Part 5 out of 8
tranquillity to Germany, or suffer the guilt of permitting the
bloody scourge of civil war again to tear in pieces the unhappy
"That sounds very sentimental," cried the king, smiling. "The Baron
von Thugut will appeal to my heart, when we have only to do with the
head. Austria wishes to be the head of Germany, and as such would
devour one German state after another, as a very palatable morsel.
But if you will be the head, Monsieur le Baron, you cannot represent
the stomach also, for, as I have been told, it only exists in those
soft animals of the sea whose head is in their stomach, and which
think and digest at the same time. Austria does not belong to this
class, but has rather a very hard and impenetrable shell. We cannot
let her devour as stomach what as the head she has chosen as booty.
That the electorate of Bavaria is not to be devoured, is the
necessary and fundamental preliminary upon which the temple of peace
may be erected. If you, or rather the empress-queen, agree to it,
the negotiations can be concluded by you two gentlemen. But if you
think to erect a temple of peace upon any other basis, your
propositions will be in vain. I have not taken the field to make
conquests, but to protect the rights of a German prince, and not
suffer others to appropriate a German state. I know, as you have
said, that war is a bloody scourge for the nation; but, sir, we will
not look at it in a sentimental light, and talk of civil war, when
Austria herself compels us to take the field. Or, perhaps, you
imagine to prove to my good Pomeranians, Markers, and my other
German states, that the Croatians, Pandurians, Hungarians,
Wallachians, Italians, and Polanders, are our German brothers, which
imperial Austria opposes to us. I think this brotherhood may be
traced to our common ancestor, Adam, and in this sense all wars are
indeed civil wars. In any case war is a scourge for man, and I am
convinced that the empress-queen would just as willingly spare her
Croatians, Pandurians, Wallachians, and Galicians, as I all my
German subjects collectively."
"Also your majesty's Polish subjects, as may be expected," added
Baron yon Thugut.
"My Polish subjects are the minimum portion, and are about in
proportion to the German population as in imperial Austria the
German is to the foreign. But enough of this; if I do not recognize
this as a civil war, it is indeed a great misfortune. I would do
every thing to avoid it--every thing compatible with the honor and
glory of my house, as well as that of Germany in general. Therefore
let us know the Views of the empress-queen!"
"Sire," answered Von Thugut, as he slowly untied and unfolded the
documents, "I beg permission to read aloud to your majesty the acts
relative to these points."
"No, baron," answered the king quickly, "the more minute details
give to my minister; I wish only the contents in brief."
"At your majesty's command. The empress-queen declares herself ready
to renounce the concluded treaty of inheritance to the succession of
Bavaria at the death of Elector Charles Theodore; also to give up
the district seized, if Prussia will promise to resign the
succession of the Margraves of Anspach and Baireuth, and let them
remain independent principalities, governed by self-dependent
"That means, that Austria, who will unjustly aggrandize herself by
Bavaria, will deprive Prussia of a lawful inheritance!" cried the
king, his eyes flashing anger. "I will not heed the after-cause, but
I wish to satisfactorily understand the first part of the
proposition, that Austria will cede her pretensions to Bavaria."
"Sire, upon conditions only which are sufficient for the honor, the
wishes, and necessities of my lofty mistress."
"You hear, my dear Herzberg," said the king, smiling, and turning to
his minister, "c'est tout comme chez nous. It will now be your task
to find out these conditions, which too closely affect the honor of
one or the other. For this purpose you will find the adjacent
Cloister Braunau more convenient than my poor cabin. At the
conferences of diplomats much time is consumed, while we military
people have little time to spare. I shall move on with my army."
"How, then! will your majesty break up here?" cried Thugut, with
The king smiled. "Yes, I shall advance, as my remaining might be
construed equal to a retreat. The arts of diplomacy may drag on
until the imperialists have assembled all their foreign subjects to
the so-called civil war. Then hasten the negotiations, Baron yon
Thugut, for every day of diplomatic peace is one day more of
foraging war, and I know not that you count the Bohemians in the
German brotherhood, to whom the calamity of war is ruinous. You have
now to deal with the Baron yon Thugut, my dear Herzberg, and I hope
the baron will accept some diplomatic campaigns with you in Cloister
"Sire, I accept, and if your majesty will dismiss me, I will go at
once to the cloister," answered Baron yon Thugut, whose manner had
become graver and more serious since the king's announcement of the
"You are at liberty to withdraw. The good and hospitable monks have
already been apprised of your arrival by an express courier, and
have doubtless a good supper and a soft bed awaiting you."
"Had your majesty the grace to be convinced of my return?" asked
"I was convinced of the tender heart of the empress-queen, and that
she would graciously try once more, in her Christian mercy, to
convert such an old barbarian and heretic as I am. Go now to the
cloister, and when I pass by in the morning, with my army, I will
not fail to have them play a pious air for the edification of the
diplomats--such as, 'My soul, like the young deer, cries unto Thee,'
or, 'Oh, master, I am thy old dog,' or some such heavenly song to
excite the diplomats to pious thoughts, and therewith I commend you
to God's care, Baron yon Thugut."
The king charged Herr yon Herzberg to play the role of grand-
chamberlain, and accompany the ambassador to his carriage, smiling,
and slightly nodding a farewell.
The baron was on the point of leaving, when the king called to him.
"Had your majesty the grace to call me?" asked Thugut, hastily
"Yes!" answered Frederick, smiling, and pointing to the string which
had served to bind the baron's papers. "You have forgotten
something, my lord, and I do not like to enrich myself with others'
property." [Footnote: Historical. The king's words.--See Hormayr.]
Baron von Thugut took this last well-aimed stab of his royal
opponent somewhat embarrassed, and hastened to pick up the string,
THE KING AND THE LOVER.
The king smiled, glancing at the retreating figure of the baron, and
approached the window to peep through the little green glass panes
to see him as he passed by.
"A sly fox," said he, smiling, "but I will prove to him that we
understand fox-hunting, and are not deceived by cunning feints."
"Will your majesty really break up to-day?" asked Von Herzberg, upon
"Yes, my dear minister. That is to say, I do not wish to, but I
must, in order to give the negotiations for peace a war-like
character. The enemy asks for delay to finish their preparations for
war--not peace. The negotiations for the latter emanate from the
empress, but the conditions concerning Anspach come from the
emperor. It is the Eris-apple, which he casts upon the table, by
which his imperial mother and I would gladly smoke the pipe of
peace. It is incumbent upon you, Herzberg, to negotiate for peace,
while I pick up the apple and balance it a little upon the point of
my sword. I shall leave early to-morrow, but I would speak with you
before I set out. You must be weary with the journey, so rest awhile
now, then dine with me, and afterward go to the conference."
"Sire, will you not receive my protege, Conrector Moritz?"
"Did you not say that he begged for a secret audience?"
"Yes, sire, he has for this purpose travelled the long distance from
Berlin, and I assure your majesty, upon my word of honor, that I
have not the least suspicion what his petition may be."
"Eh bien, say to your protege that I grant him the sought-for
interview on your account, Herzberg. You are such a curious fellow--
you are always petitioning for others instead of yourself, and the
benefits which you ought to receive go to them. Let Moritz enter,
and then try to sleep a little, that you may be wide awake to confer
with Baron von Thugut."
Minister von Herzberg withdrew, and immediately the pale, earnest
face of Conrector Philip Moritz appeared in the royal presence.
The king regarded him with a prolonged and searching glance, the
noble, resolute face of whom was pallid with deep grief, but from
whose eyes there beamed courageous energy. "Are you the translator
of the chapters from Tacitus, which my Minister Herzberg handed me?"
asked the king, after a pause.
"Yes, sire," gently answered Moritz.
"I am told that it is ably done," continued his majesty, still
attentively observing him. "You will acknowledge that it is
exceedingly difficult to render the concise style of Tacitus into
the prolix, long-winded German?"
"Pardon me, sire," replied Moritz, whose youthful impetuosity could
with difficulty be diverted from the real object of his pilgrimage.
"Our language is by no means long-winded, and there is no difficulty
in translating Latin authors into German, which equals any living
tongue in beauty and sonorousness, and surpasses them all in depth
of thought, power, and poesy."
"Diable!" cried the king, smiling; "you speak like an incarnate
German philologist, who confounds the sound of words with profound
thought. You will acknowledge that until now our language has not
been much known."
"Sire," answered Moritz, "Martin Luther, in his translation of the
Bible three hundred years since, employed hundreds of beautiful,
"He is not only a learned man," said the king to himself, "but he
seems an honorable one; and now, as I have proved his scholarly
attainments, I must indulge his impatience." The king's penetrating
glance softened, and his features changed their severe expression.
"The Minister von Herzberg informed me that he found you by the
roadside, and that you would journey hither on foot."
"It is true, sire."
"Why did you travel in that manner?"
"Sire, I desired, as the poor, heavily-laden pilgrims of the middle
ages, to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Father at Rome, who was the
king of kings. Every step in advance seemed to them to lighten their
burden and enhance their happiness. Your majesty is in our day what
the pope was held to be in the middle ages, therefore I have
wandered as a pilgrim to my king, who has the power to bind and to
loose, and from whom I must not only implore personal happiness, but
that also of a good and amiable young girl."
"Ah! it concerns a love-affair. As I now look at you, I can
understand that. You are young and passionate, and the maidens have
eyes. How can I help you in such an adventure?"
"Sire, by not granting a title to a certain person, or if it must be
granted, annul the conditions attendant upon it."
"I do not understand you," answered the king, harshly. "Speak not in
riddles. What do you mean?"
"General Werrig von Leuthen has addressed himself to you, sire,
praying for the consent of your majesty to the marriage of his
daughter with the banker Ebenstreit. Your majesty has consented, and
added that Herr Ebenstreit shall take the name of his future father-
in-law, and the marriage shall take place as soon as the title of
nobility has been made out."
The king nodded. "For which the new-made nobleman has to pay a
hundred louis d'ors to the Invalids at Berlin. But what is that to
you? And what connection has Herr Ebenstreit's title to do with
Moritz's face brightened, and, deeply moved, he answered: "Sire, I
love the daughter of General von Leuthen, and she returns my love.
By not ennobling Ebenstreit, it lies in your power, most gracious
majesty, to make two persons the most blessed of God's creatures,
who desire nothing more than to wander hand in hand through life,
loving and trusting each other."
"Is that all?" asked the king, with a searching glance.
Moritz quailed beneath it, and cast down his eyes. "No!" he replied.
"As I now stand in the presence of your majesty, I am sensible of
the boldness of my undertaking, and words fail me to express what is
burning in my soul. Oh! sire, I only know that we love each other,
and that this love is the first sunbeam which has fallen upon my
gloomy and thorny path of life, and awakened in my lonely heart all
the bloom of feeling. You smile, and your great spirit may well mock
the poor human being who thinks of personal happiness, when for an
idea merely thousands are killed upon the field of battle. My life,
sire, has been a great combat, in which I have striven with all the
demons escaped from Pandora's box. I have grown up amid privations
and need. I have lived and suffered, until God recompensed my
joyless, toiling, hungered existence by this reciprocated love,
which is a beautiful ornament to my life, and is life itself, and to
renounce it would be to renounce life. I am young, sire, and I long
for the unknown paradise of earthly happiness, which I have never
entered until now, and which I can only attain led by the hand of my
beloved. I yearn just once, as other privileged men, to bask in the
sunshine of happiness a long, beautiful summer day, and then at the
golden sunset to sink upon my knees and cry, 'I thank Thee, O God,
that in Thy goodness I have recognized Thy sublimity, and that Thou
hast revealed thy glory to me.' All this appears of little
importance to your majesty, for the heart of a king is not like that
of other men, and the personal happiness of individuals appears a
matter of little account to him who thinks and works for the good of
an entire nation. But the fly, sire, which is sunning itself upon
the plumes of the helmet of a victorious king, has its right to
happiness, for God created it with the same care and love that He
created the noblest of His creatures--man! and it would be cruel to
kill it without necessity. Sire, I do not extol myself. I know that
in your eyes I am no more than the fly upon your helmet, but I only
implore you to grant me my life, for God has given it to me."
"You mean by this that I shall forbid General von Leuthen to marry
his daughter to the rich man who seeks her, and to which marriage,
understand me well, I have already given my consent."
"Sire, I only know that this union drives not only me to despair,
but one of the noblest and best of God's creatures. Fraulein von
Leuthen does not love the bridegroom forced upon her; she detests
him, and she has good reason to, for the banker Ebenstreit is a
cold-hearted, purse-proud man, enfeebled by a voluptuous, vicious
life, and seeks nothing nobler and more elevated in the young girl
to whom he has offered his hand, than the title and noble name which
she can procure for him. Your majesty, I implore not for myself, but
for the daughter of a man who once had the good fortune to save your
life in battle! Have pity upon her, and do not sacrifice her to an
inconsolably hopeless life by the side of an unloved and detested
The king slowly shook his head. "You forget that the general to whom
I am indebted for this favor has begged my consent to this marriage,
and that I have granted it."
"Sire, I conjure yon to recall it! Upon my knees I implore you not
to grant it! Do not make two people unhappy, who only beg of your
majesty the permission to love and live with each other!" Moritz
threw himself at the king's feet, praying with clasped hands, his
face flushed with deep emotion, and his eyes dimmed with tears.
"Rise!" commanded Frederick, "rise, do not kneel to me as to a God.
I am a feeble mortal, subject to the same ills which threaten you
and the whole human race. Rise, and answer me one question--are you
"No," answered Moritz, proudly raising his head; "no, I am poor."
"Do you know that Fraulein von Leuthen is poor? Her father is worse
off than Job, for he is in debt."
"If General von Leuthen's daughter were rich, or even moderately
well off, I never would have presumed to address your majesty on the
subject, for fear that you might misconstrue my intentions, and
suppose that my love was inspired by self-interest. Fortunately,
Marie possesses nothing but her noble, beautiful self. She leads a
joyless existence under the severe discipline of her cold-hearted
parents; and therefore I can truthfully say, that with me she will
lose nothing, but gain what she has never known--a tranquil, happy
life, protected by my love."
"How much salary do you receive as teacher?"
"Majesty, as conrector of the college attached to the Gray
Monastery, three hundred and fifty dollars."
"Do you expect to live upon that yourself, and support a family
"Sire, I shall earn money in other ways, as I have already done. I
shall write books. The publishers tell me that I am a favorite
author, and they pay me well."
"If on the morrow you should fall ill, your income would vanish, and
your family and you would starve together. No! no! you are an
idealist, you dream how life should be, and not as it is in truth! I
have listened to you, thinking that you would present some forcible
argument upon which to found your pretensions, but I hear only the
ravings of a lover, who believes the world turns upon the axis of
his happiness. Let me tell you that love is an ephemera, which
merrily sports in the sunlight a few short hours, and dies at
sunset. Should a king forfeit his word for such a short-lived bliss?
Should he reward a man to whom he is indebted by depriving him of a
rich son-in-law, who is agreeable to him, and substituting a poor
one, from whom he can never hope to receive a comfortable
maintenance? You young people are all alike. You think only of
yourselves, and it is a matter of little consequence to you if the
aged pine away and die, provided you build up happiness on their
graves! I ask you, who have talked so much about your own wishes,
and those of your beloved, where is it written that man must be
happy, that there is a necessity to make him so? Do you suppose that
I have ever been happy--who have a long, active life in
retrospection? Mankind have taken good care that I should not sip
this nectar of the gods, and have taught me early to renounce it.
Life is not consumed in pleasure, but in toil, and I believe its
only happiness consists in the fact that at last, when weary and
worn, we will sink into the grave--to an eternal rest! Every human
being must work according to his abilities, and in the position
which Fate has assigned to him. To maintain this position, his honor
is at stake--the best and most sacred gift confided to man. You will
not desert it--not despair in life because your dream of bliss is
"Sire," answered Moritz, with a cry of anguish, "it is no dream, but
"Happiness is only ideal," said the king, slowly shaking his head.
"What we sigh for to-day, we curse on the morrow as a misfortune.
Let this serve as a lesson to you. Toil on--you are a scholar; woo
Science for your bride. Her charms will never fade. In youth as in
old age she will attract you by her beauty and constancy--that which
you cannot hope for from women."
"Sire," asked Moritz, in deep dejection, "will you not grant the
petition of my heart? Will you condemn this poor, innocent young
girl who prays your majesty through me, to a long, joyless
existence, to a daily-renewing sorrow?"
The king shrugged his shoulders. "I have already said that happiness
is imaginary; I might have added unhappiness also. General von
Leuthen's daughter will accustom herself to the misfortune of being
a rich man's wife, and finally will drive with a smiling face in her
four-in-hand gilded carriage!"
"Sire, I swear to you that you mistake this dear, noble-hearted
young girl, you--"
"Enough!" interrupted the king. "I have given my consent to General
von Leuthen, and I cannot recall it. Moreover, the marriage of the
daughter of my general with you would be a misalliance--ridiculous.
In the republic of intellect and science, you may have a very high
position, but in my earthly kingdom you hold too modest a one to
presume to raise your eyes to a noble young lady. I regret that I
can offer you no other consolation than to listen to reason, and be
resigned. As we cannot bring down the moon to earth, we must content
ourselves with a lamp to light up our small earthly abode. If this
ever should fail you, then come to me and I will assist you. I
cannot, to be sure, give you the moon, for that belongs as little to
me as the bride of the rich Herr Ebenstreit von Leuthen. One cannot
give away that which one does not possess. Farewell! return to
Berlin, and resign yourself bravely to your fate. Accustom yourself
to the thought that in fourteen days Fraulein von Leuthen will
become the wife of your wealthy rival. The wedding ceremony awaits
only the papers of nobility, for which my order has already been
forwarded to Berlin. I moreover propose to you not to return to the
college at once, but travel for two weeks. I will be responsible for
your absence, and provide you with the necessary means. Now tell me
whether you accept my proposal?"
"Thanks to your majesty, I cannot," answered Moritz, with calm
dignity. "There is but one balm which my king could grant me. Money
is not a plaster to soothe and heal a wounded heart. Sire, I beg you
to dismiss me, for I will return at once to Berlin."
"I hope that you have not the foolish idea to return on foot," said
the king. "My courier will leave in an hour, and there are two
places in the coupe, accept one of them."
"Sire," said Moritz, gloomily, "I--" suddenly the words died on his
lips, and his eyes beamed with an unnatural fire, which paled under
the observing glance of the king. "I thank you," said Moritz,
gasping, "I will accept it."
The king nodded. "Au revoir, in Berlin! When I return after the
campaign I will send for you. You will then have learned to forget
your so-called misfortune, and smile at your pilgrimage!"
"I cannot think so, sire."
"I am convinced of it. Farewell."
Moritz answered the royal salutation with a mute bow, and withdrew
with drooping head and sorrowful heart. The king continued to regard
him with an expression of deep sadness. "Ah!" he sighed, "how
enviable are those who can still believe in love's illusion, and who
have not awakened from their dream of bliss by sad experience or
age! How long since I have banished these dreams--how long I--"
The king ceased, his head sank back upon his chair, his large, fiery
eyes, peering into the distance, as if he would re-people it with
the memories of youth, with the delusions from which he had so long
awakened. Those lovely, charming forms flitted before him one by one
which had then captivated him: the beautiful Frau von Wrechem, his
first love, and to whom he had vowed eternal constancy; another
sweet, innocent face that suffered shame and degradation for him--
"oh! Doris, Doris, dream of my youth, fly past!"--and now the face
with the large eyes and energetic features, which turned so tenderly
to him, that of his sister Frederika, who from affection to the
crown prince had sacrificed herself to an unloved husband in order
to reconcile the son with the father, and preserve for him the
inheritance to the throne; still another calm and gentle face, with
the expression of sorrowful resignation in the deep-blue eyes, that
of his wife, who had so passionately loved him, and had faded away
at his side unloved! All past--past. A new face arose, the pretty
Leontine von Morien, the tourbillon of the princely court at
Rheinsberg, who pined away in sighs. Now passed the sweetest and
loveliest of all. The king's eyes, which stared into empty space,
now beamed with glad recognition. The heart which had grown old and
sobered beat with feverish rapidity, and the compressed lips
whispered, sighing, "Barbarina!" She stood before him in her
bewitching beauty, with the charming smile upon her ruby lips, and
passionate love beaming from her flashing eyes. "Oh, Barbarina!" The
king rose, a cold chill crept over him. He looked around so
strangely in the desolate, darkened room, as if he could still see
this form which greeted him with the sad smile and tearful glance.
No one was there. He was quite alone. Only the feeble echo of far-
distant days repeated the device of his youth--of his life: "Soffri
e taci! Resignation alone has remained true to me. But no--there is
still another friend, my flute. Come, you faithful companion of my
life! You have witnessed my sorrows, and from you I have nothing to
conceal!" He tenderly regarded it, for it was long since he had
taken it from its case. The sorrows and cares of life, the suffering
from the gout which raged in his teeth, and sad, sobering old age,
had caused him to lay it aside, but with the habit of affection he
carried it everywhere. Frederick felt himself grow young again with
the souvenirs of former days, and essayed to recall the echo of
tenderer feelings upon his flute. The music of his heart was hushed,
the melodious tones of former days would not return. The king laid
it aside with an impatient movement. "Nothing is lasting in life,"
he murmured. A flourish of trumpets, a peal of drums announced that
the regiment was passing which would parade before the king. What
are they playing, which rouses the lonely king with bright memories
and shouts of victory? It is the march which his majesty composed
after the brilliant victory of Hohenfriedberg. The king raised his
eyes gratefully to heaven, repeating aloud: "There is something
lasting in life. Love ceases and music dies away, but the good we
have accomplished remains. The most glorious of earthly rewards is
granted to those who have achieved great deeds--the mortal becomes
immortal--the gods ceding to him that which is more elevating than
love or happiness--fame. Ye trumpets of Hohenfriedberg, ye will
still quiver when I am gone, and relate to succeeding generations
about 'Old Fritz.' Such tales are well worthy to live and suffer
for! I am coming, ye trumpets of fame." With youthful activity and
beaming face the king went out to receive his generals, who saluted
him with silent reverence, and his soldiers, who greeted their
beloved commander and king with an exultant shout.
"There lies dear Weimar, encircled in its wreath of green. Do you
not see it, Wolf? I will refresh my heart with its view; so halt,
postilion, halt," cried the duke. "It is more beautiful to me than
stately, proud Berlin. Though a poor, gray nest, I could press it to
my heart, with all its untidy little houses, and tedious old
pedants. Let us walk down the hill, Wolf."
"Most willingly," cried Goethe, stretching forth his arms to the
little town, nestled in the peaceful valley, "be welcome, you lovely
paradise, with your angels and serpents; we press on toward you with
all our heart and soul, as to the seven-sealed book, filled with
mysteries, and we would draw glorious revelations from your hidden
"And grant, ye gods, that the inspired one may at last break the
seal which a cruel friend has placed upon her lips, that he may not
drink the kiss of love glowing beneath," said the duke, smiling. "Do
you not see the gray roof yonder, with its background of tall trees,
"The house where dwells my beloved, my dearest friend, my sister,
and the mistress of my heart," interrupted Goethe. "She is all this,
for she is my all in all. The fountains of bliss and love which here
and there I have drawn from, refreshing my heart and occupying my
mind, flow toward her, united in one broad, silvery stream, with
heaven and earth mirrored therein, and revealing wonderful secrets
in its rushing waves."
"Ah, Wolf!" cried the duke, "you are a happy, enviable creature,
free and unfettered, sending your love where it pleases you. My dear
Wolf, I advise you never to marry, for--"
Goethe hastily closed the duke's mouth with his hand. "Hush! not a
word against the noble Duchess Louisa, my master and friend. She is
an example of refined, womanly dignity; and you, Charles, are to be
envied the love of so estimable a wife and sweet mother for your
"Indeed I am," cried the duke, enthusiastically. "I could not have
found a more high-minded, lovely wife, or a more excellent, virtuous
mother for my descendants. But you know, Wolf, that your Charles has
still another heart, very susceptible and tender, which seeks for an
affinity to call its own, and vent itself in the pleasures of youth,
in glorious flirtations, melancholy signs, and blissful longings.
You cannot expect me at twenty-two to play the grandfather, and have
no eyes or heart for other captivating women, though I love my young
wife most affectionately, and bless Fate that I am bound with silken
cords to Hymen's cart--though I am forever bound, and you, Wolf, are
"Because grim Fate refuses to unite me to my beloved. Oh, Charlotte,
if you were free, how blessed would I be, enchained by you! Not to
'Hymen's cart,' as the fortunate mocker says, but to the chariot of
Venus, drawn by doves, enthroned upon which you would bear me to
"Do not blaspheme, Wolf," cried the duke; "rather kneel and thank
the gods that you are not fettered and your wings clipped. They wish
to preserve to you love's delusion, because you are a favorite, and
deny you the object adored. Beware of the institution which the
French actress, Sophie Arnould, has so wittily called the
'consecration of adultery.' You will agree with me that we have many
such little sacraments in our dear Weimar, and I must laugh when I
reflect for what purpose those amiable beauties have married, as not
one of them love their husbands, but they all possess a friend
"The human heart is a strange thing," said Goethe, as they descended
the hill, arm in arm, "and above all a woman's heart! It is a sacred
riddle, which God has given Himself to solve, and that only a God
At this instant a flash of lightning, followed by heavy-rolling
thunder, was heard.
"Hear, Wolf--only hear!" laughed Charles--"God in heaven responds,
and confirms your statement."
"Or punishes me for my bold speech," cried Goethe, as the hailstones
rattled around him hitting his face with their sharp points. "Heaven
is whipping me with rods."
"And our carriage has descended with a quick trot into the valley,"
said the duke. "I will call it." He sprang into the middle of the
road, making a speaking-trumpet of his hands, and shouted in a full,
powerful voice, "Oho, postilion! here, postilion!"
The continued rolling of the thunder, the whistling wind, and
rattling hail, made all attempts inaudible. The two gentlemen sought
shelter under the thick crowns of the oak-trees by the wayside,
which formed an impenetrable roof to the flood of rain.
"I know nothing more sublime than a thunder-storm," said Goethe,
looking up as if inspired; "when the thunder rolls in such awful
majesty and wrath, it seems as if I heard Prometheus in angry
dispute with the gods. In the dark clouds I see the Titan, enveloped
in mist, overspreading the heavens, and raising his giant-arm to
hurl his mighty wrath." At this instant a flash of lightning,
followed by a deafening peal reverberated in one prolonged echo
through the hills.
"Do you not hear him, Charles?" cried Goethe, delighted--"hear all
the voices of earth united in the grumbling thunder of his wrath?
See, there he stands, yonder in heaven--his form dark as midnight. I
hear it--he calls--Overshadow the heavens, O Jupiter, With thy
vaporous clouds! Cut off the oak and mountain-tops As a boy plucks
the thistle. Leave me earth and my cabin Which thou hast not built,
And my hearth-side, The glow of which thou enviest me! I know naught
so miserable As you gods--you--"
Again the mighty peal silenced Goethe, who looked to heaven with
defiance flashing from his eyes and his clinched hand upraised, as
if he were Prometheus himself menacing the gods.
"Proceed, Wolf," cried the duke, as the echo died away. "How can
you, yourself a god, be so excited with the anger of like beings?
The uplifted arm of the poet sank at his side, and the fiery glance
was softened. "No human word is capable of expressing what
Prometheus just spoke in thunder," said Goethe, musingly, "and I
humbly feel how weak and insignificant we are, and how great we
think ourselves, while our voice is like the humming beetle in
comparison to this voice from the clouds."
"Be not desponding, Wolf, your own will ring throughout Europe;
every ear will listen and every heart will comprehend, and centuries
later it will delight with its freshness and beauty. The storm
passes and dies away, but the poet lives in his heavenly melodies
through all time. You must finish 'Prometheus' for me, Wolf. I
cannot permit you to leave it as a fragment. I will have it in black
and white, to refresh myself in its beauty bright. A spark of your
divine talent is infused into my soul, and I begin to rhyme. Ah,
Wolf, all that is elevated within me I owe to you, and I bless Fate
for according you to me."
"And I also, dear Charles," said Goethe, feelingly. "For, fostered
and protected by your noble mind and nature, my inmost thoughts
develop and blossom. We give and receive daily from each other, and
so mingle the roots of our being that, God willing, we will become
two beautiful trees, like the oak which now arches over us. But see,
the rain is fast ceasing, and the sun looks out by the clinched hand
of Prometheus. We can now travel on to the loved spot."
"Oh, Wolf, are you in love? None but a lover could say the rain has
ceased, when it pours down so that we should be drenched before we
could arrive at Weimar. But hark! I hear a carriage in the distance;
we may be favored with a shelter."
The duke stepped out from under the trees, and looked along the
highway with his sharp hunter's eye. "A vehicle approaches, but no
chance for us, as it appears to be a farm-wagon, crowded with men
"Indeed it does," said Goethe, joining him; "a very merry company
they are too, singing gayly. Now, grant the rain rain has ceased--"
"Charlotte von Stein is at Weimar," interrupted the duke. "Give me
your arm, and we will walk on."
They advanced briskly arm in arm. A stranger meeting them would have
supposed that they were brothers, so much alike were they in form,
manners, and dress, for the duke as well as Goethe wore the Werther
As they descended, the carriage came nearer and nearer. The duke's
keen eye had not been deceived. It was a farm-wagon, filled with a
frolicsome party, sitting on bags of straw for cushions. They were
chatting and laughing absorbed in fun, and did not observe the two
foot-passengers, who turned aside from them. A sudden cry of
surprise hushed the conversation; a form rose, half man and half
woman, enveloped in a man's coat of green baize, crowned with a neat
little hat of a woman. "Oh, it is Charles!" cried the form, and at
the same instant the duke sprang to the wagon. "Is it possible, my
"The Duchess Amelia!" cried Goethe, astonished.
"Yes," laughed the duchess, greeting them with an affectionate look.
"The proverb proves itself--'Like mother, like son.' On the highway
mother and son have met. You should have done the honors in a
"May I be permitted to ask where you come from?" asked the duke.
"And the dress, of what order do you wear?"
"We walked to Ziefurt, and intended to walk back. Thusnelda is so
delicate and weak, that she complained of her fairy feet paining
her," answered the duchess, laughing.
"Ah, duchess, must I always be the butt?" cried the lady behind the
duchess, crouching between the straw-sacks. "Must I permit you to
follow in my footsteps, while I--"
"Hush, Goechhausen--hush, sweet Philomel," interrupted the duke, "or
the Delphic riddle of this costume will be apparent."
"It is easily explained," said the duchess. "No other conveyance was
to be had, and my good Wieland gave me his green overcoat to protect
me from the pouring rain." [Footnote: True anecdote.--See Lewes'
"Goethe's Life and Writings," vol. 1., p. 406.]
"And from to-day forth it will be a precious palladium," cried the
little man with a mild, happy face on the straw by the duchess.
"And there is Knebel too," shouted the duke to the gentleman who
just then pulled the wet hood of his cloak over his powdered hair.
"Our treasurer Bertuch, Count Werther, and Baron von Einsiedel
"Does not your highness ask after our bewitching countess?" asked
Goechhausen, in her fine, sharp voice. "The countess is quite ill--
is she not, Count Werther?"
"I believe so, they say so," answered the count, rather absent-
minded. "I have not seen her for some days."
"What is the matter?" asked the duke, as Goethe was engaged in a
lively conversation with the duchess. "Is the dear countess
"Oh, no," answered Goechhausen, "not very ill, only in love with
genius, a malady which has attacked us all more or less since that
mad fellow Wolfgang Goethe has raged in Weimar, and made it a place
of torment to honorable people. Oh, Goethe--oh, Wolf! with what
lamb-like innocence we wandered in comfortable sheep's clothing
until you came and fleeced us, and infected us with your 'Sturm und
Dranger' malady, and made us fall in love with your works!"
"Goechhausen, hold your malicious tongue, and do not hide your own
joy beneath jest and mockery," cried the duchess. "Acknowledge that
you are rejoiced to see your favorite, and that you will hasten to
write to Madam Aja, 'Our dear duke has returned, and my angel, my
idol, Wolfgang, also.' I assure you, Goethe, Thusnelda loves you,
and was exceedingly melancholy during your absence. If asked the
cause of her sadness, she wept like--"
"Like a crocodile," said the duke. "Oh, I know those tears of
Fraulein Goechhausen; I could relate stories of her crocodile
nature. Mother, how can you have such a monster in your society? Why
not make the cornes, that the little devils may fly away?"
"Very good," cried the little, crooked lady. "I see your highness
has not changed by this journey. Where have you been, dear duke? Oh,
I remember; you flew over the Rhine, and have flown home again quite
All laughed, the duke louder than any one. "Goechhausen, you are a
glorious creature, and the Arminius is to be envied who appropriates
this Thusnelda. Oh, I see the charming youth before me, who has the
courage to make this German wife his own!"
"I will scratch his eyes out?" cried Goechhausen, "and then the
Countess Werther can play Antigone, and lead him around as Oedipus.
Why shut your eyes, Einsiedel? I do not scratch quite yet."
"I was not thinking of that," said the baron, astonished.
"You never think that every one knows; but did you not do it so soon
as you understood the Countess Werther should lead blind Oedipus as
Before the count could answer, the court lady turned again to the
duke. "What did your highness bring me? I hope you have not
forgotten that you promised me a handsome present."
"No, I have not forgotten it; I have brought my Thusnelda a
souvenir--such a gift!"
"What is it, your highness?"
"A surprise which, if Thusnelda is clever, she must think about all
night.--But, Goethe, is it not time to leave the ladies?"
"Wait, I command you both," said the Duchess Amelia, extending her
hand to her son, who pressed it to his lips most affectionately. "I
have given out invitations for a soiree, for this evening. My
daughter-in-law, the Duchess Louisa, has accepted, duke, and Frau
von Stein also, Goethe. I hope to see you at Belvedere, gentlemen.
The poet Gleim is in town, and will read his late 'Muse Almanach.'
May I not expect both of you?"
They joyfully consented, gazing after the merry society as it drove
away. "This is a good bite for the poisonous tongues of the
honorable," cried the duke. "My mother in a farm-wagon, with
Wieland's green overcoat on, and the reigning duke, with his Goethe,
entering his capital on foot like a journeyman mechanic, after a
"I wish we were there, my dearest friend," sighed Goethe.
"Oh, love makes you impatient! Come on, then. But listen, we must
play Gochhausen a trick; I have promised her a surprise. Will you
help me, Wolf?"
"With pleasure, duke."
"I have thought of something very droll, and your servant Philip
must help us; he is a clever fellow, and can keep his own counsel."
"He is silent as the grave, duke."
"That is necessary for such a gentleman as the women all run after.
Let us skip down the mountain, and then forward where our hearts
incline us. This afternoon I will go for you and bring you to
Belvedere, and then we can talk over the surprise." They ran down
the declivity into the suburb, to the terror of the good people, who
looked after them, saying that the young duke had returned with his
mad protege. The "mad favorite" seemed more crazy than ever to-day,
for after a brief farewell to the duke, he bounded through the
streets across the English park, to the loved house, the roof of
which he had so longingly greeted from the hillside. The door stood
open, as is customary in small towns, and the servant in the
vestibule came to meet him, and respectfully announced that her
master had gone to his estate at Hochberg, but that Frau von Stein
was most probably in the pavilion, in the garden, as she had gone
thither with her guitar. "Is she alone?" asked Goethe. The servant
answered in the affirmative, and through the court hastened the
lover--not through the principal entrance, as he would surprise her,
and read in her sweet face whether she thought of him. Softly he
opened the little garden gate, and approached the pavilion by a
side-alley. Do his feet touch the ground, or float over it? He knew
not; he heard music, accompanied by a sweet, melodious voice. It was
Charlotte's. Goethe's face beamed with delight and happiness. He
gazed at her unseen, not alone with his eyes, but heart and soul
went forth to her. She sat sideways to the door; upon a table lay
her notes, and the guitar rested upon her arm. She sang, in a rich,
sweet voice, Reinhardt's beautiful melody:
"I'd rather fight my way through sorrows
Than bear so many joys in life;
All this affinity of heart to heart,
How strangely it causes us to suffer!"
She ceased, as if overpowered with her own thoughts, the guitar sank
upon her lap, and her fingers glided over the chords, so that the
tones died away imperceptibly. Her deep-blue eyes gazed pensively in
the distance, and the sweet lips repeated softly, "How strangely it
causes us to suffer!" Near the garden entrance, through which the
odor of sweet flowers and the song of birds was wafted with every
gentle zephyr, stood Goethe, looking at the woman whom he had so
passionately loved for three years, so absorbingly, that to her were
consecrated all his thoughts.
He could contain himself no longer; he rushed forward and threw
himself at her feet. "Oh, Charlotte, I love you, only you, and once
more I am by your side!"
A shriek! was it a cry of surprise or delight? Who let the guitar
fall to the floor, he or she? Who embraced the other in affectionate
haste, he or she? Who pressed the lips so lovingly to the other
lips, he or she? And who said, "I love you? What bliss to again
repose in your affection, I would fain die now. In this moment a
whole life has been consecrated, for love has revealed to us our
She sat upon the tabouret, and Goethe still knelt before her,
clasping her feet and pressing them to his bosom. His eyes beamed
with inexpressible delight as he regarded the face, usually so calm
and indifferent--today glowing as sunrise.
"Oh, tell me, Charlotte, have you thought of me? But rather speak to
me with your eyes, and may they be more than the cruel lips which
refuse to confess. Oh, shade not those loved orbs, which are my
stars shining upon me, whithersoever I wander. They are my light, my
spring-time, and my love. They will never cease to beam upon me, as
light and love never grow old. Let me read eternal youth in those
eyes, and the secrets which rest as pearls in the depths of your
heart. Only tell me, is the pearl of love to be found there, and is
"It would be a misfortune if it were there," she whispered, with a
sweet smile. "Pearls are the result of a malady, and my heart would
be ill if the pearl of love were found there. No, no, rise, Wolf,
dear Wolf, we have given away at the first moment of meeting; let us
now be reasonable, and speak in a dignified manner with each other,
as it becomes a married woman and her friend."
"Friend?" repeated Goethe, impetuously; "forever must I listen to
this hated, hypocritical word, which, like a priest's robe, shall
cover the sacred glow in my heart? I have told you, Charlotte, that
I am not your friend, and I never shall be. There is not the least
spark of this still, calm fire of the earthly moderation in me, by
which one could cook his potatoes, or his daily vegetables, but by
which one could never prepare food for the gods, or that which could
refresh a poet's heart or quicken his soul. No, in me burns the fire
which Prometheus stole from the gods, originating in heaven and
glowing upon earth. This heavenly and earthly love unites in one
flame. Again, I say, Charlotte, banish this hypocritical word
'friendship!' It is only love which I feel for you, let this
sentiment enter at every avenue of your heart, and do not feign
ignorance of it, sweet hypocrite. Surprise has torn away the mask!
The passionate kiss, which still burns upon my lips, was not given
by a friend or sister; but overcome by joy, the truth has been
"Do you wish that the kiss of meeting should be that of parting
also?" said Charlotte, sadly, as she raised her blue eyes with a
languishing look to the handsome, ardent face of the man who stood
before her. "Do you wish to separate forever? I must recall to you
our last conversation: 'Only when you are resolved to moderate this
impetuous manner, and curb this overflow of feeling, which reason
and custom imposes upon us, shall I be able to receive you and enjoy
"Yes, with these unmeaning phrases you banished me. Cruel and hard-
hearted were you to the last. Oh, Charlotte! you know what I
suffered at our last walk, with your reasoning remonstrances and
cold-hearted reproaches; they pierced my heart like poisoned arrows.
If the duke and duchess had not been walking before us, I should
have wept myself weary. My whole being cried within me: 'Oh! cruel
and inexorable woman, to beg of me, who so unutterably loves her, to
call her friend and sister!' I repeated the words daily during my
absence, and sought to clothe your beloved image with meaning. They
disfigured you, and the angel whom I adore was no longer
recognizable. I cannot call you friend or sister."
"Then I can be nothing to you, dear Wolfgang," sighed Charlotte. "In
this hour of meeting we will part, and to avoid a chance encounter
even, I will go to my husband at Kochberg, and remain there the
Goethe seized her, holding her fast in his strong arms, staring her
in the face with a fierce, angry look. "Are you in earnest? Would
you really do it?"
"Goethe, I beg you to loosen your hold; you hurt my arms."
"Do you not also hurt me? With your cold indifference do you not
pierce my heart with red-hot daggers, and then smile and rejoice at
my torture, which is a proof to you of my unbounded love? While you
only play with me, and attach me to your triumphal car, to display
to the world that you have succeeded in taming the lion, and have
changed him into a good-natured domestic animal. Go! you do not
deserve that I should love you, cold-hearted, cruel woman!"
He threw her arms from him, with tears in his eyes. Charlotte von
Stein regarded him with anger and indifference.
"Farewell, secretary of legation. It seems to please you to insult
and offend a poor woman, who has no other protection than her honor
and virtue. Farewell! I will not expose myself to such offences;
therefore I will retire."
She turned slowly toward the door, but Goethe bounded forward like a
tiger, interrupted her path, falling upon his knees, imploring pity
and begging for pardon. "Oh, Charlotte, I will be gentle as a child,
I will be reserved, I know that I am a sinner! It is warring against
one's own heart to seek comfort in offending what is dearest to it
in a moment of ill-humor. But I have again become a child, with all
my thoughts, scarcely recognizable for the moment, quite lost to
myself, as I consent to the conditions of others with this fire
raging within me. Oh, beloved Charlotte, forgive me! I submit to all
that you wish." [Footnote: Goethe's words.--See "Letters to
Charlotte yon Stein," roll., p. 358.]
"Will you be satisfied to love me as your friend and sister?"
"I will be," he sighed. "Only in the future you must endeavor to
persuade yourself into such a sisterly way that you will be
indulgent to my rudeness, otherwise I shall have to avoid you when I
need you most. Oh, Charlotte, it seems terrible to me that I should
mar through anguish the best hours of my life, the blissful moments
of meeting with you, for whom I would pluck every hair from my head
if it would make you happy. And yet to be so blind, so hardened!
Have pity upon me. Again I promise you that I will be reasonable. Do
not banish me from your presence. Extend to me your hand, and
promise me that you will be my friend and sister!" [Footnote:
Goethe's words.--See "Letters to Charlotte von Stein," roll., p.
"Then here is my hand," said she, with a charming smile.
"I will be your friend and sister, and--"
"What now, my Charlotte? do finish--what is it?"
She laid her hand gently upon his shoulder, and her words fell on
his ear like soft music. "When my dear friend and much-beloved
brother has conducted himself very prudently for two or three happy
weeks, I will send him a ringlet of my hair, which he has so long
begged for, and a kiss with it."
Goethe spoke not, but pressed her blushing face to his bosom, and
laid his hand gently upon her head. A smile of delight--of perfect
happiness--played around his lips.
This happy smile still beamed upon Goethe's face as he walked with
the duke late in the evening toward Belvedere to soiree of the
Duchess Amelia, who was inspired with a love for the fine arts, and
particularly literature. The two gentlemen had busily occupied
themselves in preparing them for the lady of honor, Fraulein von
Gochhausen, and, although aided by Goethe's servant, Philip, and
workmen, it was late when they arrived.
As they entered, the ladies and gentlemen were seated in a large
circle around the centre-table. At one end sat the Duchesses Amelia
and Louisa, the mother and wife of Charles Augustus and near the
former her friend and favorite the poet Wieland, once the tutor of
her son the duke. Near the poet sat an elderly gentleman of
cheerful, good-natured mien, who, with the exception of Wieland, was
the only one who did not present himself, like the duke and Goethe,
in Werther costume. He wore a white, silver-embroidered coat, with a
dark-blue satin vest, and breeches of the same, shoes with buckles,
and bosom and wrist ruffles of lace.
This gentleman, with the bright, sparkling eyes, and pleasant face,
was the poet Gleim, who looked very comfortable and stately in the
circle of powdered perukes. His admiration for Frederick the Great
had inspired him to write some beautiful military songs, and his
love of poetry and literature made him an enthusiastic admirer of
all those devoted themselves to literary pursuits. Besides, he was
rich and liberal, and it was very natural that the poets, and
authors exerted themselves with marked assiduity to please Father
Gleim. They were gratified to have him print their works for a small
remuneration in an annual which he entitled the "Almanach of the
Muses." He was just reading aloud at the duchess's soiree from the
late edition of the almanach, and the society listened with earnest
and kind attention, occasionally interrupted with an enthusiastic
"Bravo!" or "Excellent!" from the duchess, followed by a murmur of
assent around the table, which caused the poet's face to brighten
with joy and satisfaction, and him to read on with increased energy.
The entrance of the duke and Goethe was unobserved, as it was
understood that the former wished no notice to be taken of his going
or coming, and the duchess had also waved her hand, not to interrupt
Father Gleim. The poet has just finished the new poem of melodious
rhythm of imprisoned Shubart. As he paused to wipe the perspiration
from his brow and sip a little raspberry water, a tall, slender
young man, in the Werther costume, approached, bowing, and regarding
the poet so kindly, that the glance of his fine black eyes fell like
a sunbeam on the heart of the old man. "You appear somewhat
fatigued, my good sir," said the unknown, in a sweet, sonorous
voice. "Will you not permit me to relieve you, and read in your
stead from this glorious book of yours?"
"Do so, my dear Gleim," said the Duchess Amelia, smiling, "you seem
really exhausted; let the young man continue the agreeable and
Father Gleim was very well pleased; he handed the book to the young
stranger with a graceful bow, as the latter seated himself opposite
to him, and next to Fraulein Gochhausen.
He commenced in a clear, distinct voice. The verses flowed from his
lips gracefully, and in a cultivated style. The company listened
with devoted attention, and Father Gleim, the protector of all the
young poets, sat delighted, nodding consent, with a pleasant smile.
It must all be charming--it had come into existence under his
fostering care. What beautiful verses to listen to! "Die Zephyre
lauschen, Die Balche rauschen, Die Sonus Verbreitet ihr Licht mit
And how charmingly the young man read them! Suddenly Father Gleim
startled, and the smile died upon his lips. What was it? What was
the young man reading? Verse which were not in the collection, and
which were more remarkable than he had ever heard from his young
poets. "Those are not in the Annual," cried Gleim, quite forgetting
One glance from the fine black eyes of the young man so confounded
Father Gleim, that he ceased in the midst of a sentence, and,
staring in breathless astonishment, listened. Glorious thoughts were
expressed therein, and the poets of the Muse Almanach might have
thanked God if the like had occurred to them. Love was not the
burden of the song; neither hearts, griefs, nor bliss, but satire,
lashing right and left with graceful dexterity, and dealing a
harmless thrust to every one. All were forced to laugh; the happy
faces animated and inspired every thing. The brilliant satirical
verses rushed like rockets from the lips of the reader--a real
illumination of wit and humor, of good-natured jokes and biting
sarcasm, and it delighted the old man that every one had received
hits and thrusts but himself; he had been spared until now! Every
one regarded him, smiling and amused, as the reader exalted the
merits of the Maecenas, and praised him highly for the interest he
took in the poet's heart, soul, and purse, and shouted victory when
one excelled. But suddenly the good father also changed, and,
instead of the patron on the right throne, there was a turkey-cock
on the round nest, which zealously sought to hatch out the many eggs
that he had to take care of for others besides his own; he sat
brooding untiringly, and shed many a tear of joy over the fine
number of eggs, yet it happened that a poetical viper had put but
under him one of chalk, which he cared for with the others.
Herr Gleim could no longer contain himself, and, striking the table,
he cried, "That is either Goethe or the devil!" The entire company
burst into uncontrollable laughter, and the old man shouted the
second time, though inwardly angry, "It is either Goethe or the
"Both, dear Father Gleim," said Wieland, who was drying his tears
from laughter, "it is Goethe, and he has the devil in him to-day. He
is like a wild colt, which kicks out behind and before, and it would
be well not to approach him too near." [Footnote: Wieland's own
words.--See Lewes' "Life of Goethe," vol. i., p. 432.]
Goethe alone retained his composure, and continued reading in a
louder voice, which hushed all conversation. He lashed with bitter
sarcasm "him who assumed to be a god--a wise man--and who counted
for nothing better than a pretentious, saucy fellow, who made
himself the scorn of the poets by his sweet, Werther-like sighs, and
other worthless lamentations, heeding neither God nor the devil!"
And so he stormed and thundered, ridiculed and slandered his own
flesh and blood, until Goechhausen, red with anger, rose and
snatched the book from his hand, and closed his lips with her hand,
crying: "If you do not cease, Goethe, I will write to your beloved
mother, Frau Aja, that a satirist, a calumniator has had the
impudence to defame and slur her beloved son in a most sinful and
shameful manner! I will write to her, indeed, if you do not stop!"
Goethe rose, and bowing offered his hand to Father Gleim in such a
friendly, affectionate manner, that the old man, quite delighted,
thanked him heartily for the pleasure and surprise which he had
The duke, however, seated himself by the little lady of honor.
"Thusnelda, you are an incomparable creature, and quite calculated
to be the ancestress of all the Germans. I declare myself your
cavalier for the evening, and will devote myself to you as your most
humble servant, and will not quit your side for a moment."
"Very beautiful it will be, my dear duke, a most charming idyl; in
true Watteau style, I will be the sweet shepherdess, and lead your
highness by a little ribbon. But where is my present--my surprise?"
"You must not be impatient, Thusnelda, but wait what time will
produce. You will have it; if not to-day, to-morrow. Every day
brings its own care and sorrow."
"Ah, duke, instead of giving me my surprise, you beat me with
doggerels. That comes from having a Goethe for companion and friend.
Crazy tricks, like chicken-pox, are contagious, and the latter you
have caught, duke. It is a new kind of genius distemper. Very
fortunately, our dear Countess Werther has another malady, or she
might be infected. Perhaps she has it already, Count Werther--how is
"I do not know, Fraulein," replied the count, startled from reverie.
"I really do not know! My wife is quite ill, for that reason has
gone to our estate to recover her peace and quiet. It is
unfortunately quite impossible for me to visit her there; but my
dear, faithful friend, Baron von Einsiedel, will drive over to-
morrow at my request, my commission--"
"To set the fox to keep the geese," interrupted Thusnelda in her
"No, not that, Fraulein," said Count Werther, quite confused, as the
duke burst into a merry laugh, calling Thusnelda a witty Kobold, and
as her faithful Celadon offered her his arm to conduct her to his
mother, the Duchess Amelia.
The company were all in a very happy frame of mind. Goethe's
charming impromptu had kindled wit and humor upon every lip. He
himself was the happiest of all, for Charlotte was by his side,
gazing upon him with her large, thoughtful eyes, and permitting him
to be her cavalier for the evening.
The duke also devoted himself to Fraulein von Goechhausen, who was
this evening unsurpassably witty and caustic, delighting him, and
making the Duchess Amelia laugh, and the Duchess Louisa sometimes to
slightly shrug her shoulders and shake her head with disapproval.
In the midst of a most interesting conversation with Frau von Stein,
Goethe was informed that some one awaited him in the anteroom. He
went out quickly, and upon returning he whispered to the duke, who
nodded, and answered him in a low tone, and then Goethe betook
himself to the Duchess Amelia.
"What is it?" the latter asked. "Have important dispatches arrived?"
"No; I come to your highness as courier from your son. The duke begs
that you will lock the door of your anteroom when you retire, and
that you will upon no condition open it, no matter how much
Thusnelda may beg and implore."
"Will you not injure my poor Goechhausen, you wanton fellow?"
"No! it is not very dangerous, duchess. It is only a harmless
surprise, which the duke promised Fraulein von Goechhausen."
"Very well, then, it can take place; I promise to be quite deaf to
all Thusnelda's knocking and thumping, and I shall be glad to be
informed to-morrow what the trick is. I prefer not to inquire to-
day, as I might feel obliged to veto it if it were too severe. But
look, the Duchess Louisa will break up; does she know any thing
about the affair?"
"No, your highness, you know very well that the young duchess--"
"Is much more sensible than the old one, and shakes her head
disapprovingly when she hears of your ingenuous tricks. Perhaps it
would be well if I were equally sensible, but there is no help for
it. I like bright, happy people, and I think when youth vents
itself, old age is more sedate and reasonable."
"You are quite right, duchess. Mankind resembles new wine. If the
must does not ferment and foam well, no good wine will come of it.
But look at our Charles, with the saucy jest upon his lip, and the
fire of inspiration in those bright brown eyes. One day a fine,
strong wine will clear itself from this glorious fermenting must."
"I hope so, Goethe, and if the gods grant it, the great merit will
belong to you, who have proved yourself a good vintager, and we will
rejoice together in your glorious success."
An hour later the palace Belvedere was silent and deserted; the
guests had taken their departure. The duchess had her suite and
commanded them to retire. Fraulein von Gochhausen alone remained
with her mistress, chatting by the bedside, and recapitulating in
her amusing style all important and unimportant events of the
soiree, The duchess smiled at the mischievous remarks with which she
ornamented her relation, and at her keen, individualizing of
"Fraulein Gochhausen, you are the most wicked and the merriest
mocking-bird God ever created," cried the duchess, "Have done with
your scandals, go up to your room, piously say your evening prayers,
and stretch yourself upon your maiden bed."
"Soon, duchess; only one thing more have I to call your attention
to. There is a gossip afloat about the Werthers. I perceive it in
the air, as the dove scents the vulture."
"You alarm me, Gochhausen; what good is it? You do not mean that the
lovely Countess Werther--"
"Is not only very weary of her husband, but looks about for a
substitute--a friend, as the ingenious ladies now call him. That is
what I mean, and I know the so-called friend which the sweet
sentimental countess has chosen."
"It is the Baron von Einsiedel, is it not?" asked the duchess. "That
is to say, his younger brother, the gay lieutenant, not our good
friend par excellence.
"Yes, I mean the brother, and I have warned and taunted the count
this week past, but it is impossible to awake him from his stupidity
"Again you are giving loose reins to your naughty tongue, Thusnelda.
Count Werther is a thoroughly scholarly person, whom I often envy
his knowledge of the languages. He has studied Sanscrit and the
cuneated letters, among other ancient tongues."
"It may be that he understands the dead languages, but the living
ones not in the least. The language of the eyes and inspiration he
is blind to, with seeing eyes! My dear duchess, if you are not
watchful, and prevent the affair with timely interference, a scandal
will grow out of it, and you know well that it would be a welcome
opportunity for our Weimar Philistines (as the Jena students call
commonplace gossips) to cry 'Murder,' and howl about the immoral
example of geniuses, which Wolfgang Goethe has introduced at court."
"You are right," said the duchess, musingly; "your apt tongue and
keen eye are ever carefully watching, like a good shepherd-dog, that
none of the sheep go astray and are lost. And you do not mind
attacking this or that one in the leg with your sharp teeth!"
"Let those scream who are unjustly bitten, your highness! Believe
me, the countess will not cry out; she will much more likely take
care not to receive a well-merited rebuke. I beg your grace to
prevent the gossip! Not on account of this silly, sentimental young
woman, or her pedantic husband, but that our young duke and Goethe
may not be exposed to scandal, as well as your highness."
"You are right--we must take care to prevent it. Has not the
countess been absent at her estate four days?"
"Yes, your highness, it is just this that troubles me. She went away
as sound as a fish, and has suddenly fallen very ill. No physician
has been called, but, to-morrow, the count will commission his dear
friend the baron to drive to his country-seat, and bring him tidings
of his better-half."
"We must circumvent this. In the morning we will arrange a pleasure-
drive, of the whole court, to the country-seat of Count Werther. It
shall be a surprise. Let Fourier give out the invitations early to-
morrow, for a country party, destination unknown. The distribution
of the couples in the carriages shall be decided by lot. Take care
that Lieutenant Einsiedel is your cavalier, so that when we arrive
at the little Werther, he will already be appropriated, and then we
will induce her to return with us and spend some time at Belvedere.
Now, good-night, Thusnelda; I am very tired and need repose. Sleep
already weighs upon my eyelids, and will close them as soon as you
are gone. Good-night, my child--sleep well!"
The little deformed court lady kissed the extended hand, the
candlestick, with only a stump of a taper in it, and withdrew from
the princely sleeping-room, courtesying, and wishing her mistress
good-night, with pleasant dreams.
The anteroom was dark and deserted. The lights were all
extinguished, and Fraulein Goechhausen was, in truth, the only
person who had not long since retired in the ducal palace. She was
accustomed to be the last, accustomed to traverse the long, lonely
corridors, and mount two flights of stairs to her bedroom upon the
third story. The gay duchess, being very fond of society, had had
the second story arranged guest-chambers and drawing-rooms.
Why should the little court lady be afraid to-night? She had not
thought of it, but stepped forward briskly to mount the stairs. It
was surely very disagreeable for the wind to extinguish her lamp at
that instant, just at the turning of stairs, and she could not
account for it, as none of the windows were open, and there was no
trace of a draft. However, it was an undeniable fact, the light was
out and she was in total darkness--not even a star was to be seen in
the clouded sky. It was, indeed, true that Thusnelda was so
accustomed to the way that it mattered little whether she had a
light or not. Now she had reached the corridor and she could not
fail to find the door, as there was but one, that of her own room.
She stretched out her hand to open it, but, strange to say, she
missed the knob! Then she was sure that it was farther on; she felt
along the wall, but still it eluded her grasp. It was unheard of--no
handle and not a door even to be found! The wall was bare and
smooth, and papered the entire length. A slight shudder crept over
the courageous little woman's heart, and she could not explain to
herself what it all meant. She called her maid, but no answer--not a
sound interrupted the stillness! "I will go down to the duchess,"
murmured Thusnelda; "perhaps she is awake, and then I can re-light
The door was fastened; the duchess had locked the ante-room to-night
for the first time.
Thusnelda tapped lightly, and begged an entrance humbly and
imploringly. No answer, every thing was quiet. She recalled that the
duchess had told her that she was very weary, and would sleep as
soon as she was alone, which she undoubtedly had done.
Thusnelda did not presume to awake her by knocking louder. She would
be patient, and mount again to her room. Surely she must have made a
mistake, and turned to the left of the corridor, where there was no
door, instead of the right, as she ought to have done. It must be
that it was her fault. She groped along the dark flights of stairs
to the upper gallery, carefully seeking the right this time, but in
vain. Again she felt only the smooth wall. Terrified, she knew not
whether she was awake or dreaming, or whether she might not be in an
enchanted castle, or walking in her sleep in a strange house. Just
here she ought to find her room and the maid awaiting her, but it
was lonely, deserted, and strange--no door, no maid. Thusnelda, with
trembling hands smoothed her face, pulled first her nose, and then
her hair, to identify herself. "Is it I?" she said. "Am I, indeed,
myself? Am I awake? I know that I am lady of honor to the Duchess
Amelia, and that upon the upper story is my room. Do not be foolish,
and imagine that witchcraft comes to pass; the door is there, and it
can be found." Thusnelda renewed her search with out-spread arms and
wide-spread fingers, feeling first this side of the wall and then
By daylight the deformed little lady of honor must have been a very
droll figure, in full toilet, dancing along the wall as if suspended
by her outstretched hands. Oh, it was quite vain to seek any longer.
It must be enchantment, and the door had disappeared. An indefinable
dream crept over Thusnelda, and she was cast down. For the first
time a jest failed her trembling lips, and she wept with anguish.
Yes, she, the keen, mordant, jesting little woman, prayed and
implored her Maker to unloose her from the enchantment, and permit
her to find the long-sought-for entrance. But praying was in vain,
the door was not to be found, it was witch craft, and she must
submit to it. The rustling and moving her arms frightened her now,
and when she walked the darkness prevented her seeing if any one
followed her; so she crouched upon the floor, yielding to the
unavoidable necessity passing the night there--the night of
enchantment and witchery.[Footnote: See Lewes' "Life and Writings of
Goethe," vol. 1., p. 408.]
Not alone for Fraulein Goechhausen was this beautiful May-night of
sad experience with witches. There were other places at Weimar. In
the neighborhood of the ducal park, in the midst of green-meadows,
stood a simple little cottage. Near it flowed the Ilm, spanned by
three bridges, all closed by gates, so that no one could reach the
cottage without the occupant's consent. It was as secure as a
fortress or an island of the sea, and distinctly visible even in the
night, its white walls rising against the dark perspective of the
park. This is the poet's Eldorado, his paradise, presented to
Wolfgang Goethe by his friend the Duke Charles Augustus. It was late
as the possessor wound his way toward his Tusculum, as he familiarly
called it, and, more attracted by the aspect of the heavens than by
sleep, sought the balcony, to gaze at the dark mass of clouds
chasing each other like armies in retreat and pursuit; one moment
veiling the moon, at another revealing her full disk, and soon again
covering the earth with dark shadows, until the lightning flashed
down in snaky windings, making the darkness momentarily visible with
her lurid glare. It was a glorious spectacle for the intuitive,
sympathetic soul of the poet, and he yielded to its influence with
delight. He heard the voice of God in the rolling of the thunder,
and sought to comprehend the unutterable, and understand it in this
poetical sense. Voices spake to him in the rushing of the storm, the
sighing of the trees, and the rustling of the foliage. The storm
passed quickly, a profound quiet and solemnity spread out over the
nightly world, and it lay as if in repose, smiling in blissful
dreams. The air was filled with perfumes, wafted to the balcony upon
which dreamed the poet with unclosed eyelids and waking thoughts.
The clouds were all dispersed; full and clear was suspended the moon
in the deep, blue vault, where twinkled thousands of stars,
whispering of unknown worlds, and the mysteries of Nature, and the
greatness of Him who created them all.
"Oh, beloved, golden moon, how calmly you look down upon me, sublime
and lovely at the same time! When I gaze at you, moving so quietly,
floating in infinity, and contemplating reflect thyself in
finiteness, I think of you, oh Charlotte, who stands above me like
the moon so bright and mild, and I envelop myself in your rays, and
my spirit becomes heavenly in your light.
Mir ist es, denk ich nur an Dich, Als in den Mond zu seh'n, Ein
suesser Friede weht um mich, Weiss nicht, wie mir gescheh'n!
"Yes, like sweet peace, and quiet, sacred moonlight, my thoughts
shall be of you, Charlotte; not like the glowing rays of the sun, or
the cold light of the stars. Bright and beaming like the moon you
are to me, spreading around me your soft light. Oh, beautiful golden
moon, mirrored in the water, you lie as in a silvery bath, and would
entice me to seek you in the murmuring depths. Hark! how the ruffled
waves of the Ilm with repeated gentle caresses kiss the shore, rush
from thence in golden links down the river! Sweet of the Ilm, I
come, I come!"
Goethe hastened from the balcony, threw aside his apparel, plunged
into the silvery flood, shouting with joy.
What heavenly pleasure to float there, rocked by the murmuring
waves, gazing at the silvery stars and the golden moon, a lovely May
night, listening to the voices of Nature! Add to that the perfume-
laden breeze rising from the rain-refreshed meadows. How glorious to
plunge into the cool stream, splashing and dashing the water, and
then to shoot like a fish through the drops falling like golden
rain! Suddenly, while swimming, Goethe raised his head to listen. He
thought he heard footsteps on the poet's forbidden bridge. The moon
distinctly revealed a peasant from Oberweimar, who would be early to
the weekly market, and so serve himself to the shortest route while
no one could see him.
"Such presumption deserves punishment, my good peasant, and if there
is no one else to do it the ghosts must."
Listen, what a savage yell from under the bridge, and then another
The peasant, frightened, stopped suddenly, and looked down into the
river. "Oh, what can it be?"
A glistening white arm is raised menacingly toward the bridge. A
white figure, with a black head and long black hair, is seen
plunging and splashing, while fearful yells are heard from the deep.
Then it disappeared, to return, and menace, and yell, and plunge
The peasant shrieked with terror, and was answered with a cruel
laugh. The white figure sank and rose from the river screeching and
yelling, and the peasant shrieked also with terror.
"A ghost! a ghost! oh, have mercy upon us! Amen! amen!"
Fright lent him wings, and he fled, followed by the savage yells of
the white figure, and never stopped until he reached Oberweimar,
where he related to the astonished and terrified neighbors that
there was a river-ghost just by the bridge which led to the cottage
of the mad secretary of legation, Goethe, and which howled in the
moonlight.[Footnote: This tradition of the ghost of the Ilm has been
preserved in Weimar, since Goethe's nocturnal bath, until our time.-
-See Lewes, vol. i., p. 451.]
With the peasant also disappeared the ghost of the Ilm.
Like a happy child of Nature, refreshed, Goethe went to his room and
then again sought the balcony, to throw himself upon the carpet and
gaze at the blue starry vault, and enjoy the glories of heaven with
thoughtful devotion, and think of Charlotte--only of her, not once
of the poor Thusnelda von Goechhausen, who passed the night upon the
stairs of the Palace Belvedere, and who, at last weary with fright
and exhaustion, fell asleep, and was awakened by the Duchess Amelia
in the morning, laughingly demanding why she preferred the landing
of the stairs for a place of repose.
"Because I am bewitched, duchess, and my sleeping-room has
disappeared from earth--because some cursed demon or wizard has
enchanted me, this wicked--"
"Beware what you say!" interrupted the duchess; "it is most probably
the duke that you are inveighing against, and calling a demon and
At this Thusnelda sprang up as if struck by an electric shock--"The
surprise, this is what the duke promised me."
"Very likely," laughed the duchess. "The courier just arrived with a
letter from my son to you, and I came to bring it myself, and found
you, to my surprise, sleeping here. Read it, and tell me what he
"Oh, listen, your highness!" cried Thusnelda, after having hastily
perused the contents of the ducal missive.
"'I hope I have succeeded to surprise you!
Demons and wizards have closed your doors,
And weeping you slept on the stairway alone.
All witchcraft has now disappeared.
Go seek The surprise that from Berlin I brought you,
Which I now offer for an atonement.'"
"An insolent fellow, indeed, is my son," said the duchess, "but you
see, Thusnelda, he says, pater peccavi, and I am convinced that you
will find something very pretty and acceptable in your room."
"I will not take it--indeed I will not," pouted the lady of honor.
"He so fearfully tormented me last night. I assure your highness I
was half dead with terror and--"
"And yet you will forgive him, Thusnelda, for the duke is your
declared favorite; you dare not reproach him were he never so
insolent, for you are just as much so, and not a hair's-breadth
better. Come, go up and see what it is."
She went, and found four masons, who had been at work since daybreak
to remove the wall and replace the door. Thusnelda was obliged to
laugh in spite of the unhappy night she had passed, as she climbed
over rubbish and ruins into her room, and met her maid dissolved in
tears, who related to her that "the duke had had her walled in, for
fear she would tell the trick to her mistress."
"And so you were really hermetically sealed?" said the duchess.
"Yes, your highness," whimpered the maid, "I thought I never should
see daylight again. I wept and prayed all night. The only thing that
consoled me was the duke's command, which Philip brought to me, to
give this little box to Fraulein so soon as the wall should be taken
away in the morning."
"Give it to me, Lieschen," cried Thusnelda, impatiently, her face
beaming with satisfaction, however, when she opened the box. "Now,
duchess, that is what I call a surprise, and the duke shall be, as
he ever has been, my favorite. If he does sometimes play rude
tricks, he makes it all right again, in a very generous and princely
manner. See what a beautiful watch his highness has brought me,
ornamented with diamonds!"
"Yes, it is very pretty; give it to me that I may return it to the
duke, and not mortify him too much, as you will not wear it."
"I will accept it, duchess," cried Thusnelda, laughing--"and all is
forgiven and forgotten."
THE PURSE-PROUD MAN.
"Trude, is there no news from him yet? Have you never seen him
since? Did he not tell you about it?"
"No, my dearest Marie," sighed old Trude. "There is no word, no
message from him. I have been twenty times to the baker's in eight
days, and waited at the corner of the street, where we agreed to
meet, but no Moritz was there, and I have not been able to hear any
thing about him."
"Something must have happened to him," sighed Marie. "He is very
ill, perhaps dying, and--"
"No, no, my child, he is not ill, I will tell you all about it, if
you will not worry. I have been to Herr Moritz's lodgings to-day. I
could not wait any longer, and--"
"Did you see him, and speak with him, Trude?"
"No Marie, he was not there; and the people in the house told me
that he had been gone for a week."
"Gone!" repeated Marie, thoughtfully. "What does it mean? What could
persuade him to abandon me in this hour of need? Tell me, Trude,
what do you think? Console me if you can. You really know nothing
further than that he is gone?"
"A little bit more, but not much, my heart's child. When the people
told me that he had disappeared eight days ago, it seemed as if one
of the Alps had fallen on my heart, and my limbs trembled so I could
go no farther, and I was obliged to sit down upon the stairs and cry
bitterly, picturing all sorts of dreadful things to myself."
"Dreadful things?" asked Marie. "Oh, Trude, you do not believe that
my good, brave Moritz could do any thing sinful and cowardly, like
wicked men? You do not think that my beloved--oh, no, no--I know
that he is more noble; he will bear the burden of life as I will, so
long as it pleases God."
The old woman hung down her head, and humbly folded her hands.
"Forgive me, my child, that I have such weak and sinful thoughts. I
will apologize for them in my heart to you and your beloved so long
as I live. After I had cried enough, I determined to go to the Gray
Cloister, and beg the director to see me!"
"Did you see him to speak with him, dear good Trude?"
"Yes, dear child. I told him I was an aged aunt of Herr Moritz, who
had come to Berlin to visit him; and finding that he was absent, I
would like to know where he had gone, and, how long he would remain
"Oh, Trude, how clever you are, and how kindly you think of every
thing!" cried Marie, embracing her old nurse, and kissing
affectionately her sunburnt, wrinkled cheek. "What did he say?"
"He told me that Herr Moritz had begged permission to be absent
fourteen days to take an urgent, unavoidable journey; that ten days
had already expired, and he would soon return."
"Then he will be here in four days, and perhaps will bring hope and
aid! He has gone to seek it; I know and I feel it, though I cannot
divine where the assistance will come from. Oh, Trude, if I could
only gain a favorable delay until Moritz returns!"
"Every thing is arranged," murmured Trude. "The marriage license is
already made out, and Parson Dietrich has promised to be ready at
any hour. Herr Ebenstreit has sent the money, doubling the amount
required to the 'Invalids' Hospital' at Berlin, so that when the
papers of nobility arrive, there--"
"Hush!" interrupted Marie, "do not speak of it. It is fearful to
think of, and it crazes me to hear it. I will resort to every
extreme. Since my father and mother are deaf to my entreaties, I
will try to move him to pity. I have never been able to see him
alone; my mother is watchful that an explanation should be
impossible between us. I will implore this man to have pity upon me,
and confide in him to whom they would sell me."
Trude shook her head mournfully. "I fear it will be in vain, dear
child. This man has no heart. I have proved him, and I know it.--
Hark the bell rings! Who can it be?"
Both stepped out of the little garret-room to peep over the
banister. Since Marie had been betrothed to the rich banker
Ebenstreit, the general had received from his kind wife a servant in
pompous livery for his own service. This servant had already opened
the door, and Marie heard him announce in a loud voice, "Herr
"He!" Marie started back with horror. "He, so early in the morning!
this is no accident, Trude. What does it mean? Hush! the servant is
"I will go down," whispered Trude; "perhaps I can hear something."
Trude hurried away as her young lady glided back into her room, and
never glanced at the servant who sprang past her upon the stairs.
"He is a hypocrite and a spy; he has been hired to watch and observe
my child, and he will betray her if he discovers any thing."
The servant announced, with respectful, humble mien, that Herr
Ebenstreit had arrived, and Frau von Werrig desired her daughter to
descend to the parlor.
"Very well--say that I will come directly."
The servant remained rubbing his hands in an undecided, embarrassed
"Why do you not go down?" asked Marie. "Have you any thing further
to tell me?"
"I would say," said he, spying about the room, as if he were afraid
some one were listening, "that if a poor, simple man like myself
could be useful to you, and you could confide in me your
commissions, I should be too happy to prove to you that Carl
Leberecht is an honest fellow, and has a heart, and it hurts his
feelings to see the miss suffer so much."
"I thank you," said Marie, gently. "I am glad to feel that you have
sympathy for me."
"If I can be of the least service to you, have the goodness to call
me, and give me your commissions."
"Indeed I will, although I do not believe it practicable."
"I hope miss will not betray me to Frau von Werrig or old Trude."
"No, I promise you that, and here is my hand upon it."
The servant kissed the extended hand respectfully. "I will enter
into the service of my young lady at once, and tell her she must
prepare for the worst: Herr Ebenstreit just said, 'The diploma of
nobility has arrived.'"
Marie turned deadly pale, and for an instant it seemed as if she
would sink down from fright, but she recovered herself and conquered
"Thank you, it is very well that I should know that; I will go down
directly," said she.
With calm, proud bearing Marie entered the sitting-room of her
parents, and returned the salutations of her betrothed, who hastened
toward her with tender assiduity.
"My dear Marie," cried her mother, "I have the honor to present to
you Herr Ebenstreit von Leuthen. The certificate of nobility arrived
"I congratulate you, mother--you have at last found the long-desired
heir to your name."
"Congratulate me above all, my beautiful betrothed," said Herr
Ebenstreit, in a hoarse, scarcely intelligible voice. "This title
crowns all my wishes, as it makes me your husband. I came to beg,
dear Marie, that our marriage should take place to-morrow, as there
is nothing now to prevent."
"Sir," she proudly interrupted him, "have I ever permitted this
"I have allowed it," blurted out the general, packed in cushions in
his roiling chair. "Proceed, my dear son."
The latter bowed with a grateful smile, and continued: "I would beg,
my dear Marie, to choose whether our wedding-journey shall be in the
direction of Italy, Spain, France, or wherever else it may please
"Is it thus arranged?" asked Marie. "Is the marriage to take place
early to-morrow, and then the happy pair take a journey?"
"Yes," answered her mother, hastily, "it is so decided upon, and it
will be carried out. You may naturally, my dear daughter, have some
preference; so make it known--I am sure your betrothed will joyfully
"I will avail myself of this permission," she quietly answered. "I
wish to have a private conversation with this gentleman immediately,
and without witnesses."
"Oh, how unfortunate I am!" sighed Herr Ebenstreit. "My dear Marie
asks just that which I unfortunately cannot grant her."
"What should prevent your fulfilling my wish?" asked Marie.
"My promise," he whined. "On the very day of my betrothal, I was
obliged to promise my dear mother-in-law never to speak with you
alone or correspond with my sweet lady-love."
"These are the rules of decency and of etiquette, which I hope my
daughter will respect," said Frau von Werrig, in a severe tone. "No
virtuous young girl would presume to receive her betrothed alone or
exchange love-letters with him before marriage!"
"After the wedding there will be opportunities enough for such
follies," grumbled the general.
"You may be sure that I shall use them, dear father," laughed
Ebenstreit. "I would beg my respected mother to release me a half-
hour from my oath to-day, that I may indulge the first expressed
wish that my future wife favors me with."
"It is impossible, my son. I never deviate from my principles. You
will not speak with my daughter before marriage, except in the
presence of her parents."
"Mother, do you insist upon it?" cried Marie, terrified. "Will you
not indulge this slight wish?"
"'This slight wish!'" sneered her mother. "As if I did not know why
you ask this private conversation. You wish to persuade our son-in-
law to what you in vain have tried to implore your parents to do. A
modest maiden has nothing to say to her future husband, which her
parents, and above all her mother, could not hear. So tell your
betrothed what you desire."
"Well, mother, you must then take the consequences.--Herr
Ebenstreit, they will force me to become your wife, they will sell
me as merchandise to you, and you have accepted the bargain in good
faith, believing that I agree to sacrifice my freedom and human
rights for riches. They have deceived you, sir! I am not ready to
give myself up to the highest bidder. I am a woman, with a heart to
love and hate, who esteems affection superior to wealth. I cannot
marry you, and I beg you not to teach me to hate you."
A savage curse broke forth from the general, who, forgetting his
gout, rose furious, shaking his clinched fist at his daughter.
His wife was immediately by his side, and pushed him into his arm-
chair, commanding him, in her harsh, cold to remain quiet and take
care of his health, and listen to what his son-in-law had to say to
his unfeeling and unnatural daughter. "He alone has to decide.--
Speak, my dear son," said she, turning to the young man, who, with a
malicious smile, had listened to the baroness, fixing his dull-blue
eyes upon the young girl, who never seemed so desirable to him, as
she now stood before him with glowing cheeks.
"Again I say, speak, my dear son, and tell my daughter the truth; do
you hear, the truth?"
"If you will permit me, my dearest mother, I will," answered
Ebenstreit, with submissive kindness, again regarding the daughter.
"You have made me a sad confession, Marie," said he, sighing, "but I
will acknowledge that I am not surprised, for your mother told me
when I asked for your hand, that she feared I should never gain your
consent, for you did not love me, although she herself, and the
general, would grant theirs."
"Was that all that I told you?" asked the mother, coldly.
"No, not all," continued Ebenstreit, slightly inclining; "you added,
'My daughter loves a beggar, a poor school-master, and she
entertains the romantic idea of marrying him.'"
"And what did you reply?" asked Marie, almost breathless.
"My dear Marie, I laughed, repeating my proposal of marriage to your
mother, saying, that I was ready to take up the combat with the poor
pedagogue, and that you seemed all the more interesting and amiable
for this romantic love. Life is so tedious and wretched, that one is
glad to have some change and distraction. I assure you, I have not
been so entertained for long years, as in the last fourteen days in
this silent war with you. It amuses me infinitely to see you so
stubborn and prudish, and increases my love for you. How could it be
otherwise? The rich banker, Ebenstreit, has never seen a woman who
was not ready to accept his hand, and why should he not love the
first one who resists it? You have excited my self-love and vanity.
You have made the marriage a matter of ambition, and you will
comprehend that my answer is: 'Fraulein von Leuthen must and shall
be my wife, no matter what it costs me. She defies my riches and
despises money, so I will force her to respect my wealth and
recognize its power. Besides, she is a cruel, egotistical daughter;
who has no pity for her poor parents, and is capable of seeing them
perish for her foolish attachment. I will make her a good child, and
force her to make her parents, and thereby herself, happy.' All this
I said to myself, and I have acted and shall act accordingly. I have
only to add that the ceremony will take place to-morrow, at eleven.
We will leave immediately after. Have the goodness therefore to
choose in which direction, that I may at once make the necessary
"Lost--lost without hope!" cried Marie, in anguish, covering her
face with her hands.
"Rather say rescued from misfortune," answered Ebenstreit, quietly.
"Believe me, there is but one sorrow that may not be borne, may not
be conquered, and that is poverty, which is a corroding, consuming
malady, annihilating body, and soul, swifter and surer than the most
subtle poison. It stifles all noble feelings, all poetical thoughts
and great deeds, and, believe me, love even cannot resist its
terrible power. One day you will understand this. I will be patient
and indulgent, and await it with hope."
"Oh, what a noble and high-minded man!" cried the mother, with
emphasis.--"Marie should kneel and thank her Maker for such a
magnanimous savior and lover, who will shield her from all evil and
Sobbing and sighing, the daughter had stood with her face concealed;
now she regarded the cold-hearted, smiling woman, with flashing eyes
and keen contempt.
"Thank him!" she cried; "no, I accuse, I curse him. He is an
atheist, and denies love. He is not capable of a noble thought or
action, scorning and defaming all that is beautiful and elevated,
worshipping only mammon. I will never marry him. You may force me to
the altar, and there I will denounce him."
"She will kill me," cried the general; "she will murder her aged
parents, leaving them to starve and perish, and--"
"Silence!" commanded his wife. "Leave off your complaints, she is
not worth the tears or remonstrances of her parents. She would try
to be our murderess, but she shall not.--My son, inform her of your
decision. Answer her."
"The response to your romantic language is simple and natural, my
dear Marie. I have already entered into your feelings, and am
prepared for this idea of refusing your lover at the altar, which is
found in novels, and I supposed that it might occur to you. Money
compasses all things and according to our wishes. My fortune
procures for me a dispensation from public authorities to be married
here in the house of our dear parents. The law demands four
witnesses, who will be represented by your parents, my servant
Philip, and the sacristan whom the clergyman will bring."
"And they will hear me abjure you."
"It is very possible, dearest, but the witnesses will not listen to
you. Money makes the deaf to hear, and the hearing ones deaf. Old
parson Dietrich knows the story of your love, and believes, with us,
that it is a malady that you must be cured of. Therefore, in pity to
you, he will not listen, and the others arc paid to keep silent."
"Is there no hope, O Heaven?" cried Marie, imploringly. "O God, Thou
hast permitted it--hast Thou no pity in my need, and sendest me no
aid?" Rushing to her father, and kneeling at his feet, she
continued: "Have mercy upon your poor child! You are an old man, and
may live but a few years; do not burden your conscience with the
fearful reproaches of your only child, whom you will condemn to an
inconsolably long and unhappy life."
"Have you no pity yourself? Do you not know that I, your father, am
so poor, that I have not even the necessary care? You wish your
parents to sacrifice themselves for you, and suffer want! No, the
daughter should sacrifice herself for her parents."
"A beautiful sacrifice, a fine sorrow!" sneered her mother. "She
will be a rich woman, and have the most splendid house and furniture
and most costly equipage in Berlin!"
"And a husband who adores her," cried Ebenstreit, "and who will feel
it his duty to make her and her parents happy. Resolve bravely to
bury the past, and look the immutable future joyfully in the face.
Eleven will be the happy hour; fear not that the altar will not be
worthy the charming bride of such a rich family. Money will procure
every thing, and I will send a florist who will change this room
into a blooming temple, fit to receive the goddess of love. In your
room you will find the gift of my affection, a simple wedding-dress,
which I trust you will approve of. Oh, do not shake your head, do
not say that you will never wear it; you must believe that all
resistance is in vain. You will become my wife, I and my money will
"And I," cried Marie, standing before him pale and defiant,
regarding him with unspeakable contempt, "I and my love will it not.
May God judge between us! May He forgive those who have brought this
misfortune upon me! I can only say, 'Woe to them!'"
"Woe to you!" cried her mother. "Woe to the seducer who has
persuaded our child to sin and crime, and--"
"Hush mother! I will not permit you to slander him whom I love, and
ever shall, so long--"
"Until you forget him, and love me, Marie," said Ebenstreit.
Approaching her, he seized her hand, and pressed a kiss upon it.
She drew it away with disgust, and turned slowly to the door,
tossing back her head proudly. "Where are you going?" demanded her
With her hand upon the knob, she replied, turning her pale, wan face
to her mother, "To my own room, which I suppose is permitted to me,
as there is nothing more to be said."
Her mother would reply, and retain her, but her son-in-law held her
gently back. "Let her go," said he; "she needs rest for composure
and to accustom herself to the thought that her fate is
"But what if she should resort to desperate means in her mad
infatuation and foolish passion? Some one must watch her
continually, for she may try to elope."
"You are right, dearest mother, some one must be with her, in whom
she will confide. Would it not be possible to win old Trude?"
"No, nothing would gain her; she is a silly fool, who thinks only
Marie is of consequence."