Part 8 out of 8
upon the sofa, she made a slight movement and heaved a deep sigh.
"Now the storm will break forth," thought Pollnitz, anxiously, and
he ordered the servants to return to the carriage and await his
return. He desired no witnesses of the scene which he expected, and
in which he had good reason to believe that he would play but a
Anna Prickerin now opened her eyes; her first glance fell upon
Pollnitz, who was bending over her with a tender smile.
"What happiness, dearest," he whispered, "that you at last open your
eyes! I was dying with anxiety."
Anna did not answer at once; her eyes were directed with a dreamy
expression to the smiling countenance of Pollnitz, and while he
recounted his own tender care, and the gracious sympathy of the
king, Anna appeared to be slowly waking out of her dream. Now a ray
of consciousness and recollection overspread her features, and
throwing up her arm with a rapid movement she administered a
powerful blow on the cheek of her tender, smiling lover, who fell
back with his hand to his face, whimpering with pain.
"Why did you shrug your shoulders?" she said, her lips trembling
with anger, and, springing up from the sofa, she approached Pollnitz
with a threatening expression, who, expecting a second explosion,
drew back, "Why did you shrug your shoulders?" repeated Anna.
"I am not aware that I did so, my Anna," stammered Pollnitz.
She stamped impatiently on the floor. "I am not your Anna. You are a
faithless, treacherous man, and I despise you; you are a coward, you
have not the courage to defend the woman you have sworn to love and
protect. When I ceased singing, why did you not applaud?"
"Dearest Anna," said Pollnitz, "you are not acquainted with court
etiquette; you do not know that at court it is only the king who
"You all broke out into a storm of applause as Farinelli finished
"Because the king gave the sign."
Anna shrugged her shoulders contemptuously, and paced the floor with
rapid steps. "You think that all my hopes, all my proud dreams for
the future are destroyed," she murmured, with trembling lips, while
the tears rolled slowly down her cheeks. "To think that the king and
the whole court laughed while I sang, and that presumptuous Italian
heard and saw it all--I shall die of this shame and disgrace. My
future is annihilated, my hopes trodden under foot." She covered her
face with her hands, and wept and sobbed aloud.
Pollnitz had no pity for her sufferings, but he remembered his
creditors, and this thought rekindled his extinguished tenderness.
He approached her, and gently placed his arm around her neck.
"Dearest," he murmured, "why do you weep, how can this little
mischance make you so wretched? Do we not love each other? are you
not still my best beloved, my beautiful, my adored Anna? Have you
not sworn that you love me, and that you ask no greater happiness
than to be united to me?"
Anna raised her head that she might see this tender lover.
"It is true," proceeded Pollnitz, "that you did not receive the
applause this evening which your glorious talent deserves; Farinelli
was in your way. The king has a prejudice against German singers; he
says, 'The Germans can compose music, but they cannot sing.' That
prejudice is a great advantage for the Italian. If you had borne an
Italian name, the king would have been charmed with your wonderful
voice; but you are a German, and he refuses you his approval. But
what has been denied you here, you will easily obtain elsewhere. We
will leave this cold, ungrateful Berlin, my beloved. You shall take
an Italian name, and through my various connections I can make
arrangements for you to sing at many courts. You will win fame and
gold, and we will live a blessed and happy life."
"I care nothing for the gold; I am rich, richer than I even dreamed.
My father told me to-day that he possessed nearly seven hundred
thousand dollars, and that he would disinherit my brother, who is
now absent from Berlin. I will be his heiress, and very soon, for
the physicians say he can only live a few days."
The eyes of the baron gleamed. "Has your father made his will? has
he declared you his heiress?"
"He intended doing so to-day. He ordered the lawyers to come to him,
and I believe they were here when I started to this miserable
concert. It was not on account of the money, but for fame, that I
desired to become a prima donna. But I renounce my intention; this
evening has shown me many thorns where I thought to find only roses.
I renounce honor and renown, and desire only to be happy, happy in
your love and companionship."
"You are right; we will fly from this cold, faithless Berlin to
happier regions. The world will know no happier couple than the
Baron and Baroness von Pollnitz."
Pollnitz now felt no repugnance at the thought that the tailor's
daughter had the presumptuous idea of becoming his wife. He forgave
her low origin for the sake of her immense fortune, and thought it
not a despicable lot to be the husband of the beautiful Anna
Prickerin. He assured her of his love in impassioned words, and Anna
listened with beaming eyes and a happy smile. Suddenly a loud
weeping and crying, proceeding from the next room, interrupted this
"My father, it is my father!" cried Anna, as she hastened to the
door of the adjoining room, which, as we know, contained the
ancestral portraits of the Prickers. Pollnitz followed her. In this
room, surrounded by his ancestors, the worthy tailor lay upon his
death-bed. Pale and colorless as the portraits was the face of the
poor man; but his eyes were gleaming with a wild, feverish glitter.
As he perceived Anna in her splendid French costume, so wild and
fearful a laugh burst from his lips, that even Pollnitz trembled.
"Come to me," said the old man, with a stammering voice, as he
motioned to his daughter to approach his couch. "You and your
brother have broken my heart; you have given me daily a drop of
poison, of which I have been slowly dying. Your brother left my
house as the prodigal son, but he has not returned a penitent; he
glories in his crime; he is proud of his shame. Here is a letter
which I received from him to-day, in which he informs me that he has
eloped with the daughter of my second murderer, this French
Pelissier; and that he intends to become an actor, and thus drag
through the dust the old and respectable name of his fathers. For
this noble work he demands his mother's fortune. He shall have it--
yes, he shall have it; it is five thousand dollars, but from me he
receives nothing but my curse, and I pray to God that it may ring
forever in his ears!"
The old man lay back exhausted, and groaned aloud. Anna stood with
tearless eyes by the death-bed of her father, and thought only of
the splendid future which each passing moment brought nearer.
Pollnitz had withdrawn to one of the windows, and was considering
whether he should await the death of the old man or return
immediately to the king.
Suddenly Pricker opened his eyes, and turned them with an angry and
malicious expression toward his daughter.
"What a great lady you are!" he said, with a fearful grin; "dressed
in the latest fashion, and a wonderful songstress, who sings before
the king and his court. Such a great lady must be ashamed that her
father is a tailor. I appreciate that, and I am going to my grave,
that I may not trouble my daughter. Yes, I am going, and nothing
shall remind the proud songstress of me, neither my presence nor any
of my possessions. A prima donna would not be the heiress of a
The old man broke out into a wild laugh, while Anna stared at him,
and Pollnitz came forward to hear and observe.
"I do not understand you, my father," said Anna, trembling and
"You will soon understand me," stammered the old man, with a hoarse
laugh. "When I am dead, and the lawyers come and read my will, which
I gave them to-day, then you will know that I have left my fortune
to the poor of the city, and not to this great songstress, who does
not need it, as she has a million in her throat. My son an actor, my
daughter a prima donna--it is well. I go joyfully to my grave, and
thank God for my release. Ah! you shall remember your old father;
you shall curse me, as I have cursed you; and as you will shed no
tears at my death, it shall, at least, be a heavy blow to you. You
are disinherited! both disinherited! the poor are my heirs, and you
and your brother will receive nothing but the fortune of your
mother, of which I, unfortunately, cannot deprive you."
"Father, father, this is not possible--this cannot be your
determination!" cried Anna. "It is not possible for a father to be
so cruel, so unnatural, as to disinherit his children!"
"Have you not acted cruelly and unnaturally to me?" asked the old
man; "have you not tortured me? have you not murdered me, with a
smile upon your lips, as you did your poor mother, who died of
grief? No, no, no pity for unnatural children. You are
The old man fell back with a loud shriek upon his couch, and his
features assumed that fixed expression which is death's herald.
"He is dying!" cried Anna, throwing herself beside her father; "he
is dying, and he has disinherited me!"
"Yes, disinherited!" stammered the heavy tongue of the dying man.
Pollnitz trembled at the fearful scene; he fled with hasty steps
from this gloomy room, and only recovered his composure when once
more seated in his carriage. After some moments of reflection, he
"I will ask the king for my release from his service, and I will
become a Protestant, and hasten to Nuremberg, and marry the rich
They sat hand in hand in the quiet and fragrant conservatory; after
a long separation they gazed once more in each other's eyes,
doubting the reality of their happiness, and asking if it were not a
dream, a delightful dream.
This was the first time since his return from Silesia that Prince
Augustus William had seen his Laura alone; the first time he could
tell her of his longing and his suffering; the first time she could
whisper in his ear the sweet and holy confession of her love--a
confession that none should hear but her lover and her God.
But there were four ears which heard every thing; four eyes which
saw all that took place in the myrtle arbor. Louise von Schwerin and
her lover, the handsome Fritz Wendel, sat arm in arm in the grotto,
and listened attentively to the conversation of the prince and his
"How happy they are!" whispered Louise, with a sigh.
"Are we not also happy?" asked Fritz Wendel, tenderly, clasping his
arm more firmly around her. "Is not our love as ardent, as
passionate, and as pure as theirs?"
"And yet the world would shed tears of pity for them, while we would
be mocked and laughed at," said Louise, sighing.
"It is true that the love of the poor gardener for the beautiful
Mademoiselle von Schwerin is only calculated to excite ridicule,"
murmured Fritz Wendel; "but that shall and will be changed; I shall
soon begin the new career which I have planned for myself; my Louise
need then no longer blush for her lover, and my adoration for her
shall no longer be a cause of shame and humiliation. I have a means
by which I can purchase rank and position, and I intend to employ
"Pray tell me how; let me know your plans," said Louise. He pointed
with a cruel smile to the lovers in the myrtle arbor.
"This secret is my purchase money," said he, whispering; "I shall
betray them to the king; and he will give me rank and wealth for
this disclosure; for upon this secret depends the future of Prussia.
Let us, therefore, listen attentively to what they say, that--"
"No," said Louise, interrupting him with vivacity, "we will not
listen. It is cruel and ignoble to desire to purchase our own
happiness with the misery of others; it is--"
"For Heaven's sake be quiet and listen!" said Fritz Wendel, softly,
laying his hand on her angry lips.
The conversation of the lovers in the myrtle arbor had now taken
another direction. Their eyes no longer sparkled with delight, but
had lost their lustre, and an expression of deep sadness rested on
"Is it then really true?" said Laura, mournfully; "you are affianced
to the Princess of Brunswick?"
"It is true," said the prince, in a low voice. "There was no other
means of securing and preserving our secret than to seem to yield to
the king's command, and to consent to this alliance with a good
grace. This cloak will shield our love until we can acknowledge it
before the whole world; and that depends, my beloved, upon you
alone. Think of the vows of eternal love and fidelity we have made
to each other; remember that you have promised to be mine for all
eternity, and to devote your whole life to me; remember that you
wear my engagement-ring on your finger, and are my bride."
"And yet you are affianced to another, and wear another engagement
"But this princess, to whom I have been affianced, knows that I do
not love her. I have opened my heart to her; I told her that I loved
you alone, and could never love another; that no woman but Laura von
Pannewitz should ever be my wife; and she was generous enough to
give her assistance and consent to be considered my bride until our
union should no longer need this protection. And now, my dear Laura,
I conjure you, by our love and the happiness of our lives, yield to
my ardent entreaties and my fervent prayers; have the courage to
defy the world and its prejudices. Follow me, my beloved; flee with
me and consent to be my wife!"
The glances with which he regarded her were so loving, so imploring,
that Laura could not find in her heart to offer decided resistance.
Her own heart pleaded for him; and now when she might altogether
lose him if she refused his request, now that he was affianced to
another, she was filled with a torturing jealousy; she was now
conscious that it would be easier to die than renounce her lover.
But she still had the strength to battle with her own weak heart, to
desire to shut out the alluring voices which resounded in her own
breast. Like Odysseus, she tried to be deaf to the sirens' voices
which tempted her. But she still heard them, and although she had
found strength to refuse her lover's prayers and entreaties to flee
with him, yet she could not repel his passionate appeals to her to
be his wife.
It was so sweet to listen to the music of his voice; such bliss to
lean her head on his shoulder, to look up into his handsome
countenance and to drink in the words of ardent and devoted love
which fell from his lips; to know what he suffers is for your sake!
It rests with you to give him happiness or despair. She knew not
that the words which she drank in were coursing like fire through
her own veins, destroying her resolution and turning her strength to
As he, at last, brought to despair by her silence and resistance,
burst into tears, and accused her of cruelty and indifference, as
she saw his noble countenance shadowed with pain and sorrow, she no
longer found courage to offer resistance, and throwing herself into
his arms, with a happy blush, she whispered:
"Take me; I am yours forever! I accept you as my master and husband.
Your will shall be mine; what you command I will obey; where you
call me there will I go; I will follow you to the ends of the earth,
and nothing but death shall hereafter separate us!"
The prince pressed her closely and fervently to his heart, and
kissed her pure brow.
"God bless you, my darling; God bless you for this resolution." His
voice was now firm and full, and his countenance had assumed an
expression of tranquillity and energy. He was no longer the sighing,
despairing lover, but a determined man, who knew what his wishes
were, and had the courage and energy to carry them into execution.
Fritz Wendel pressed Louise more closely to his side, and whispered:
"You say that Laura is an angel of virtue and modesty, and yet she
has not the cruel courage to resist her lover; she yields to his
entreaties, and is determined to flee with him. Will you be less
kind and humane than this tender, modest Laura? Oh, Louise, you
should also follow your tender, womanly heart; flee with me and
become my wife. I will conceal you, and then go to those who would
now reject my suit scornfully, and dictate terms to them."
"I will do as she does," whispered Louise, with glowing cheeks.
"What Laura can do, I may also do; if she flies with her lover, I
will fly with you; if she becomes his wife, I will be yours. But let
us be quiet, and listen."
"And now, my Laura, listen attentively to every word I utter," said
Prince Augustus William, gravely. "I have made all the necessary
preparations, and in a week you will be my wife. There is a good and
pious divine on one of my estates who is devoted to me. He has
promised to perform the marriage ceremony. On leaving Berlin we will
first flee to him, and our union will receive his blessing in the
village church at night; a carriage will await us at the door,
which, with fresh relays of horses, will rapidly conduct us to the
Prussian boundary. I have already obtained from my friend the
English ambassador a passport, which will carry us safely to England
under assumed names; once there, my uncle, the King of England, will
not refuse his protection and assistance; and by his intercession we
will be reconciled to the king my brother. When he sees that our
union has been accomplished, he will give up all useless attempts to
"But he can and will punish you for this; you will thereby forfeit
your right of succession to the throne, and for my sake you will be
forced to renounce your proud and brilliant future."
"I shall not regret it," said the prince, smiling. "I do not long
for a crown, and will not purchase this bauble of earthly
magnifisence at the expense of my happiness and my love. And perhaps
I have not the strength, the talent, or the power of intellect to be
a ruler. It suffices me to rule in your heart, and be a monarch in
the kingdom of your love. If I can therefore purchase the
uncontested possession of my beloved by renouncing all claims to the
throne, I shall do so with joy and without the slightest regret."
"But I, poor, humble, weak girl that I am, how can I make good the
loss you will sustain for my sake?" asked Laura.
"Your love will be more than a compensation. You must now lay aside
all doubt and indecision. You know our plans for the future. On my
part all the preliminary measures have been taken; you should also
make whatever preparations are necessary. It is Hartwig, the curate
of Oranienburg, who is to marry us. Send the necessary apparel and
whatever you most need to him, without a word or message. The curate
has already been advised of their arrival, and will retain the
trunks unopened. On next Tuesday, a week from to-day, the king will
give a ball. For two days previous to this ball you will keep your
room on the plea of sickness; this will be a sufficient excuse for
your not accompanying the queen. I shall accept the invitation, but
will not appear at the ball, and will await you at the castle gate
of Monbijou. At eight o'clock the ball commences; at nine you will
leave your room and the castle, at the gate of which I will receive
you. At a short distance from the gate a carriage will be in
readiness to convey us to Oranienburg, where we will stop before the
village church. There we will find a preacher standing before the
altar, ready to perform the ceremony, and when this is accomplished
we will enter another carriage which will rapidly convey us to
Hamburg, where we will find a ship, hired by the English ambassador,
ready to take us to England. You see, dear Laura, that every thing
has been well considered, and nothing can interfere with our plans,
now that we understand each other. In a week, therefore, remember,
"In a week," she whispered. "I have no will but yours."
"Until then we will neither see nor speak with each other, that no
thoughtless word may excite suspicion in the breasts of the spies
who surround us. We must give each other no word, no message, no
letter, or sign; but I will await you at the castle gate at nine
o'clock on next Tuesday, and you will not let me wait in vain."
"No, you shall not wait in vain," whispered Laura, with a happy
smile, hiding her blushing face on the breast of her lover.
"And you, will you let me wait in vain?" asked Fritz Wendel, raising
Louise's head from his breast, and gazing on her glowing and dreamy
"No, I shall not let you wait in vain," said Louise von Schwerin.
"We will also have our carriage, only we will leave a little sooner
than the prince and Laura. We will also drive to Oranienburg, and
await the prince before the door of the church. We will tell him we
knew his secret and did not betray him. We will acknowledge our
love, Laura will intercede for us, and the preacher will have to
perform the ceremony for two couples instead of one. We will then
accompany the prince and his wife in their flight to England; from
there the prince will obtain pardon of the king, and we the
forgiveness of my family. Oh, this is a splendid, a magnificent
plan!--a flight, a secret marriage at night, and a long journey.
This will be quite like the charming romances which I am so fond of,
and mine will be a fantastic and adventurous life. But what is
that?" said she. "Did you hear nothing? It seems to me I heard a
noise as of some one opening the outer door of the conservatory."
"Be still," murmured Fritz Wendel, "I heard it also; let us
therefore be on our guard."
The prince and Laura had also heard this noise, and were listening
in breathless terror, their glances fastened on the door. Perhaps it
was only the wind which had moved the outer door; perhaps--but no,
the door opened noiselessly, and a tall female figure cautiously
entered the saloon.
"The queen!" whispered Laura, trembling.
"My mother!" murmured the prince, anxiously looking around for some
means of escape. He now perceived the dark grotto, and pointing
rapidly toward it, he whispered: "Quick, quick, conceal yourself
there. I will remain and await my mother."
The stately figure of the queen could already be seen rapidly
advancing through the flowers and shrubbery, and now her sparkling
eye and proud and angry face were visible.
"Quick," whispered the prince, "conceal yourself, or we are lost!"
Laura slipped hastily behind the myrtle and laurel foliage and
attained the asylum of the grotto, unobserved by the queen; she
entered and leaned tremblingly against the inner wall. Blinded by
the sudden darkness, she could see nothing, and she was almost
benumbed with terror.
Suddenly she heard a low, whispering voice at her side: "Laura, dear
Laura, fear nothing. We are true friends, who know your secret, and
desire to assist you."
"Follow me, mademoiselle," whispered another voice; "confide in us
as we confide in you. We know your secret; you shall learn ours.
Give me your hand; I will conduct you from this place noiselessly
and unobserved, and you can then return to the castle."
Laura hardly knew what she was doing. She was gently drawn forward,
and saw at her side a smiling girlish face, and now she recognized
the little maid of honor, Louise von Schwerin.
"Louise," said she, in a low voice, "what does all this mean?"
"Be still," she whispered: "follow him down the stairway. Farewell!
I will remain and cover the retreat."
Louise now hastily concealed the opening through which Fritz Wendel
and Laura had disappeared, and then slipped noiselessly back to the
grotto, and concealed herself behind the shrubbery at its entrance,
so that she could see and hear every thing that took place.
It was in truth Queen Sophia Dorothea, who had dismissed her
attendants and come alone to the conservatory at this unusual hour.
This was the time at which the queen's maids of honor were not on
service, and were at liberty to do as they pleased. The queen had
been in the habit of reposing at this time, but to-day she could not
find rest; annoyed at her sleeplessness, she had arisen, and in
walking up and down had stepped to the window and looked dreamily
down into the still and desolate garden. Then it was that she
thought she saw a female figure passing hurriedly down the avenue.
It must have been one of her maids of honor; and although the queen
had not recognized her, she was convinced that it was none other
than Laura von Pannewitz, and that she was now going to a rendezvous
with her unknown lover, whom the queen had hitherto vainly
endeavored to discover. The queen called her waiting-maids to her
assistance, and putting on her furs and hood, she told them she felt
a desire to take a solitary walk in the garden, and that none of her
attendants should be called, with which she hurried into the garden,
following the same path which the veiled lady had taken. She
followed the foot-tracks in the snow to the conservatory, and
entered without hesitation, determined to discover the secret of her
maid of honor, and to punish her.
It was fortunate for the poor lovers that the increasing corpulence
of the queen and her swollen right foot rendered her advance rather
slow, so that when she at last reached the lower end of the
conservatory she found no one there but her son Augustus William,
whose embarrassed and constrained reception of herself convinced the
queen that her appearance was not only a surprise, but also a
disagreeable one. She therefore demanded of him with severity the
cause of his unexpected and unusual visit to her conservatory; and
when Augustus William smilingly replied--
"That he had awaited here the queen's awakening, in order that he
might pay his visit--"
The queen asked abruptly: "And who, my son, helped to dispel the
ennui of this tedious waiting?"
"No one, my dear mother," said the prince; but he did not dare to
meet his mother's penetrating glance.
"No one?" repeated she; "but I heard you speaking on entering the
"You know, your majesty, that I have inherited the habit of speaking
aloud to myself from my father," replied the prince, with a
"The king my husband did not cease speaking when I made his
appearance," exclaimed the queen, angrily; "he had no secrets to
hide from me."
"The thoughts of my royal father were grand, and worthy of the
sympathy of Queen Sophia Dorothea," said the prince, bowing low.
"God forbid that the thoughts of his son should be of another and
less worthy character!" exclaimed the queen. "My sons should, at
least, be too proud to soil their lips with an untruth; and if they
have the courage to do wrong, they should also find courage to
"I do not understand you, my dear mother;" and meeting her
penetrating glance with quiet composure, he continued, "I am
conscious of no wrong, and consequently have none to acknowledge."
"This is an assurance which deserves to be unmasked," exclaimed the
queen, who could no longer suppress her anger. "You must know,
prince, that I am not to be deceived by your seeming candor and
youthful arrogance. I know that you were not alone, for I myself saw
the lady coming here who kept you company while awaiting me, and I
followed her to this house."
"Then it seems that your majesty has followed a fata morgana" said
the prince, with a forced smile; "for, as you see, I am alone, and
no one else is present in the conservatory."
But even while speaking, the prince glanced involuntarily toward the
grotto which concealed his secret.
The Queen Sophia Dorothea caught this glance, and divined its
"There is no one in the saloon, and it now remains to examine the
grotto," said she, stepping forward hastily.
The prince seized her hand, and endeavored to hold her back.
"I conjure you, mother, do not go too far in your suspicion and your
examinations. Remember that your suspicion wounds me."
The queen gave him a proud, angry glance.
"I am here on my own property," said she, withdrawing her hand, "and
no one shall oppose my will."
"Well, then, madame, follow your inclination," said the prince, with
a resolute air; "I wished to spare you an annoyance. Let discord and
sorrow come over us, if your majesty will have it so; and as you are
inexorable, you will also find me firm and resolute. Examine the
grotto, if you will."
He offered her his arm and conducted her to the grotto. Sophia
Dorothea felt disarmed by her son's resolute bearing, and she was
almost convinced that she had done him injustice, and that no one
was concealed in the grotto. With a benignant smile she had turned
to her son, to say a few soothing words, when she heard a low rustle
among the shrubbery, and saw something white flitting through the
"And you say, my son, that I was deceived by a fata morgana"
exclaimed the queen, hurrying forward with outstretched arm. "Come,
my young lady, and save us and yourself the shame of drawing you
forcibly from your hiding-place."
The queen had not been mistaken. Something moved among the
shrubbery, and now a female figure stepped forth and threw herself
at the feet of the queen.
"Pardon, your majesty, pardon! I am innocent of any intention to
intrude on your majesty's privacy. I had fallen asleep in this
grotto, and awoke when it was too late to escape, as your majesty
was already at the entrance of the conservatory. In this manner I
have been an involuntary witness of your conversation. This is my
The queen listened with astonishment, while the prince regarded with
consternation the kneeling girl who had been found here in the place
of his Laura.
"This is not the voice of Mademoiselle von Pannewitz," said the
queen, as she passed out into the light, and commanded the kneeling
figure to follow her, that she might see her face. The lady arose
and stepped forward. "Louise von Schwerin!" exclaimed the queen and
the prince at the same time, while the little maid of honor folded
her hands imploringly, and said, with an expression of childish
"O your majesty, have compassion with me! Yesterday's ball made me
so very tired; and as your majesty was sleeping, I thought I would
come here and sleep a little too, although I had not forgotten that
your majesty was not pleased to have us visit this conservatory
Sophia Dorothea did not honor her with a glance; her eyes rested on
her son with an expression of severity and scorn.
"Really, I had a better opinion of you," said she. "It is no great
achievement to mislead a child, and one that is altogether unworthy
of a royal prince."
"My mother," exclaimed the prince, indignantly, "you do not believe-
"I believe what I see," said the queen, interrupting him. "Have done
with your assurances of innocence, and bow to the truth, which has
judged you in spite of your denial. And you, my young lady, will
accompany me, and submit to my commands in silence, and without
excuses. Come, and assume a cheerful and unconstrained air, if you
please. I do not wish my court to hear of this scandal, and to read
your guilt in your terrified countenance. I shall take care that you
do not betray your guilt in words. Come."
The prince looked after them with an expression of confusion and
astonishment. "Well, no matter how this riddle is solved," murmured
he, after the queen had left the conservatory with her maid of
honor, "Laura is safe at all events, and in a week we will flee."
Three days had slowly passed by, and Fritz Wendel waited in vain for
a sign or message from his beloved. He groped his way every day
through the subterranean alley to the grotto, and stood every night
under her window, hoping in vain for a signal or soft whisper from
The windows were always curtained and motionless, and no one could
give the unhappy gardener any news of the poor Louise von Schwerin,
who was closely confined in her room, and confided to the special
guard of a faithful chambermaid.
The queen told her ladies that Louise was suffering from an
infectious disease; the queen's physician confirmed this opinion,
and cautioned the ladies of the court against any communication with
the poor invalid. No special command was therefore necessary to keep
the maids of honor away from the prisoner; she was utterly
neglected, and her old companions passed her door with flying steps.
But the queen, as it appeared, did not fear this contagion; she was
seen to enter the sick girl's room every day, and to remain a long
time. The tender sympathy of the queen excited the admiration of the
whole court, and no one guessed what torturing anxiety oppressed the
heart of the poor prisoner whenever the queen entered the room; no
one heard the stern, hard, threatening words of Sophia; no one
supposed that she came, not to nurse the sick girl, but to overwhelm
her with reproaches.
Louise withstood all the menaces and upbraidings of the queen
bravely; she had the courage to appear unembarrassed, and, except to
reiterate her innocence, to remain perfectly silent. She knew well
that she could not betray Laura without compromising herself; she
knew that if the queen discovered the mysterious flight of Laura,
she would, at the same time, be informed of her love affair with the
poor gardener, and of their secret assignations. Louise feared that
she would be made laughable and ridiculous by this exposure, and
this fear made her resolute and decided, and enabled her to bear her
weary imprisonment patiently. "I cannot be held a prisoner for
ever," she said to herself. "If I confess nothing, the queen must at
last be convinced of my innocence, and set me at liberty."
But Fritz Wendel was less patient than his cunning Louise. He could
no longer support this torture; and as the fourth day brought no
intelligence, and no trace of Louise, he was determined to dare the
worst, and, like Alexander, to cut the gordian knot which he could
not untie. With bold decision he entered the castle and demanded to
speak with the king, stating that he had important discoveries to
The king received him instantly, and at Fritz Wendel's request
dismissed his adjutants.
"Now we are without witnesses, speak," said the king.
"I know a secret, your majesty, which concerns the honour and the
future of the royal family; and you will graciously pardon me when I
say I will not sell this secret except for a great price."
The king's eyes rested upon the impudent face of Fritz Wendel with a
dangerous expression. "Name your price," said he, "but think well.
If your secret is not worth the price you demand, you may perhaps
pay for it with your head, certainly with your liberty."
"My secret is of the greatest value, for it will save the dynasty of
the Hohenzollerns," said Fritz Wendel, boldly; "but I will sell it
to your majesty--I will disclose it only after you have graciously
promised me my price."
"Before I do that I must know your conditions," said the king, with
difficulty subduing his rage.
"I demand for myself a major's commission, and the hand of
Mademoiselle von Schwerin."
In the beginning the king looked at the bold speaker with angry
amazement; soon, however, his glance became kind and pitiful. "I
have to do with a madman," thought he; "I will be patient, and give
way to his humor. I grant you your price," said he; "speak on."
So Fritz Wendel began. He made known the engagement of the prince;
he explained the plan of flight; he was so clear, so exact in all
his statements, that Frederick soon saw he was no maniac; that these
were no pictures of a disordered brain, but a threatening, frightful
When the gardener had closed, the king, his arms folded across his
back, walked several times backward and forward through the room;
then suddenly stopped before Fritz Wendel, and seemed, with his
sharp glance, to probe the bottom of his soul.
"Can you write?" said the king.
"I can write German, French, English, and Latin," said he, proudly.
"Seat yourself there, and write what I shall dictate in German. Does
Mademoiselle von Schwerin know your hand?"
"Sire, she has received at least twenty letters from me."
"Then write now, as I shall dictate, the one-and-twentieth."
It was a short, laconic, but tender and impressive love-letter,
which Frederick dictated. Fritz Wendel implored his beloved to keep
her promise, and on the same day in which the prince would fly with
Laura to escape with him to Oranienburg, to entreat the protection
of the prince, and through his influence to induce the priest to
perform the marriage ceremony; he fixed the time and hour of flight,
and besought her to leave the castle punctually, and follow him,
without fear, who would be found waiting for her at the castle gate.
Now, sign it," said the king," and fold it as you are accustomed to
do. Give me the letter; I will see that it is delivered."
"And my price, majesty," said Fritz, for the first time trembling.
The king's clouded brow threatened a fearful storm. "You shall have
the price which your treachery and your madness has earned," said
Frederick, in that tone which made all who heard it tremble. "Yes,
you shall have what you have earned, and what your daring insolence
deserves. Were all these things true which you have related with so
bold a brow, you would deserve to be hung; you would have committed
a twofold crime!--have been the betrayer of a royal prince--have
watched him like a base spy, and listened to his secrets, in order
to sell them, and sought to secure your own happiness by the misery
of two noble souls! You would have committed the shameful and
unpardonable crime of misleading an innocent child, who, by birth,
rank, and education, is eternally separated from you. Happily for
you, all this romance is the birth of your sick fancy. I will not,
therefore, punish you, but I will cure you, as fools and madmen are
cured; I will send you to a madhouse until your senses are restored,
and you confess that this wild story is the picture of your
disordered brain--until you swear that these are bold lies with
which you have abused my patience. The restored invalid will receive
my forgiveness--the obstinate culprit, never!"
The king rang the bell, and said to his adjutants, "Take this man
out, and deliver him to the nearest sentinels; command them to place
him at once in the military hospital; he is to be secured in the
wards prepared for madmen--no man shall speak with him; and if he
utters any wild and senseless tales, I am to be informed of it."
"Oh, sire! pardon, pardon! Send me not into the insane asylum. I
will retract all; I will believe that all this is false; that I have
The king nodded to his adjutants, and they dragged the sobbing,
praying gardener from the room, and gave him to the watch.
The king looked after him sadly. "And Providence makes use of such
pitiful men to control the fate of nations," said he. "A miserable
garden-boy and a shameless maid of honor are the chosen instruments
to serve the dynasty of the Hohenzollerns, and to rob the prince
royal of Prussia of his earthly happiness! Upon what weak, fine
threads hang the majesty and worth of kings! Alas, how often
wretched and powerless man looks out from under the purple! In spite
of all my power and greatness--in spite of my army, the prince would
have flown, and committed a crime, that perhaps God and his
conscience might have pardoned, but his king never! Poor William,
you will pay dearly for this short, sweet dream of love, and your
heart and its illusions will be trodden under foot, even as mine
have been. Yes, alas! it is scarcely nine years, and it seems to me
I am a hundred years older--that heavy blocks of ice are encamped
about my heart, and I know that, day by day this ice will become
harder. The world will do its part--this poor race of men, whom I
would so gladly love, and whom I am learning daily to despise more
He walked slowly to and fro; his face was shadowed by melancholy. In
a short time he assumed his wonted expression, and, raising his
head, his eyes beamed with a noble fire.
"I will not be cruel! If I must destroy his happiness, it shall not
be trodden under foot as common dust and ashes. Alas, alas! how did
they deal with me? My friend was led to execution, and a poor
innocent child was stripped and horsewhipped through the streets,
because she dared to love the crown prince! No, no; Laura von
Pannewitz shall not share the fate of Dorris Ritter. I must destroy
the happiness of my brother, but I will not cover his love with
So saying, the king rang, and ordered his carriage to be brought
round. He placed the letter, which he had dictated to Fritz Wendel,
in his pocket, and drove rapidly to the queen-mother's palace.
Frederick had a long and secret interview with his mother. The
ladies in the next room heard the loud and angry voice of the queen,
but they could not distinguish her words. It seemed to them that she
was weeping, not from sorrow or pain, but from rage and scorn, for
now and then they heard words of menace, and her voice was harsh. At
last, a servant was directed to summon Mademoiselle von Pannewitz to
the presence of the queen.
He soon returned, stating that Mademoiselle Laura's room was empty,
and that she had gone to Schonhausen to visit Queen Elizabeth
"I will follow her there myself," said the king, "and your majesty
may rest assured that Queen Elizabeth will assist us to separate
these unhappy lovers as gently as possible."
"Ah, you pity them still, my son?" said the queen, shrugging her
"Yes, madame, I pity all those who are forced to sacrifice their
noblest, purest feelings to princely rank. I pity them; but I cannot
allow them to forget their duty."
Laura von Pannewitz had lived through sad and weary days since her
last interview with the prince. The enthusiasm and exaltation of her
passion had soon been followed by repentance. The prince's eloquent
words had lost their power of conviction, now that she was no more
subject to the magic of his glance and his imposing beauty. He stood
no longer before her, in the confidence of youth, to banish doubts
and despair from her soul, and convince her of the justification of
Laura was now fully conscious that she was about to commit a great
crime--that, in the weakness of her love, she was about to rob the
prince of his future, of his glory and power. She said to herself
that it would be a greater and nobler proof of her love to offer up
herself and her happiness to the prince, than to accept from him the
sacrifice of his birthright. But in the midst of these reproaches
and this repentance she saw ever before her the sorrowful face of
her beloved--she heard his dear voice imploring her to follow him--
to be his.
Laura, in the anguish of her soul and the remorse of conscience, had
flown for refuge to the gentle, noble Queen Elizabeth, who had
promised her help and consolation when the day of her trial should
come. She had hastened, therefore, to Schonhausen, sure of the
tender sympathy of her royal friend.
As Laura's carriage entered the castle court, the carriage of the
king drew up at the garden gate. He commanded the coachman to drive
slowly away, and then stepped alone into the garden. He walked
hastily through the park, and drew near to the little side door of
the palace, which led through lonely corridors and unoccupied rooms,
to the chamber of the queen. He knew that Elizabeth only used this
door when she wished to take her solitary walk in the park. The king
wished to escape the curious and wondering observations of the
attendants, and to surprise the queen and Laura von Pannewitz. He
stepped on quietly, and, without being seen, reached the queen's
rooms, convinced that he would find them in the boudoir. He was
about to raise the portiere which separated it from the ante-room,
when he was arrested by the voices of women; one piteous and full of
tears, the other sorrowful but comforting. The king let the portiere
fall, and seated himself noiselessly near the door.
"Let us listen awhile," said the king; "the women are always
coquetting when in the presence of men. We will listen to them when
they think themselves alone. I will in this way become acquainted
with this dangerous Laura, and learn better, than by a long
interview, how I can influence her."
The king leaned his head upon his stick, and fixed his piercing eyes
upon the heavy velvet portiere, behind which two weak women were now
perhaps deciding the fate of the dynasty of Hohenzollern.
"Madame," said Laura, "the blossoms of our happiness are already
faded and withered, and our love is on the brink of the grave."
"Poor Laura!" said the queen, with a weary smile, "it needed no gift
of prophecy to foretell that. No flowers bloom around a throne;
thorns only grow in that fatal soil! Your young eyes were blinded by
magic; you mistook these thorns for blossoms. Alas! I have wounded
my heart with them, and I hope that it will bleed to death!"
"O queen, if you knew my doubts and my despair, you would have pity
with me; you would not be so cruel as to command me to sacrifice my
love and my happiness! My happiness is his, and my love is but the
echo of his own. If it was only a question of trampling upon my own
foolish wishes, I would not listen to the cry of my soul. But the
prince loves me. Oh, madame, think how great and strong this love
must be, when I have the courage to boast of it! yes, he loves me;
and when I forsake him, I will not suffer alone. He will also be
wretched, and his tears and his despair will torture my heart. How
can I deceive him? Oh, madame, I cannot bear that his lips should
"Yield him up now," said the queen, "and a day will come when he
will bless you for it; a day in which he will confess that your love
was great, was holy, that you sacrificed yourself and all earthly
happiness freely, in order to spare him the wretchedness of future
days. He loves you now, dearly, fondly, but a day will come in which
he will demand of you his future, his greatness, his royal crown,
all of which he gave up for you. He will reproach you for then
having accepted this great sacrifice, and he will never forgive you
for your weakness in yielding to his wishes. Believe me, Laura, in
the hearts of men there lives but one eternal passion, and that is
ambition. Love to them is only the amusement of the passing hour,
"Oh, madame, if that is so, would God that I might die; life is not
worth the trouble of living!" cried Laura, weeping bitterly.
"Life, my poor child, is not a joy which we can set aside, but a
duty which we must bear patiently. You cannot trample upon this
duty; and if your grief is strong, so must your will be stronger."
"What shall I do? What name do you give the duty which I must take
upon myself?" cried Laura, with trembling lips. "I put my fate in
your hands. What shall I do?"
"You must overcome yourself; you must conquer your love; you must
follow the voice of conscience, which brought you to me for
"Oh, my queen, you know not what you ask! Your calm, pure heart
knows nothing of love."
"You say that I know nothing of love?" cried the queen,
passionately. "You know not that my life is one great anguish, a
never-ceasing self-sacrifice! Yes, I am the victim of love--a
sadder, more helpless, more torturing love than you, Laura, can ever
know. I love, and am not beloved. What I now confess to you is known
only to God, and I tell you in order to console you, and give you
strength to accept your fate bravely. I suffer, I am wretched,
although I am a queen! I love my husband; I love him with the
absorbing passion of a young girl, with the anguish which the damned
must feel when they stand at the gates of Paradise, and dare not
enter in. My thoughts, my heart, my soul belong to him; but he is
not mine. He stands with a cold heart near my glowing bosom, and
while with rapture of love I would throw myself upon his breast, I
must clasp my arms together and hold them still, and must seek and
find an icy glance with which to answer his. Look you, there was a
time when I believed it impossible to bear all this torture; a time
in which my youth struggled like Tantalus; a time in which my pride
revolted at this love, with its shame and humiliation; in which I
would have given my crown to buy the right to fly into some lonely
desert, and give myself up to tears. The king demanded that I should
remain at his side, not as his wife, but as his queen; ever near
him, but forever separated from him; unpitied and misunderstood;
envied by fools, and thought happy by the world! And, Laura, oh, I
loved him so dearly that I found strength to bear even this torture,
and he knows not that my heart is being hourly crushed at the foot
of his throne. I draw the royal purple over my wounded bosom, and it
sometimes seems to me that my heart's blood gives this ruddy color
to my mantle. Now, Laura, do I know nothing of love? do I not
understand the greatness of the sacrifice which I demand of you?"
The queen, her face bathed in tears, opened her arms, and Laura
threw herself upon her bosom; their sighs and tears were mingled.
The king sat in the ante-room, with pale face and clouded eyes. He
bowed his head, as if in adoration, and suddenly a glittering
brilliant, bright as a star, and nobler and more precious than all
the jewels of this sorrowful world, fell upon his pallid cheek.
"Truly," said he to himself, "there is something great and exalted
in a woman's nature. I bow down in humility before this great soul,
but my heart, alas! cannot be forced to love. The dead cannot be
awakened, and that which is shrouded and buried can never more be
brought to life and light!"
"You have conquered, my queen," said Laura, after a long pause; "I
will be worthy of your esteem and friendship. That day shall never
come in which my lover shall reproach me with selfishness and
weakness! 'I am ready to be offered up!' I will not listen to him; I
will not flee with him; and while I know that he is waiting for me.
I will cast myself in your arms, and beseech you to pray to God for
me, that He would send Death, his messenger of love and mercy, to
relieve me from my torments."
"Not so, my Laura," said the queen; "you must make no half offering;
it is not enough to renounce your lover, you must build up between
yourselves an everlasting wall of separation; you must make this
separation eternal! You must marry, and thus set the prince a noble
example of self-control."
"Marry!" cried Laura; "can you demand this of me? Marry without
love! Alas, alas! The prince will charge me with inconstancy and
treachery to him, and I must bear that in silence."
"But I will not be silent," said the queen, "I will tell him of your
grief and of the greatness of your soul; and when he ceases, as he
must do, to look upon you as his beloved, he will honor you as the
protecting angel of his existence."
"You promise me that. You will say to him that I was not faithless--
that I gave him up because I loved him more than I did myself; I
seemed faithless only to secure his happiness!"
"I promise you that, Laura."
"Well, then, I bow my head under the yoke--I yield to my fate--I
accept the hand which Count Voss offers me. I ask that you will go
to the queen-mother and say I submit to her commands--I will become
the wife of Count Voss!"
"And I will lead you to the queen and to the altar," said the king,
raising the portiere, and showing himself to the ladies, who stared
at him in breathless silence. The king drew nearer to Laura, and
bowing low, he said: "Truly my brother is to be pitied, that he is
only a prince, and not a freeman; for a pitiful throne, he must give
up the holiest and noblest possession, the pure heart of a fair
woman, glowing with love for him! And yet men think that we, the
princes of the world, are to be envied! They are dazzled by the
crown, but they see not the thorns with which our brows are beset!
You, Laura, will never envy us; but on that day when you see my
brother in his royal mantle and his crown--when his subjects shout
for joy and call him their king--then can you say to yourself, 'It
was I who made him king--I anointed him with my tears!' and when his
people honor and bless him, you can rejoice also in the thought,
This is the fruit of the strength of my love!' Come, I will myself
conduct you to my mother, and I will say to her that I would
consider myself happy to call you sister." Turning to Queen
Elizabeth, he said: "I will say to my mother that Mademoiselle von
Pannewitz has not yielded to my power or my commands, but to the
persuasive eloquence of your majesty, when the people of Prussia
have for years considered their protecting angel, and who from this
time onward must be regarded as the guardian spirit of our royal
He reached his hand to the queen, but she took it not. Trembling
fearfully, with the paleness of death in her face, she pointed to
the portiere and said, "You were there--you heard all!"
The king, his countenance beaming with respectful admiration, drew
near the queen, and placing his arm around her neck, he whispered,
"Yes, I was there--I heard all. I heard, and I know that I am a
poor, blind man, to whom a kingdom is offered, a treasure-house of
love and all good gifts, and I cannot, alas! cannot, accept it!"
The queen uttered a loud cry, and her weary head dropped upon his
shoulder. The king gazed silently into the pale and sorrowful face,
and a ray of infinite pity beamed in his eyes. "I have discovered
to-day a noble secret--a secret that God alone was worthy to know.
From this day I consider myself as the high priest of the holiest of
holies, and I will guard this secret as my greatest treasure. I
swear this to you, and I seal my oath with this kiss pressed upon
your lips by one who will never again embrace a woman!" He bowed
low, and pressed a fervent, kiss upon the lips of the queen.
Elizabeth, who had borne her misfortunes bravely, had not the power
to withstand the sweet joy of this moment; she uttered a loud cry,
and sank insensible to the floor. When she awoke she was alone; the
king had called her maids--had conducted Laura von Pannewitz to the
carriage, and returned to Berlin. Elizabeth was again alone--alone
with her thoughts--with her sorrows and her love. But a holy fire
was in her eyes, and raising them toward Heaven, she whispered: "I
thank thee, O heavenly Father, for the happiness of this hour! I
feel his kiss upon my lips! by that kiss they are consecrated!
Never, never will they utter one murmuring word!" She arose and
entered her cabinet, with a soft smile; she drew near to a table
which stood by the window, and gazed at a beautiful landscape, and
the crayons, etc., etc., which lay upon it. "He shall think of me
from time to time," whispered she. "For his sake I will become an
artist and a writer; I will be something more than a neglected
queen. He shall see my books upon his table and my paintings on his
wall. Will I not then compel him sometimes to think of me with
The day after the queen-mother's interview with the king, the court
was surprised by the intelligence that the physician had mistaken
the malady of Louise von Schwerin; that it was not scarlet fever, as
had been supposed, but some simple eruption, from which she was now
The little maiden appeared again amongst her companions, and there
was no change in her appearance, except a slight pallor. No one was
more amazed at her sudden recovery than Louise. With watchful
suspicion, she remarked that the queen-mother had resumed her
gracious and amiable manner toward her, and seemed entirely to have
forgotten the events of the last few days; her accusations and
suspicions seemed quieted as if by a stroke of magic. In the
beginning, Louise believed that this was a trap laid for her, she
was therefore perpetually on her guard; she did not enter the
garden, and was well pleased that Fritz Wendel had the prudence and
forbearance never to walk to and fro by her chamber, and never to
place in her window the beautiful flowers which she had been wont to
find there every morning. In a short time Louise became convinced
that she was not watched, that there were no spies about her path;
that she was, in fact, perfectly at liberty to come and go as she
pleased. She resumed her thoughtless manner and childish dreamings,
walked daily in the garden, and took refuge in the green-house.
Strange to say, she never found her beautiful Fritz, never met his
glowing, eloquent eyes, never caught even a distant view of his
handsome figure. This sudden disappearance of her lover made her
restless and unhappy, and kindled the flame of love anew. Louise,
who in the loneliness and neglect of her few days of confinement,
had become almost ashamed of her affair with Fritz Wendel, and begun
to repent of her foolish love, now excited by the obstacles in her
path, felt the whole strength of her passion revive, and was assured
of her eternal constancy.
"I will overcome all impediments," said this young girl, "and
nothing shall prevent me from playing my romance to the end. Fritz
Wendel loves me more passionately than any duke or baron will ever
love me; he has been made a prisoner because of his love for me, and
that is the reason I see him no more. But I will save him; I will
set him at liberty, and then I will flee with him, far, far away
into the wide, wide world where no one shall mock at our love."
With such thoughts as these she returned from her anxious search in
the garden. As she entered her room, she saw upon her table a superb
bouquet, just such a tribute as her loved Fritz had offered daily at
her shrine before the queen's unfortunate discovery. With a loud cry
of joy, she rushed to the table, seized the flowers, and pressed
them to her lips; she then sought in the heart of her bouquet for
the little note which she had ever before found concealed there.
Truly this bouquet contained also a love-letter, a very tender,
glowing love-letter, in which Fritz Wendel implored her to fly with
him; to carry out their original plan, and flee with him to
Oranienburg, where they would be married by the priest who had been
won over by the Prince Augustus William. To-day, yes, this evening
at nine o'clock must the flight take place.
Louise did not hesitate an instant; she was resolved to follow the
call of her beloved. A court ball was to take place this evening,
and Louise von Schwerin must appear in the suite of the queen; she
must find some plausible excuse and remain at home. As the hour for
the queen's morning promenade approached, Louise became so suddenly
ill that she was forced to ask one of the maids of honor to make her
excuses, to return to her room, and lay herself upon the bed.
The queen came herself to inquire after her health, and manifested
so much sympathy, so much pity, that Louise was fully assured, and
accepted without suspicion the queen's proposal that she should give
up the ball, and remain quietly in her room. Louise had now no
obstacle to fear; she could make her preparations for flight without
The evening came. She heard the carriages rolling away with the
queen and her suite. An indescribable anxiety oppressed this young
girl. The hour of decision was at hand. She felt a maidenly
trembling at the thought of her rash imprudence, but the hour was
striking--the hour of romantic flight, the hour of meeting with her
It seemed to her as if she saw the imploring eyes of Fritz ever
before her--as if she heard his loving, persuasive voice. Forgetting
all consideration and all modesty, she wrapped herself in her
mantle, and drawing the hood tightly over her head, she hastened
with flying feet through the corridors and down the steps to the
front door of the palace. With a trembling heart she stepped into
Unspeakable terror took possession of her. "What if he was not
there? What if this was a plot, a snare laid for her feet? But no,
no!" She saw a tall and closely-muffled figure crossing the open
square, and coming directly to her. She could not see his face, but
it was surely him. Now he was near her. He whispered the signal word
in a low, soft tone. With a quaking heart, she gave the answer.
The young man took her cold little hand, and hurried her forward to
the corner of the square. There stood the carriage. The stranger
lifted her in his arms, and carried her to the carriage, sprang in,
and slammed the door. Forward! The carriage seemed forced onward by
the wings of the wind. In a few moments the city lay far behind
them. In wild haste they flew onward, ever onward. The young man,
still closely muffled, sat near to Louise--her lover, soon to be her
husband! Neither spoke a word. They were near to each other, with
quickly-beating hearts, but silent, still silent.
Louise found this conduct of her lover mysterious and painful. She
understood not why he who had been so tender, so passionate, should
remain so cold and still by her side. She felt that she must fly
far, far away from this unsympathizing lover, who had no longer a
word for her, no further assurances of love. Yes, he despised her
because she had followed him, no longer thought her worthy of his
tenderness. As this thought took possession of her, she gave a
fearful shriek, and springing up from her seat, she seized the door,
and tried to open it and jump out. The strong hand of her silent
lover held her back.
"We have not yet arrived, mademoiselle," whispered he.
Louise felt a cold shudder pass over her. Fritz Wendel call her
mademoiselle! and the voice sounded cold and strange. Anxiously,
silently, she sank back in the carriage. Her searching glance was
fixed upon her companion, but the night was dark. She could see
nothing but the mysteriously muffled figure. She stretched out her
small hands toward him, as if praying for help. He seized them, and
pressed them to his heart and lips, but he remained silent. He did
not clasp her in his arms as heretofore; he whispered no tender,
passionate assurances in her ear. The terror of death overcame
Louise. She clasped her hands over her face, and wept aloud. He
heard her piteous sobs, and was still silent, and did not seek to
Onward went the flying wheels. The horses had been twice changed in
order to reach the goal more quickly. Louise wept without ceasing.
Exhausted by terror, she thought her death was near. Twice tortured
by this ominous silence, she had dared to say a few low, sobbing
words to her companion, but he made no reply.
At last the carriage stopped. "We have arrived," he whispered to
Louise, sprang from the carriage, and lifted her out.
"Where are we?" she said, convinced that she had been brought to a
prison, or some secret place of banishment.
"We are in Oranienburg, and there is the church where the preacher
awaits us." He took her arm hastily, and led her into the church.
The door was opened, and as Louise stepped upon the threshold, she
felt her eyes blinded by the flood of light upon the altar. She saw
the priest with his open book, and heard the solemn sounds of the
organ. The young man led Louise forward, but not to the altar; he
entered first into the sacristy. There also wax lights were burning,
and on the table lay a myrtle wreath and a lace veil.
"This is your bridal wreath and veil," said the young man, who still
kept the hood of his cloak drawn tightly over his face. He
unfastened and removed Louise's mantle, and handed her the veil and
wreath. Then he threw back his hood, and removed his cloak. Louise
uttered a cry of amazement and horror. He who stood before her was
not her lover, was not the gardener Fritz Wendel, but a strange
young officer in full-dress uniform!
"Forgive me," said he, "that I have caused you so much suffering to-
day, but the king commanded me to remain silent, and I did so. We
are here in obedience to the king, and he commanded me to hand you
this letter before our marriage. It was written by his own hand."
Louise seized the royal letter hastily. It was laconic, but the few
words it contained filled the heart of the little maiden with shame.
The letter contained these lines:
"As you are resolved, without regard to circumstances, to marry, out
of consideration for your family I will fulfil your wish. The
handsome gardener-boy is not in a condition to become your husband,
he being now confined in a madhouse. I have chosen for you a gallant
young officer, of good family and respectable fortune, and I have
commanded him to marry you. If he pleases you, the priest will
immediately perform the marriage ceremony, and you will follow your
husband into his garrison at Brandenburg. If you refuse him, the
young officer, Von Cleist, has my command to place you again in the
carriage, and take you to your mother. There you will have time to
meditate upon your inconsiderate boldness. FREDERICK II."
Louise read the letter of the king again and again; she then fixed
her eyes upon the young man who stood before her, and who gazed at
her with a questioning and smiling face. She saw that he was
handsome, young, and charming, and she confessed that this rich
uniform was more attractive than the plain, dark coat of the
gardener-boy Fritz Wendel. She felt that the eyes of the young
cavalier were as glowing and as eloquent as those of her old love.
"Well," said he, laughing, "have you decided, mademoiselle? Do you
consider me worthy to be the envied and blessed husband of the
enchanting and lovely Louise von Schwerin, or will you cruelly
banish me and rob me of this precious boon?"
She gazed down deep into his eyes and listened to his words
breathlessly. His voice was so soft and persuasive, not harsh and
rough like that of Fritz Wendel, it fell like music on her ear.
"Well," repeated the young Von Cleist, "will you be gracious, and
accept me for your husband?"
"Would you still wish to marry me, even if the king had not
"I would marry you in spite of the king and the whole world," said
Von Cleist. "Since I have seen you, I love you dearly."
Louise reached him her hand.
"Well, then," she said, "let us fulfil the commands of the king. He
commands us to marry. We will commence with that: afterwards we will
see if we can love each other without a royal command."
The young captain kissed her hand, and placed the myrtle wreath upon
"Come, the priest is waiting, and I long to call you my bride."
He led the young girl of fourteen to the altar. The priest opened
the holy book, and performed the marriage ceremony.
At the same hour, in the chapel of the king's palace, another
wedding took place. Laura von Pannewitz and Count Voss stood before
the altar. The king himself conducted Laura, and Queen Elizabeth
gave her hand to Count Voss. The entire court had followed the
bridal pair, and all were witnesses to this solemn contract. Only
one was absent--the Prince Augustus William was not there.
While Laura von Pannewitz stood above in the palace chapel, swearing
eternal constancy to Count Voss, the prince stood below at the
castle gate, waiting for her descent. But the hour had long passed,
and she came not. A dark fear and torturing anguish came over him.
Had the king discovered their plan? Was it he who held Laura back,
or had she herself forgotten her promise? Was she unfaithful to her
The time still flew, and she came not. Trembling with scorn,
anguish, and doubt, he mounted the castle steps, determined to
search through the saloons, and, at all risks, to draw near his
beloved. Driven by the violence of his love, he had almost
determined to carry her off by force.
Throwing off his mantle, he stepped into the anteroom. No man
regarded him. Every eye was turned toward the great saloon. The
prince entered. The whole court circle, which were generally
scattered through the adjoining rooms, now forced themselves into
this saloon--it glittered and shimmered with diamonds, orders, and
gold and silver embroidery.
The prince saw nothing of all this. He saw only the tall, pallid
girl, who stood in the middle of the room with the sweeping bridal
veil and the myrtle wreath in her hair.
Yes, it was her--Laura von Pannewitz--and near her stood the young,
smiling Count Voss. What did all this mean? Why was his beloved so
splendidly attired? Why was the royal family gathered around her?
Why was the queen kissing even now his beautiful Laura, and handing
her this splendid diamond diadem? Why did Count Voss press the
king's hand, which was that moment graciously extended to him, to
Prince Augustus William understood nothing of all this. He felt as
if bewildered by strange and fantastic dreams. With distended,
glassy eyes he stared upon the newly wedded pair who were now
receiving the congratulations of the court.
But the king's sharp glance had observed him, and rapidly forcing
his way through the crowd of courtiers, he drew near to the prince.
"A word with you, brother," said the king; "come, let us go into my
cabinet." The prince followed him, bewildered--scarcely conscious.
"And now, my brother," said the king, as the door closed behind him,
"show yourself worthy of your kingly calling and of your ancestors;
show that you deserve to be the ruler of a great people; show that
you know how to govern yourself! Laura von Pannewitz can never be
yours; she is the wife of Count Voss!" The prince uttered so
piercing, so heartrending a cry, that the king turned pale, and an
unspeakable pity took possession of his soul. "Be brave, my poor
brother; what you suffer, that have I also suffered, and almost
every one who is called by Fate to fill an exalted position has the
same anguish to endure. A prince has not the right to please
himself--he belongs to the people and to the world's history, and to
both these he must be ever secondary,"
"It is not true, it is not possible!" stammered the prince. "Laura
can never belong to another! she is mine! betrothed to me by the
holiest of oaths, and she shall be mine in spite of you and of the
whole world! I desire no crown, no princely title; I wish only
Laura, only my Laura! I say it is not true that she is the wife of
"It is true," whispered a soft, tearful, choking voice, just behind
him. The prince turned hastily; the sad eye of Laura, full of
unspeakable love, met his wild glance. Queen Elizabeth, according to
an understanding with the king, had led the young Countess Voss into
this apartment, and then returned with a light step to the adjoining
"I will grant to your unhappy love, my brother, one last evening
glow," said the king. "Take a last, sad farewell of your declining
sun; but forget not that when the sun has disappeared, we have still
the stars to shine upon us, though, alas! they have no warmth and
kindle no flowers into life." The king bowed, and followed his wife
into the next room. The prince remained alone with Laura.
What was spoken and sworn in this last sad interview no man ever
knew. In the beginning, the king, who remained in the next room,
heard the raging voice of the prince uttering wild curses and bitter
complaints; then his tones were softer and milder, and touchingly
mournful. In half an hour the king entered the cabinet. The prince
stood in the middle of the room, and Laura opposite to him. They
gazed into each other's wan and stricken faces with steady, tearless
eyes; their hands were clasped. "Farewell, my prince," said Laura,
with a firm voice; "I depart IMMEDIATELY with my husband; we will
never meet again!"
"Yes, we will meet again," said the prince, with a weary smile; "we
will meet again in another and a better world: I will be there
awaiting you, Laura!" They pressed each other's hands, then turned
Laura stepped into the room where Count Voss was expecting her.
"Come, my husband," she said; "I am ready to follow you, and be
assured I will make you a faithful and submissive wife."
"Brother," said Prince Augustus William, extending his hand to the
king, "I struggle no more. I will conform myself to your wishes, and
marry the Princess of Brunswick."
THE RESIGNATION OF BARON POLLNITZ.
The morning after the ball, Pollnitz entered the cabinet of the
king; he was confused and sat down, and that happened to him which
had never before happened--he was speechless. The king's eyes rested
upon him with an ironical and contemptuous expression.
"I believe you are about to confess your sins, Pollnitz, and make me
your father confessor. You have the pitiful physiognomy of a poor
"Sire, I would consent to be a sinner, but I am bitterly opposed to
being a poor sinner."
"Ah! debts again; again in want!" cried the king. "I am weary of
this everlasting litany, and I forbid you to come whining to me
again with your never-ending necessities; the evil a man brings upon
himself he must bear; the dangers which he involuntary incurs, he
must conquer himself."
"Will not your majesty have the goodness to assist me, to reach me a
helping hand and raise me from the abyss into which my creditors
have cast me?"
"God forbid that I should waste the gold upon a Pollnitz which I
need for my brave soldiers and for cannon!" said the king,
"Then, sire," said Pollnitz, in a low and hesitating tone, "I must
beg you to give me my dismissal."
"Your dismissal! Have you discovered in the moon a foolish prince
who will pay a larger sum for your miserable jests and malicious
scandals and railings than the King of Prussia?"
"Not in the moon, sire, is such a mad individual to be found, but in
a Dutch realm; however, I have found no such prince, but a beautiful
young maiden, who will be only too happy to be the Baroness
Pollnitz, and pay the baron's debts."
"And this young girl is not sent to a mad-house?" said the king;
"perhaps the house of the Baron von Pollnitz is considered a house
of correction, and she is sent there to be punished for her follies.
Has the girl who is rich enough to pay the debts of a Pollnitz no
"Father and mother both live, sire; and both receive me joyfully as
their son. My bride dwells in Nuremberg, and is the daughter of a
distinguished patrician family."
"And she buys you," said the king, "because she considers you the
most enchanting of all Nuremberger toys! As for your dismissal, I
grant it to you with all my heart. Seat yourself and write as I
He looked toward the writing-table, and Pollnitz, obeying his
command, took his seat and arranged his pen and paper. The king,
with his arms folded across his back, walked slowly up and down the
"Write! I will give you a dismissal, and also a certificate of
character and conduct."
The king dictated to the trembling and secretly enraged baron the
"We, Frederick II., make known, that Baron Pollnitz, born in Berlin,
and, so far as we believe, of an honorable family, page to our
sainted grandfather, of blessed memory, also in the service of the
Duke of Orleans, colonel in the Spanish service, cavalry captain in
the army of the deceased Emperor, gentleman-in-waiting to the Pope,
gentlemen-in-waiting to the Duke of Brunswick, color-bearer in the
service of the Duke of Weimar, gentleman-in-waiting to our sainted
father, of ever-blessed memory; lastly, and at last, master of
ceremonies in our service;--said Baron Pollnitz, overwhelmed by this
stream of military and courtly honors which had been thrust upon
him, and thereby weary of the vanities of this wicked world; misled,
also, by the evil example of Monteulieu, who, a short time ago, left
the court, now entreats of us to grant him his dismissal, and an
honorable testimony as to his good name and service. After
thoughtful consideration, we do not find it best to refuse him the
testimony he has asked for. As to the most important service which
he rendered to the court by his foolish jests and INCONSISTENCIES,
and the pastimes and distractions which he prepared for nine years
for the amusement of our ever-blessed father, we do not hesitate to
declare that, during the whole time of his service at court, he was
not a street-robber nor a cut-purse, nor a poisoner; that he did not
rob young women nor do them any violence; that he has not roughly
attacked the honor of any man, but, consistently with his birth and
lineage, behaved like a man of gallantry; that he has consistently
made use of the talents lent to him by Heaven, and brought before
the public, in a merry and amusing way, that which is ridiculous and
laughable amongst men, no doubt with the same object which lies at
the bottom of all theatrical representations, that is, to improve
the race. Said baron has also steadily followed the counsel of
Bacchus with regard to frugality and temperance, and he has carried
his Christian love so far, that he has left wholly to the PEASANTS
that part of the Evangelists which teaches that 'To give is more
blessed than to receive.' He knows all the anecdotes concerning our
castles and pleasure resorts, and has indelibly imprinted upon his
memory a full list of all our old furniture and silver; above all
things, he understands how to make himself indispensable and
agreeable to those who know the malignity of his spirit and his cold
"As, however, in the most fruitful regions waste and desert spots
are to be found, as the most beautiful bodies have their
deformities, and the greatest painters are not without faults, so
will we deal gently and considerately with the follies and sins of
this much-talked-of baron; we grant him, therefore, though
unwillingly, the desired dismissal. In addition to this, we abolish
entirely this office so worthily filled by said baron, and wish to
blot out the remembrance of it from the memory of man; holding that
no other man can ever fill it satisfactorily." "FREDERICK II."