled my enraptured eyes!
A new world was opened before me! I ate, and I was blessed!
"What was it to me that messenger after messenger came to summon me,
to inform me that the priest stood before the altar; that my young
bride and her father and a crowd of relations awaited me with
impatience? I cried back to them: 'Go! be off with you! Let them
wait till the judgment-day! I will not rise from this seat till this
dish is empty!' I ate on, and while eating my intellect was clearer,
sharper, more profound than ever before! I rejoiced over this
conviction. Was it not a conclusive proof that my theory was
correct, that this 'homme machine' received its intellectual fluid,
its power of thought through itself, and not through this fabulous,
bodiless something which metaphysicians call soul? Was not this a
proof that, to possess a noble soul, it was only necessary to give
to the body noble nourishment? And where lies this boasted soul?
where else but in the stomach? The stomach is the soul; I allow it
is the brain that thinks, but the brain dares only think as his
exalted majesty the stomach allows; and if his royal highness feels
unwell, farewell to thought." [Footnote: La Mettrie's own words.]
The whole company burst out in loud and hearty laughter.
"Am I not right to call you a fou fieffe?" said the king. "There is
an old proverb, which says of a coward, that his heart lies in his
stomach; never before have I heard the soul banished there. But your
hymns of praise over the stomach and the pie have made you forget to
finish your story; let us hear the conclusion! Did the marriage take
"Sire, I had not quite finished my breakfast when the door was
violently opened, and a servant rushed in and announced that the
good Van Swiet had had a stroke of apoplexy in the cathedral. The
foolish man declared that rage and indignation over my conduct had
produced this fearful result; I am, myself, however, convinced that
it was the consequence of a good rich breakfast and a bottle of
Madeira wine; this disturbed the circulation of the blood, and he
was chilled by standing upon the cold stone floor of the church. Be
that as it may, poor Swiet was carried unconscious from the church
to his dwelling, and in a few hours he was dead! Esther, his
daughter and heir, was unfilial enough to leave the wish of her
father unfulfilled. She would not acknowledge our contract to be
binding, declared herself the bride of the little Mieritz, and
married him in a few months. I had, indeed, a legal claim upon her,
but Swiet was right when he assured me that so soon as he withdrew
his protection from me, the whole pack of fanatical priests and
weak-minded scholars would fall upon and tear me to pieces, unless I
saved myself by flight. So I obeyed your majesty's summons, took my
pilgrim-staff, and wandered on, like Ahasuerus."
"What! without taking vengeance on the crafty Mieritz, who, it is
evident, had carried out successfuly a well-considered strategy with
his pie?" said the king. "You must know that was all arranged: he
caught you with his pie, as men catch mice with cheese."
"Even if I knew that to be so, your majesty, I should not quarrel
with him on that account. I should have only said to my pie, as
Holofernes said to Judith: 'Thy sin was a great enjoyment, I forgive
you for slaying me!' For such a pie I would again sacrifice another
bride and another fortune!"
"And is there no possible means to obtain it?" said the king. "Can
you not obtain the receipt for this wonderful dish, which possesses
the magic power to liberate young women from intolerable men, and
change a miser into a spendthrift who thrusts his whole fortune down
"There is a prospect, sire, of securing it, but you cannot be the
first to profit by it. Lord Tyrconnel, who knows my history, opened
a diplomatic correspondence with Holland, some weeks ago, on this
subject, and the success of an important loan which France wishes to
effect with the house of Mieritz and Swiet, through the mediation of
Lord Tyrconnel, hangs upon the obtaining of this receipt. If Mieritz
refuses it, France will not make the loan. In that case the war,
which now seems probable with England, will not take place."
"And yet it is said that great events can only arise from great
causes," cried the king. "The peace of the world now hangs upon the
receipt of a truffle-pie, which La Mettrie wishes to obtain."
"What is the peace of the world in comparison with the peace of our
souls?" cried Voltaire. "La Mettrie may say what he will, and the
worthy Abbe Bastiani may be wholly silent, but I believe I have a
soul, which does not lie in my stomach, and this soul of mine will
never be satisfied till your majesty keeps your promise, and relates
one of those intellectual, piquant histories, glowing with wisdom
and poesy, which so often flows from the lips of our Solomon!"
"It is true it is now my turn to speak," said Frederick, smiling. "I
will be brief. Not only the lights, but also the eyes of Algarotti,
are burning dimly; and look how the good marquis is, in thought,
making love-winks toward his night-cap, which lies waiting for him
upon his bed! But be comforted, gentlemen, my story is short. Like
La Mettrie, I will relate a miracle, in which, however the eyes were
profited, the stomach had no interest. This miracle took place in
Breslau, in the year 1747.
"Cardinal Zinzendorf was just dead, and the Duke Schafgotch, who
some years before I had appointed his coadjutor, was to be his
successor. But the Silesians were not content. They declared that
Duke Schafgotch was too fond of the joys and pleasures of the world
to be a good priest; that he thought too much of the beautiful women
of this world to be able to offer to the holy Madonna, the mother of
God, the sanctified, ardent, but pure and modest love of a true son
of the church. The pious Silesians refused to believe that the duke
was sufficiently holy to be their bishop. The sage fathers of the
city of Breslau assured me that nothing less than a miracle could
secure for him the love and consideration of the Silesiaus. I had
myself gone to Silesia to see if the statement of the authorities
was well-founded, and if the people were really so discontented with
the new bishop. I found their statement fully confirmed. Only a
great miracle could incline the pious hearts of the Silesians to the
"And now remark, messieurs, how Providence is always with the pious
and the just--this desired miracle took place! On a lovely morning a
rumor was spread abroad, in the city of Breslau, that in the chapel
of the Holy Mother of God a miracle might be seen. All Breslau--the
loveliest ladies of the haute volee, and the poorest beggars of the
street--rushed to the church to look upon this miracle. Yes, it was
undeniable! The hair of the Madonna, which stood in enticing but
wooden beauty upon the altar, whose clothing was furnished by the
first modistes, and whose hair by the first perruquier--this hair,
wonderful to relate, had grown! It was natural that she should
exercise supernatural power. The blind, the lame, the crippled were
cured by her touch. I myself--for you may well think that I hastened
to see the miracle--saw a lame man throw away his crutch and dance a
minuet in honor of the Madonna. There was a blind man who approached
with a broad band bound over his eyes. He was led forward to this
wonderful hair. Scarcely had the lovely locks touched his face, than
he tore the band from his eyes, and shouted with ecstasy--his sight
was restored! Thousands, who were upon their knees praying in wrapt
devotion, shouted in concert with him, and here and there inspired
voices called out: 'The holy Madonna is content with her new servant
the bishop! if she were not, she would not perform these miracles.'
These voices fell like a match in this magazine of excitement. Men
wept and embraced each other, and thanked God for the new bishop,
whom yesterday they had refused.
"In the meantime, however, there were still some suspicious,
distrustful souls who would not admit that the growth of the
Madonna's hair was a testimony in favor of the bishop. But these
stiff-necked unbelievers, these heartless skeptics, were at last
convinced. Two days later this lovely hair had grown perceptibly;
and still two days later, it hung in luxurious length and fulness
over her shoulders. No one could longer doubt that the Holy Virgin
was pleased with her priest. It had often happened that hair had
turned gray, or been torn out by the roots in rage and scorn. No
one, however, can maintain that the hair grows unless we are in a
happy and contented mood. The Madonna, therefore, was pleased. The
wondrous growth of her hair enraptured the faithful, and all mankind
declared that this holy image cut from a pear-tree, was the Virgin
Mary, who with open eyes watched over Breslau, and whose hair grew
in honor of the new Bishop Schafgotch--he was now almost adored.
Thousands of the believers surrounded his palace and besought his
blessing. It was a beautiful picture of a shepherd and his flock.
The Madonna no longer found it necessary to make her hair grow; one
miracle had sufficed, and with the full growth of her hair the
archbishop had also grown into importance."
"But your majesty has not yet named the holy saint at whose
intercession this miracle was performed," said the Marquis D'Argens.
"Graciously disclose the name, that we may pray for pardon and
"This holy saint was my friseur" said the king, laughing. "I made
him swear that he would never betray my secret. Every third day, in
the twilight, he stole secretly to the church, and placed a new wig
upon the Madonna, and withdrew the old one. [Footnote: Authentic
addition to the "History of Frederick the Second."] You see,
messieurs, that not only happiness but piety may hang on a hair, and
those holy saints to whom the faithful pray were, without doubt,
adroit perruquiers who understand their cue."
"And who use it as a scourge upon the backs of the pious penitents,"
said Voltaire. "Ah, sire! your story is as wise as it is piquant--it
is another proof that you are a warrior. You have won a spiritual
battle with your miraculous wig, a battle against Holy Mother
"By which, happily, no soldiers and only a few wigs were left
behind. But see how grave and mute our very worthy abbe appears--I
believe he is envious of the miracle I performed! And now it is your
turn, Bastiani: give us your story--a history of some of the lovely
Magdalens you have encountered."
"Ah, sire! will not your majesty excuse me?" said the abbe, bowing
low. "My life has been the still, quiet, lonely, unostentatious life
of a priest, and only the ever-blessed King Frederick William
introduced storm and tempest into its even course. That was, without
doubt, God's will; otherwise this robust and giant form which He
gave me would have been in vain. My height and strength so
enraptured the emissaries of the king, that in the middle of the
service before the altar, as I was reading mass, they tore me away
without regarding the prayers and outcries of my flock. I was
violently borne off, and immediately enrolled as a soldier."
"A wonderful idea!" cried Voltaire, "to carry off a priest in his
vestments and make a soldier of him; but say, now, abbe, could you
not, at least, have taken your housekeeper with you? I dare say she
was young and pretty."
"I do not know," said Bastiani; "I am, as you know, very short-
sighted, and I never looked upon her face; but it was a great
misfortune for a priest to be torn from the Tyrolese mountains and
changed into a soldier. But now, I look upon this as my greatest
good fortune; by this means were the eyes of my exalted king fixed
upon me; he was gracious, and honored me with his condescending
"You forget there is no king here, and that here no man must be
flattered," said Frederick, frowning.
"Sire, I know there is no king present, and that proves I am no
flatterer. I speak of my love and admiration to my king, but not to
his face. I praise and exalt him behind his back; that shows that I
love him dearly, not for honor or favor, but out of a pure heart
"What happiness for your pure and unselfish heart, that your place
of canonary of Breslau brings in three thousand thalers! otherwise
your love, which does not understand flattery, might leave you in
the lurch; you might be hungry."
"He that eats of the bread of the Lord shall never hunger," said
Bastiani, in a low and solemn voice;" he that will serve two masters
will be faithful to neither, and may fear to be hungry."
"Oh, oh! look at our pious abbe, who throws off his sheep's skin and
turns the rough side out," cried Voltaire, "It is written, 'The
sheep shall be turned into wolves,' and you, dear abbe, in your
piety fulfil this prophecy."
"Your witty illusions are meant for me because I am the historian of
the King of France, and gentleman of the bed-chamber to the King of
Prussia. Compose yourself. As historian to the King of France, I
have no pension, and his majesty of Prussia will tell you that I am
the most useless of servants that the sun of royal favor ever shone
upon. Yes, truly, I am a poor, modest, trifling, good-for-nothing
creature; and if his majesty did not allow me, from time to time, to
read his verses and rejoice in their beauty, and here and there to
add a comma, I should be as useless a being as that Catholic priest
stationed at Dresden, at the court of King Augustus, who has nothing
to do--no man or woman to confess--there, as here, every man being a
Lutheran. Algarotti told me he asked him once how he occupied
himself. The worthy abbe answered: 'Io sono il cattolica di sua
maesta.' So I will call myself, 'Il pedagogue di sua, maesta.'
[Footnote: "Oeuvres Completes de Voltaire," p. 376.] Like yourself,
I serve but one master."
"Alas! I fear my cattolica will not linger long by me," said the
king. "A man of his talent and worth cannot content himself with
being canon of Breslau. No, Bastiani, you will, without doubt, rise
higher. You will become a prelate, an eminence; yes, you will,
perhaps, wear the tiara. But what shall I be when you have mounted
this glittering pinnacle--when you have become pope? I wager you
will deny me your apostolic blessing; that you will not even allow
me to kneel and kiss your slipper. If any man should dare to name me
to you, you would no longer remember this unselfish love, which,
without doubt, you feel passionately for me at this moment. Ah! I
see you now rising from St. Peter's chair with apostolic sublimity,
and exclaiming with praiseworthy indignation: 'How! this heretic,
this unclean, this savage from hell! I curse him, I condemn him. Let
no man dare even to name him.'"
"Grace, grace, sire!" cried the abbe, holding his hands humbly, and
looking up at the king.
The other gentlemen laughed heartily. The king was inexorable. The
specious holiness and hypocrisy which the abbe had brought upon the
stage incensed him, and he was resolved to punish it.
"Now, if you were pope, and I am convinced you will be, I should,
without doubt, go to Rome. It is very important for me to ascertain,
while I have you here, what sort of a reception you would accord me?
So, let us hear. When I appear before your holiness, what will you
say to me?"
The abbe, who had been sitting with downcast eyes, and murmuring
from time to time in pleading tones: "Ah, sire! ah, sire!" now
looked up, and a flashing glance fell upon the handsome face of the
king, now glowing with mirth.
"Well?" repeated the king, "what would you say to me?"
"Sire," said Bastiani, bowing reverently, "I would say, 'Almighty
eagle, cover me with your wings, and protect me from your own
beak.'" [Footnote: Bastiani's own words.--See Thiebault, p. 43.]
"That is an answer worthy of your intellect," said the king,
smiling, "and in consideration of it I will excuse you from relating
some little history of your life.--Now, Duke Algarotti, your time
has come. You are the last, and no doubt you will conclude the
"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.
With a gracious but proud nod of his head, he greeted the company
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
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
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."
A WOMAN'S HEART.
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
"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
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
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
was outwardly as calm as his sister; but both concealed under this
cool, indifferent exterior a strong energy, an unfaltering purpose.
They were quiet because they were inflexible.
"And this is the favor you demand of me?" said the king.
"The favor you have promised to grant," said Amelia.
"And if I do this, will you fulfil my wish? Will you become the wife
of the King of Denmark? Ah, you are silent. Now, then, listen.
Consent to become Queen of Denmark, and on the day in which you pass
the boundary of Prussia and enter your own realm as queen, on that
day I will recall Trenck to Berlin, and all shall be forgotten.
Trenck shall again enter my guard, and my ambassador at Vienna shall
appear for him in court. Decide, now, Amelia--will you be Queen of
"Ah, sire, you offer me a cruel alternative. You wish me to purchase
a favor which you had already freely and unconditionally granted."
"You forget, my sister, that I entreat where I have the right to
command. It will be easy to obey when through your obedience you can
make another happy. Once more, then, will you accept my
Amelia did not answer immediately. She fixed her eyes steadily upon
the king's face; their glances met firmly, quietly. Each read in the
eyes of the other inexorable resolve.
"Sire, I cannot accept your proposition; I cannot become the wife of
the King of Denmark."
The king shrank back, and a dark cloud settled upon his brow. He
pressed his hand nervously upon the arm-chair near which he stood,
and forced himself to appear calm. "And why can you not become the
wife of the King of Denmark?"
"Because I have sworn solemnly, calling upon God to witness, that I
will never become the wife of any other man than him whom I love--
because I consider myself bound to God and to my conscience to
fulfil this oath. As I cannot be the wife of Trenck, I will remain
And now the king was crimson with rage, and his eyes flashed
fiercely. "The wife of Trenck!" cried he; "the wife of a traitor!
Ah, you think still of him, and in spite of your vow--in spite of
your solemn oath--you still entertain the hope of this unworthy
"Sire, remember on what conditions my oath was given. You promised
me Trenck should be free, and I swore to give him up--never even to
write to him. Fate did not accept my oath. Trenck fled before you
had time to fulfil your word, and I was thus released from my vow;
and yet I have never written to him--have heard nothing from him. No
one knows better than yourself that I have not heard from him."
"So five years have gone by without his writing to you, and yet you
have the hardihood to-day to call his name!"
"I have the courage, sire, because I know well Trenck has never
ceased to love me. That I have received no letters from him does not
prove that he has not written; it only proves that I am surrounded
by watchful spies, who do not allow his letters to reach me."
"Ah," said the king, with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders,
"you are of the opinion that I have suppressed these letters?"
"Yes, I am of that opinion."
"You deceive yourself, then, Amelia. I have not surrounded you with
spies; I have intercepted no letters. You look at me incredulously.
I declare to you that I speak the truth. Now you can comprehend, my
sister, that your heart has deceived you--you have squandered your
love upon a wretched object who has forgotten you."
"Sire!" cried Amelia, with flaming eyes, "no abuse of the man I
"You love him still!" said the king, white with passion, and no
longer able to control his rage--"you love him still! You have wept
and bewailed him, while he has shamefully betrayed and mocked at
you. Yes, look on me, if you will, with those scornful, rebellious
glances--it is as I say! You must and shall know all! I have spared
you until now; I trusted in your own noble heart! I thought that,
driven by a storm of passion, it had, like a proud river, for one
moment overstepped its bounds; then quietly, calmly resumed that
course which nature and fate had marked out for it. I see now that I
have been deceived in you, as you have been deceived in Trenck! I
tell you he has betrayed you! He, formerly a Prussian officer, at
the luxurious and debauched court of Petersburg, has not only
betrayed you, but his king. At the table of his mistress, the wife
of Bestuchef, he has shown your picture and boasted that you gave it
to him. The Duke of Goltz, my ambassador at the Russian court,
informed me of this; and look you, I did not slay him! I did not
demand of the Empress Anne that the Prussian deserter should be
delivered up. I remembered that you had once loved him, and that I
had promised you to be lenient. But I have had him closely watched.
I know all his deeds; I am acquainted with all his intrigues and
artifices. I know he has had a love-affair with the young Countess
Narischkin--that he continued his attentions long after her marriage
with General Bondurow. Can you believe, my sister, that he
remembered the modest, innocent oaths of love and constancy he had
exchanged with you while enjoying himself in the presence of this
handsome and voluptuous young woman? Do you believe that he recalled
them when he arranged a plan of flight with his beloved, and sought
a safe asylum beyond the borders of Russia? Do you believe that he
thought of you when he received from this ill-regulated woman her
diamonds and all the gold she possessed, in order to smooth the way
to their escape?"
"Mercy, mercy!" stammered Amelia, pale and trembling, and sinking
upon a seat. "Cease, my brother; do you not see that your words are
killing me? Have pity upon me!"
"No! no mercy!" said the king; "you must and you shall know all, in
order that you may be cured of this unholy malady, this shameful
love. You shall know that Trenck not only sells the secrets of
politics, but the secrets of love. Every thing is merchandise with
him, even his own heart. He not only loved the beautiful Bondurow
but he loved her diamonds. This young woman died of the small-pox, a
few days before the plan of flight could be fully arranged. Trenck,
however, became her heir; he refused to give back the brilliants and
the eight thousand rubles which she had placed in his hands."
"Oh my God, my God! grant that I die!" cried the Princess Amelia.
"But the death of his beloved," said the king (without regarding the
wild exclamations of the princess)--"this death was so greatly to
his advantage, that he soon consoled himself with the love of the
attractive Bestuchef--this proud and intriguing woman who now,
through the weakness of her husband, rules over Russia, and
threatens by her plots and intrigues to complicate the history and
peace of Europe. She is neither young nor beautiful; she is forty
years of age, and you cannot believe that Trenck at four-and-twenty
burns with love for her. But she adores him; she loves him with that
mad, bacchantic ardor which the Roman empress Julia felt for the
gladiators, whose magnificent proportions she admired at the circus.
She loved him and confessed it; and his heart, unsubdued by the
ancient charms, yielded to the magic power of her jewels and her
gold. He became the adorer of Bestuchef; he worked diligently in the
cabinet of the chancellor, and appeared to be the best of Russian
patriots, and seemed ready to kiss the knout with the same devotion
with which he kissed the slipper of the chancellor's wife. At this
time I resolved to try his patriotism, and commissioned my
ambassador to see if his patriotic ardor could not be cooled by
gold. Well, my sister, for two thousand ducats, Trenck copied the
design of the fortress of Cronstadt, which the chancellor had just
received from his engineer."
"That is impossible!" said Amelia, whose tears had now ceased to
flow, and who listened to her brother with distended but quiet eyes.
"Impossible!" said Frederick. "Oh my sister, gold has a magic power
to which nothing is impossible! I wished to unmask the traitor
Trenck, and expose him in his true colors to the chancellor. I
ordered Goltz to hand him the copy of the fortress, drawn by Trenck
and signed with his name, and to tell him how he obtained it. The
chancellor was beside himself with rage, and swore to take a right
Russian revenge upon the traitor--he declared he should die under
Amelia uttered a wild cry, and clasped her hands over her convulsed
The king laughed, bitterly. "Compose yourself--we triumphed too
early; we had forgotten the woman! In his rage the chancellor
disclosed every thing to her, and uttered the most furious curses
and resolves against Trenck. She found means to warn him, and, when
the police came in the night to arrest him, he was not at home--he
had taken refuge in the house of his friend the English ambassador,
Lord Hyndforth." [Footnote: Trenck's Memoirs.]
"Ah! he was saved, then?" whispered Amelia.
The king looked at her in amazement. "Yes, he was saved. The next
day, Madame Bestuchef found means to convince her credulous husband
that Trenck was the victim of an intrigue, and entirely innocent of
the charge brought against him. Trenck remained, therefore, the
friend of the house, and Madame Bestuchef had the audacity to
publicly insult my ambassador. Trenck now announced himself as a
raging adversary of Prussia. He inflamed the heart of his powerful
mistress with hate, and they swore the destruction of Prussia. Both
were zealously engaged in changing the chancellor, my private and
confidential friend, into an enemy; and Trenck, the Russian patriot,
entered the service of the house of Austria, to intrigue against me
and my realm. [Footnote: Trenck himself writes on this subject: "I
would at that time have changed my fatherland into a howling
wilderness, if the opportunity had offered. I do not deny that from
this moment I did everything that was possible, in Russia, to
promote the views of the imperial ambassador, Duke Vernis, who knew
how to nourish the fire already kindled, and to make use of my
services."] Bestuchef, however, withstood these intrigues, and in
his distrust he watched over and threatened his faithless wife and
faithless friend. Trenck would have been lost, without doubt, if a
lucky accident had not again rescued him. His cousin the pandour
died in Vienna, and, as Trenck believed that he had left him a
fortune of some millions, he tore his tender ties asunder, and
hastened to Vienna to receive this rich inheritance, which, to his
astonishment, he found to consist not in millions, but in law
processes. This, Amelia, is the history of Trenck during these five
years in which you have received no news from him. Can you still say
that he has never forgotten you? that you are bound to be faithful
to him? You see I do not speak to you as a king, but as a friend,
and that I look at all these unhappy circumstances from your
standpoint. Treat me, then, as a friend, and answer me sincerely. Do
you still feel bound by your oath? Do you not know that he is a
faithless traitor, and that he has forgotten you?"
The princess had listened to the king with a bowed head and downcast
eyes. Now she looked up; the fire of inspiration beamed in her eye,
a melancholy smile played upon her lips.
"Sire," said she, "I took my vow without conditions, and I will keep
it faithfully till my death. Suppose, even, that a part of what you
have said is true, Trenck is young; you cannot expect that his
ardent and passionate heart should be buried under the ashes of the
vase of tears in which our love, in its beauty and bloom, crumbled
to dust. But his heart, however unstable it may appear, turns ever
back faithfully to that fountain, and he seeks to purify and
sanctify the wild and stormy present by the remembrance of the
beautiful and innocent past. You say that Trenck forgot me in his
prosperity: well, then, sire, in his misfortune he has remembered
me. In his misfortune he has forgotten the faithless, cold, and
treacherous letter which I wrote to him, and which he received in
the prison of Glatz. In his wretchedness, he has written to me, and
called upon me for aid. It shall not, be said that I did not hear
his voice--that I was not joyfully ready to serve him!"
"And he has dared to write to you!" said the king, with trembling
lips and scornful eye. "Who was bold enough to hand you this
"Oh, sire, you will not surely demand that I shall betray my
friends! Moreover, if I named the messenger who brought me this
letter, it would answer no purpose; you would arrest and punish him,
and to-morrow I should find another to serve me as well. Unhappy
love finds pity, protection, and friends everywhere. Sire, I repeat
my request--pardon for Baron Trenck!"
"And I," cried the king, in a loud, stern voice, "I ask if you
accept my proposition--if you will become the wife of the King of
Denmark--and, mark well, princess, this is the answer to your
"Sire, may God take pity on me! Punish me with your utmost scorn--I
cannot break my oath! You can force me to leave my vows unfulfilled-
-not to become the wife of the man I love--but you cannot force me
to perjure myself. I should indeed be foresworn if I stepped before
the altar with another man, and promised a love and faith which my
heart knows not, and can never know."
The king uttered a shrill cry of rage; maledictions hung upon his
lips, but he held them back, and forcing himself to appear composed,
he folded his arms, and walked hastily backward and forward through
The princess gazed at him in breathless silence, and with loudly-
beating heart she prayed to God for mercy and help; she felt that
this hour would decide the fate of her whole life. Suddenly the king
stood before her. His countenance was now perfectly composed.
"Princess Amelia," said he, "I give you four weeks' respite.
Consider well what I have said to you. Take counsel with your
conscience, your understanding, and your honor. In four weeks I will
come again to you, and ask if you are resolved to fulfil my request,
and become the wife of the King of Denmark. Until that time, I will
know how to restrain the Danish ambassador. If you dare still to
oppose my will, I will yet fulfil my promise, and grant you the
favor you ask of me. I will make proposals to Trenck to return to
Prussia, and the inducements I offer shall be so splendid that he
will not resist them. Let me once have him here, and it shall be my
affair to hold fast to him."
He bowed to the princess and left the room. Amelia watched him
silently, breathlessly, till he disappeared, then heaved a deep sigh
and called loudly for her maid.
"Ernestine! Ernestine!" said she, with trembling lips, "find me a
faithful messenger whom I can send immediately to Vienna. I must
warn Trenck! Danger threatens him! No matter what my brother's
ambassador may offer him, with what glittering promises he may
allure him, Trenck dare not listen to them, dare not accept them! He
must never return to Prussia--he is lost if he does so!"
Frederick returned slowly and silently to his apartment. As he
thought over the agitating scene he had just passed through, he
murmured lightly, "Oh, woman's heart! thou art like the restless,
raging sea, and pearls and monsters lie in thy depths!"
MADAME VON COCCEJI.
The Marquis d'Argens was right. Barbarina and her sister had left
England and returned to Berlin. They occupied the same expensive and
beautiful hotel in Behren Street; but it was no longer surrounded by
costly equipages, and besieged by gallant cavaliers. The elite of
the court no longer came to wonder and to worship.
Barbarina's house was lonely and deserted, and she herself was
changed. She was no longer the graceful, enchanting prima donna, the
floating sylph; she was a calm, proud woman, almost imposing in her
grave, pale beauty; her melancholy smile touched the heart, while it
contrasted strangely with her flashing eye.
Barbarina was in the same saloon where we last saw her, surrounded
with dukes and princes--worshippers at her shrine! To-day she was
alone; no one was by her side but her faithful sister Marietta. She
lay stretched upon the divan, with her arms folded across her bosom;
her head was thrown back upon the white, gold-embroidered cushion,
and her long, black curls fell in rich profusion around her; with
wide-open eyes she stared upon the ceiling, completely lost in sad
and painful thoughts. At a small table by her side sat her sister
Marietta, busily occupied in opening and reading the letters with
which the table was covered.
And now she uttered a cry of joy, and a happy smile played upon her
face. "A letter from Milan, from the impressario, Bintelli," said
Barbarina remained immovable, and still stared at the ceiling.
"Binatelli offers you a magnificent engagement; he declares that all
Italy languishes with impatience to see you. that every city
implores your presence, and he is ambitious to be the first to
allure you back to your fatherland."
"Did you write to him that I desired an engagement?" said Barbarina.
"No, sister," said Marietta, slightly blushing; "I wrote to him as
to an old and valued friend; I described the restless, weary,
nomadic life we were leading, and told him you had left the London
"And does it follow that I will therefore appear in Milan? Write at
once that I am grateful for his offer, but neither in Milan nor any
other Italian city will I appear upon the stage."
"Ah, Barbarina, will we never again return to our beautiful Italy?"
said Marietta, tearfully.
"Did I say that, sister? I said only, I would not appear in public."
"But, Barbarina, he entreats so earnestly, and he offers you an
"I am rich enough, Marietta."
"No! no one is rich enough! Money is power, and the more millions
one has to spend, the more is one beloved."
"What care I for the love of men? I despise them all--all!" cried
"What! all?" said Marietta, with a meaning smile; "all--even
Babarina raised herself hastily, and leaning upon her elbow, she
gazed with surprise upon her sister. "You think, then, that I love
"Did you not tell me so yourself?"
"Ah! I said so myself, did I?" said Barbarina, contemptuously, and
sinking back into her former quiet position.
"Yes, sister, do you not remember," said Marietta, eagerly; "can you
not recall how sad you were when we left Berlin a year ago? You
sobbed and wept, and looked ever backward from the carriage, then
lightly whispered, 'My happiness, my life, my love remain in
Berlin!' I asked you in what your happiness, your love, your life
consisted. Your answer was, 'Do you not know, then, that I love
Cocceji?' In truth, good sister I did not believe you! I thought you