Part 16 out of 16
No voice answered the prince. Finally, in midst of deep silence, the
"I come to take leave of your royal highness before going to that
exile which his majesty has kindly chosen for me. For, although it
is promotion, you must permit me to reiterate that it is also
banishment, for at Konigsberg I shall not see my prince. But I shall
carry your picture in my heart--there it shall forever dwell."
"We will not make our parting more hard by sweet words," said Prince
Henry, emphasizing the last words. "Bid adieu to my wife, kiss her
hand, and then God be with you!"
The princess, muttering a few incomprehensible words, gave him her
hand, white and colorless as that of a corpse. Count Kalkreuth
touched his lips to it, and they were so cold that the princess
shuddered as if she had been embraced by death itself.
It was their last meeting!--a cold, formal farewell for life. The
count now turned to the prince, who gave him his hand smilingly.
"Farewell, count," said he. Stooping to embrace him, he whispered in
his ear: "You once saved my life, we are now quits, for you have
murdered my heart. Farewell!"
He turned from him. The count, no longer able to suppress his tears,
covered his face with his hands and tottered from the room.
A few hours later he stood in the king's ante-chamber at Sans-Souci.
He had just been announced. He waited long--no one came to conduct
him to the king; every door remained closed, every thing around him
was dull and deserted. It was dark; the sharp April wind was beating
against the window and howling through the chimney. The count's
conscience was busy at work in this gloomy chamber. He could endure
it no longer, and was preparing to leave, when the door was opened,
and an adjutant entered to conduct him to the king's apartments.
The king was in his sitting-room. As Count Kalkreuth entered, he
laid aside the book he had been reading, and rose. In a stern,
imperious manner he advanced to meet him.
"As my brother desired it, I have appointed you lieutenant-general
of the third army corps," said he, harshly. "You leave at once for
Konigsberg--you know your duties. Go, and endeavor to fulfil them."
"Sire!" said the count, softly.
"Go! not another word!"
Count Kalkreuth, almost unable to make the military salute, left the
room, stifling his anger.
The king looked after him thoughtfully. "Poor Henry!" murmured he,
softly, "had you also to receive the Judas-kiss from a friend? Poor
brother! you were so happy--why did cruel fate disenchant you? There
is much in being happy in your own estimation--there is upon the
earth no other sort of happiness; and whether true or false, the
peace it brings is alike. I, I am so poor that I no longer believe
in the one or the other. And still men envy me! Envy a poor,
disenchanted, solitary man--envy him because he wears a crown! What
sort of an existence have I? My life is full of work, full of
sorrow, nothing else! I work for my subjects; they do not thank me,
and will greet and welcome my successor some day, be he ever so mean
and contemptible, as they once greeted and welcomed me. The love of
a people for their king is a love full of egotism and self-interest.
Who has ever loved me otherwise than selfishly? I met my friends
with an open heart--when with them I forgot that I was a king, but
they never forgot it; not one, not a single one loved in me the man.
The foolish populace call me a hero, and speak of the laurels that
crown my brow, but of the thorns they have woven in it they know
nothing. Would I need have no more to do with men, for they have
poor, slavish souls! They deceive themselves--they all deceive me."
As the king ceased speaking, he felt his foot touched. Somewhat
startled, he looked down. His greyhound Diana was lying at his feet,
gazing at him with her large, intelligent eyes. A soft smile crossed
Frederick's countenance. Stooping to caress her, he said:
"You come to remind me that there is still love and truth upon the
earth, but one must not be silly enough to look for it among men.
Come here, Diana, my little companion; I was wrong to call myself
solitary, for are you not here? and then have I not my flute? Is she
not a loving, trustworthy friend, to whom every thing can be
confided? You two shall be my sole companions this evening."
Raising his flute, he commenced to play softly, walking up and down
his room. Diana followed him slowly, listening in seeming devotion
to the long, wailing tones of her rival.
Sad and wonderful to hear was the music of this solitary king; like
broken, dying sighs and sobs were its tones; and the howling wind,
rushing in through the window, added its mournful wail to Federick
the Great's song of woe.