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Title: For Sceptre and Crown, Vol. I (of II) - A Romance of the Present Time
Author: Meding, Johann Ferdinand Martin Oskar, 1829-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "For Sceptre and Crown, Vol. I (of II) - A Romance of the Present Time" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/forsceptreandcr00samagoog

   2. Gregor Samarow is pseudonym of Johann Ferdinand Martin Oskar
      Meding.

   3. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                         FOR SCEPTRE AND CROWN.



                      NEW NOVELS AT THE LIBRARIES.


MALCOLM: a Scottish Story. By George Macdonald, Author of "Robert
Falconer," "Phantastes," &c. 3 vols. cr. 8vo.


THE NEGLECTED QUESTION. By B. Markewitch.

Translated from the Russian, by the Princesses Ouroussoff. 2 vols.
crown 8vo. 14_s_. Dedicated by express permission to Her Imperial and
Royal Highness Marie Alexandrovna Duchess of Edinburgh.


RUSSIAN ROMANCE. By Alexander Serguevitch Poushein. Translated from the

Tales of Belkin. By Mrs. J. Buchan Telfer (née Mouravief). 1 vol. crown
8vo.


CIVIL SERVICE. By J. T. Listado, Author of "Maurice Rhynhart." 2 vols.
crown 8vo.

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"A story of Irish life, free from burlesque and partizanship,
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story."--_Athenæum_.

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"A brisk and lively novel."--_John Bull_.


WAITING FOR TIDINGS. By the Author of "White and Black." 3 vols.

"An interesting novel."--_Vanity Fair_.

"A very lively tale, abounding with amusing incidents."--_John Bull_.

"We like 'Waiting for Tidings' so much, and in so many respects.... It
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                           _Second Edition_.

JUDITH GWYNNE. By Lisle Carr. 3 vols. crown 8vo.

"Mr. Carr's novel is certainly amusing.... There is much variety, and
the dialogue and incident never flag to the finish."--_Athenæum_.

"Displays much dramatic skill.... It is in the skilful manipulation of
much varied detail, the extensive play of a great number of differing
actors, tending naturally to the conclusion reached, that the chief
charm of this novel lies."--_Edinburgh Courant_.

                           *   *   *   *   *

                     HENRY S. KING AND CO. LONDON.



                        _FOR SCEPTRE AND CROWN_

                     A ROMANCE OF THE PRESENT TIME.

                     TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN OF

                            GREGOR SAMAROW.


                         IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I.



                         HENRY S. KING AND CO.
             65, Cornhill, and 12, Paternoster Row, London.
                                 1875.



                        (_All rights reserved_.)



                         TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE.


The success which "Um Szepter und Kronen" has met with on the Continent
justifies an English translation. The author, who writes under the _nom
de plume_ of Gregor Samarow, is, if report speak truly, himself one of
the characters described in his work as the friend and confidant of the
chivalrous and unfortunate sovereign who is its principal hero. This
explains the ease and familiarity with which the various courts and
cabinets are described, the author's personal acquaintance with the
statesmen and diplomatists he has pourtrayed, and it accounts for the
value of the work as a clever and interesting political sketch.
It is as a political sketch, and not as an ordinary novel, that it is
offered to this country.

Although the great events of 1870 and 1871 have almost swept from
memory the history of preceding years, yet the struggle of 1866--the
Seven Weeks' War--must ever be memorable; it was the prelude to the
great Franco-German War, and its immediate result was that immense
increase in the power of Prussia which placed her in her present
position of supreme leader in Germany.



                          CONTENTS OF VOL. I.


  Chapter

       I. Bismark and Manteuffel.

      II. Fair Wendland.

     III. Vienna.

      IV. Napoleon.

       V. George V.

      VI. An Erring Meteor.

     VII. The Duel and the Rose.

    VIII. Francis Joseph II.

      IX. Helena.

       X. Berlin.

      XI. The Last Day at Herrenhausen.

     XII. Campaigning begins.



                         FOR SCEPTRE AND CROWN.



                               CHAPTER I.

                        BISMARCK AND MANTEUFFEL.


About nine o'clock on a dark April evening in the year 1866, a Berlin
cab drove up the Wilhelmsstrasse with the trot peculiar to those
vehicles, and stopped between the two lamps illuminating the door of
No. 76, the house of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The ground floor
of this long two-storeyed house was well lighted up, and any one who
peeped through the green blinds could see into many office-like rooms,
well-filled with industrious writers, notwithstanding the lateness of
the hour. The windows of the upper storey were only faintly lighted
here and there.

From the cab which drew up before this house stepped a middle-sized
man, dressed in a dark paletot and black hat; he came close to the
gas-lamp to look in his purse for the right coins with which to pay the
fare, and as soon as he had settled with the numbered Automedon he rang
loudly at the door-bell.

The door opened almost immediately, and the person demanding admittance
entered a spacious _porte-cochère_, at the end of which, between two
large sleeping stone lions, ascended the flight of steps leading to the
interior of the house. On one side of the doorway a window opened into
the porter's lodge, and at the window appeared the porter's face,
wearing that peculiarly stolid expression common to the door-keepers of
all great houses.

The porter looked at the new-comer inquisitively through the half-open
window, but he only gave him a hasty glance as he walked on with quiet,
measured tread to the flight of steps.

As he moved forwards, the light fell brightly on his face, and showed
the features of a man of about sixty years of age, of a rather dark and
healthy complexion. The quick, animated dark eyes looked piercing and
bright, even through gold-rimmed spectacles, though they also expressed
calmness and benevolence. His well-chiselled, regular nose was slightly
bowed over the small, firm, beardless mouth, and an energetic up-turned
chin completed a countenance so characteristic, that when once beheld
it was seldom forgotten.

No sooner did the look darted through these gold spectacles reach the
window of the porter's lodge, than the porter's face changed as if by
magic.

The expression of indifference and easy condescension vanished
instantly, the countenance assumed the look befitting a zealous
servant, and its possessor hastened from the door of his lodge leading
to the steps, and at last stood in a precise attitude, proving him to
be an old soldier, before the visitor, who in the meantime had gained
the entrance hall on the ground floor, to which the large stone steps
led.

"Is the minister at home?" he inquired, with simple politeness, which,
equally unlike the over-strained courtesy of the petitioner and the
haughty _nonchalance_ of the _parvenu_, proved him to be a man
accustomed to move with ease in the highest society.

"At your command, your Excellency," replied the porter in his official
manner. "The French Ambassador has just gone, and no one is here. The
minister is now alone."

"And how do you get on? still sound and fit for service?" asked the
visitor, kindly.

"Most humble thanks for your Excellency's gracious inquiries. I still
get about, although somewhat weaker. Everyone does not wear so well as
your Excellency."

"Well, well, we all get older, and draw nearer to the end. Keep a brave
heart, and God be with you!" With these kind words, heartily spoken,
the grave-looking man walked up the broad staircase towards the first
storey, while the old door-keeper watched him with respectful pleasure,
and then returned to his lodge.

In the ante-room on the upper floor "his Excellency" found Herr von
Bismarck's _valet-de-chambre_, Schönhausen, and was at once conducted
through a large, dimly-lighted apartment to the cabinet of the
minister. The door was thrown open by the servant, who announced for
his master's benefit, "His Excellency von Manteuffel!"

Herr von Bismarck sat at a large writing-table, piled with acts and
papers. It was placed in the middle of the room, and lighted by a tall
lamp with a dark shade. An arm-chair stood on the other side of the
table, in which the minister usually seated his visitors.
Herr von Bismarck rose at his servant's announcement and walked towards
his visitor, whilst Manteuffel took in the whole room with one glance
from his quick eyes; then, with a slight half-melancholy smile, he
seized the president-minister's outstretched hand.

It was a picture of the deepest interest. In the half-second during
which these two men stood opposite each other, the present touched the
past and the future--the old, the new Prussia.

Both the men were sensible of this impression. They stood opposite one
another for a moment in silence.

Herr von Manteuffel we have already described whilst he was entering
the Foreign Office. It is only needful to add that the removal of his
hat showed hair which was grey and thin, and cut very short. He stood
quite still, his right hand clasped in Bismarck's, whilst the slender
white fingers of his left held his hat. His features maintained perfect
calmness; his mouth was firmly closed, and a guarded reserve appeared
to stamp its seal upon the whole being of the man.

Herr von Bismarck, almost a head taller, stood towering above him. The
bearing of his powerful form showed he was accustomed to wear uniform;
his massive, strongly-marked countenance spoke in its decided features
of a vehement, passionate soul; the clear, penetrating grey eyes turned
boldly, with a cold gaze, upon the object they wished to watch; and the
broad, high brow, which from being somewhat bald appeared even higher
than it was, showed immense power of forcing, by an iron will, thoughts
and ideas to logical arrangement.

"I thank you for your kind visit," said Bismarck, after a few moments.

"You preferred coming to me here, instead of receiving me as I
requested."

"It is better so," replied Manteuffel. "Your visit to me would have
excited curiosity. Here, too, we are safe from eavesdroppers; and, I
suppose, an important subject is to be discussed."

"Yes, unhappily, only a grave and extraordinary occasion can procure me
the happiness of hearing the experienced counsels of my old chief. You
know how often I long for your advice, and yet you always avoid every
expression of opinion," said Herr von Bismarck, with a slight accent of
reproach.

"What good would it do?" returned Herr von Manteuffel, politely but
coldly. "To act for myself, to answer for myself, was my rule when I
occupied the position you now fill. If once a leading statesman begins
to ask advice right and left, he loses the power of advancing
resolutely on the path which his reason and his conscience point out to
him as the right one."

"Now, truly, it is not my way to listen to every one, and no want of
resolution prevents my choosing my own path," cried Bismarck, warmly;
"and," he added, with a slight smile, "my friends the members of the
Diet cast it daily in my teeth that I do not sufficiently heed their
good advice; yet you will own that there are moments when the strongest
brain may long to hear the views and the advice of a master mind, who
can look back, my honoured friend, upon such actions as yours."

"And such a moment has now come?" asked Manteuffel, quietly, whilst his
piercing eyes rested on Bismarck's animated face, his own features not
in the least responding to the compliment just paid him.
"If ever there was a time in which the strongest mind must be assailed
by doubt, it is the present moment. You know the position of Germany
and of Europe, and you know that the mighty crisis _must_ come, upon
which the fate of centuries depends," said Herr von Bismarck.

"I believe it _will_ come, whether it _must_ come or not; but," added
Herr von Manteuffel, after a short pause, "our conference will touch
upon subjects of the highest importance, and you know my profound
dislike of officious meddling in things which do not concern me. May I
then ask, does the king know of this conversation, and of its subject?"

"His Majesty knows, and desires I should ask your advice," answered
Bismarck.

"Then it is my duty to express my humble opinion so far as it is formed
in my own mind," said Manteuffel, quietly, as he seated himself in the
arm-chair near the writing-table, while Bismarck took his usual place.

"Before, however, I can speak on the present situation, I must know
what your intentions are, what is the aim of your policy, and by what
means you intend to attain that end. Permit me," he continued, as with
a slight movement of the hand he politely repressed a remark from Herr
von Bismarck--"permit me to state, from my private and remote
observations, what I believe your intentions to be. You must then
honestly tell me if I am right or mistaken."

Herr von Bismarck bowed in silence, and fixed his candid eyes with a
look of the greatest attention upon Herr von Manteuffel.

"Your aim is," continued the latter, quietly, "according to the
conviction I feel from the progress of events, to solve, or rather to
end, the great German question; your aim is to place Prussia at the
head of the political and military power of Germany, and to turn the
edge of the sword against any who shall oppose you. In a word, you wish
to bring that long, chronic sickness, called 'the German Question,' to
an acute crisis, and to cure it for ever by the arcanum of blood and
iron."

"I do," replied Bismarck, without moving or raising his voice; but it
vibrated so strangely that these two words rang through the room like
the clash of arms, and his eyes, which were still fixed on Herr von
Manteuffel, seemed to emit an electric stream. Thus, when Laocoon's
lance touched the horse of Troy, there rang from within, the low, faint
clang of the Grecian arms, the first note of that terrible harmony,
before which the walls of Pergamus were destroyed, and which, echoing
back from the strings of Homer's lyre, for two thousand years has
thrilled the hearts of men.

"You do not deceive yourself as to the strong opposition you will
encounter," continued Herr von Manteuffel; "the crisis is come, and the
struggle will take place, and before long, for unless I am quite
deceived, the other side is equally anxious to bring matters to an
issue."

"I know it," replied Herr von Bismarck.

"Well," added Manteuffel, "we must then consider the means we can
employ in this struggle. There is, to begin with, the Prussian army--a
thing of great preponderance, which will weigh heavily in the balance,
and the importance of which I do not undervalue for a moment. This army
possesses advantages which I do not understand, but which are very
important in a military point of view: the needle-gun, the artillery,
and the general staff. But in this struggle other powers must be taken
into consideration; our allies, and public opinion. Our allies seem to
me doubtful--France? You must know better than I, your position with
the Man of Silence; England will wait for the success of one side or
the other; Russia is safe. As to public opinion----"

"Is there such a thing?" interrupted Bismarck.

Herr von Manteuffel smiled slightly, and continued, "Under ordinary
circumstances, public opinion is the result of an effective bit of
decoration, which makes a lively impression on the crowd, now lighting
up Fiesco's restless sea, now throwing a flood of heavenly glory into
Egmont's dungeon. To those behind the scenes, it is the result of
machinery, and is produced by pulling the right string at the right
moment. I believe _we_ understand both scenes and machinery. But there
is another kind of public opinion that rises like the wind,
incomprehensible, unmanageable, and terrible as the wind when it rouses
itself to a storm. The strife that lies nearest in the lap of Fate is a
strife of German against German, a civil war, and in such a war Public
Opinion claims her right: she is a powerful ally and a terrible foe,
terrible above all to the vanquished, against whom she calls up
relentlessly the _væ victis_. Public opinion, however, is against war,
less perhaps in Germany than in Prussia itself, and honestly
considering the composition of the Prussian army, that is no subject
for indifference."

Herr von Bismarck exclaimed warmly, "Do you believe it possible
that----"

"The Prussian army should forget its duty, and refuse to march?"
concluded Herr von Manteuffel. "No, never; certainly not! Single
instances of irregularity might occur in the Landwehr; they would be
unusual, most unusual. The army will do its duty, it is the incarnation
of a perfect sense of duty, but you will not deny there is an immense
difference between duty performed with heartiness and enthusiasm, or
with ill-will and aversion?"

"Heartiness and enthusiasm will come with success," said Bismarck.

"But until then?"

"Until then the spirit of duty must be kept firm, and the management
must be good."

"Well," said Manteuffel, "I do not doubt it will be so. I only wished
to point out, that in this strife a mighty and important power will be
not _for_, but _against_ you."

"You are right as to the present moment," replied Herr von Bismarck,
after a short pause; "to-day public opinion, which you so aptly
compared to the wind, is against me; but it changes as easily as the
wind itself. And yet I cannot allow you are altogether right. It is
true the superficial world, composed of the shallow liberalism of the
tea-gardens and the ale-houses, prating of a Germany which exists only
in its own brain, speaks of a civil and fratricidal war against
Austria, but believe me, this does not go down with the Prussian
people. The heart of Prussia goes at the head of her army, and through
the army rings the 'Hohenfriedberg March,'--the Prussian people regards
the country of Maria Theresa as the foe of that Prussian spirit which
old Fritz breathed into the nation. And these orators and speechifiers?
Oh, I fear them not, with their public opinion, which will change like
a weather-cock in the wind, at the first breath of success."

"I, too, will own that you are partly right, but not quite," said Herr
von Manteuffel; "but success--is it certain? Is it prepared beforehand?
We have touched upon two powers, let us come to the third, perhaps the
most important--allies. What is your position with France and Napoleon
III.?"

At this direct and sharply-uttered question, which was accompanied by a
look quite as cutting as the tone of voice in which it was asked, Herr
von Bismarck's lips trembled slightly for a moment, and something of
uncertainty, doubt, and mistrust, perhaps a mixture of all three,
appeared in his eyes; but all this quickly vanished, and he answered
calmly, in the same clear, ringing voice as before,

"Good--at least as good as it can be with this mysterious sphinx."

"Have you agreements, treaties,--or, far better than these, have you a
personal promise from Napoleon?" inquired Manteuffel.

"You catechise closely," replied Bismarck, "but I stand before my
master; hear then what has happened in that quarter, and how the
question now stands.

"More than two years ago, in November, 1864, I spoke to the emperor on
the Danish question. He was eager for the restitution of North
Schleswig to Denmark. I spoke on the sad and critical situation of
Prussia, split into two distinct halves; I stated how great an error it
would be to erect a new small state in the north, and how much more
advantageous it would be to Denmark to have a great and powerful
neighbour, than to have on her borders the little court of a prince who
sets up claims to the Danish crown. The emperor listened to everything,
and from the few words he said seemed to agree with me on the need of
better boundaries for Prussia, though as usual it was impossible to
make him say anything clear and decided; but he was evidently much
displeased with Austria, and complained of the great insincerity of the
Court of Vienna."

"And did you promise him North Schleswig if he supported your views?"
asked Manteuffel.

"He may think I did," replied Bismarck, smiling a little; "as he
confined himself to listening and nodding his head, I thought it only
necessary to make vague remarks."

Herr von Manteuffel bowed his head in silence, and Herr von Bismarck
continued.

"At the Gastein conference some explanations took place, but I could
not succeed in obtaining any positive declaration, and in November,
1865, I went to Biarritz; but there, too, it was impossible to draw the
Man of Silence from his resolute reserve. I knew that important
negotiations were going on with Austria for the solution of the Italian
question; perhaps this was the cause of the cold reserve shown to me;
perhaps, too----you know Count Goltz?"

"I know him," said Manteuffel, with a meaning smile.

"You know, too, that at that time a rumour was circulated that Count
Goltz would take my place. What was going on in Paris was not clear to
me; but things did not go as I wished, and as I thought they should. I
acted for myself. On my return from Biarritz I spoke to Prince
Napoleon."

"Seriously?" asked Herr von Manteuffel.

"Quite seriously," answered Bismarck, with a slight smile upon his
lips, "and I saw that Italy was the bait with which the imperial policy
must be caught. Good Prince Napoleon was fire and flame. I got up an
agitation in Florence, and in a short time firm negotiations were
established, the result of which I will lay before you."

Herr von Manteuffel expressed by a movement, his intense interest in
this communication.

Herr von Bismarck turned over a small bundle of papers which lay on the
writing-table close to his hand, and went on.

"Here is the Italian treaty, negotiated with General Govone; it
undertakes to attack Austria on the south, with the sea and land forces
of Italy."

"And France?" asked Manteuffel.

"The emperor concedes," replied Bismarck, "our acquisition of Holstein
and Schleswig, without the province of North Schleswig; he acknowledges
the necessity of connecting the two divided portions of Prussia, to do
which part of Hanover and Hesse Cassel must be obtained; neither will
he oppose the Prussian command of the 10th army corps of the
confederacy."

"And what does _he_ want?" asked Manteuffel.

"Venetia for Italy."

"And for himself, for France?"

"For himself," returned Bismarck, "nothing."

"Nothing?" said Herr von Manteuffel, "nothing? But have you no clue to
his unspoken thoughts? As far as I remember he _wanted_ nothing, when
he took Savoy and Nice after the Italian war."

"As to his thoughts," said Bismarck, "I believe I guess correctly when
I say he regards the possession of Luxemburg as highly desirable, and
in the far horizon the acquisition of Belgium by Prance seems feasible
to him. You know that in Brussels the wind often blows strongly to
Orleans."

"And what does Napoleon think about you in connection with these
desires?" further inquired Manteuffel.

"What he pleases," returned Bismarck, indifferently. "If he wanted
nothing, I had no occasion to promise him anything, and as to his
wishes,--well,--it certainly was not my business to point out to him
that they were foolish and unattainable."

"I understand," said Manteuffel, with a nod.

"Hanover must receive compensation for what she cedes to us in
Lauenburg and Holstein," added Bismarck.

"Did the Emperor Napoleon require it?" inquired Herr von Manteuffel,
with some surprise.

"Certainly not," replied Bismarck; "after the traditions of his family
he loves not the Guelphs, and, as you see, the basis of the whole
arrangement is Prussian supremacy in North Germany; what goes on there
is to him a matter of complete indifference. No, our own gracious
master is most anxious that Hanover should stand by us in the
approaching struggle, and that the old family ties which exist between
the two houses should be continued in the future."

"And you yourself," inquired Herr von Manteuffel, "what do you think
about the 'Hanoverian question?'"

"Simply from a political point of view," replied Bismarck, candidly, "I
certainly wish Hanover did not exist, and I regret that at the Congress
of Vienna our diplomacy was not exerted to persuade the royal family of
England to give up this hereditary possession. I think we might have
succeeded. Hanover is a thorn in our flesh, and even with the best
intentions towards us, cripples us greatly. When she bears us ill-will,
as for some time past has been the case, she is really dangerous. If I
were the complete Machiavelli I am accused of being, I should direct my
whole attention to the acquisition of Hanover. Perhaps it would not be
so difficult as it appears," he added, following, though half
unwillingly, the thoughts which arose in his mind; "neither the English
nation, nor the royal family in England, would trouble themselves much
about it, and--but as you know, our gracious king is highly
conservative, and has a deep respect for the connection between Prussia
and Hanover, embodied in Sophia Charlotte and Queen Louise,--and
I--well--I am not less conservative; this connection is not less sacred
to me, and I follow the ideas of the King from my heart and my head,
and I will endeavour to make the future existence of Hanover possible.
But things cannot go on as they are at present--we must have
guarantees; the more our country enlarges and consolidates its
possessions, the more our commerce increases, so much the less can
Prussia permit, in her body, so near to her heart, a foreign element,
which in any crisis may turn into a hostile element. I can then reply
to you with the greatest truth: I will honestly and earnestly strive to
win over Hanover, and if on her side she stands by her old traditions,
and is true to us, I will endeavour to create her a safe and
honourable, nay, a brilliant position in North Germany. But of a truth
she must cease to make us feel she is an encumbrance."

"And have you any prospect of succeeding in arranging a firm alliance
with Hanover?" asked Herr von Manteuffel.

"I hope so," replied Bismarck, after a moment's pause. "Count Platen
was here; you know him?"

Herr von Manteuffel smiled.

"Well," added Herr von Bismarck, "we spared nothing; we overwhelmed him
with compliments of every kind. He received the Grand Cross of the Red
Eagle."

"Why not of the Black Eagle?" asked Manteuffel.

"Bah! Some powder must always be reserved; he was overjoyed as it was.
I propounded to him the family connection which his Majesty himself
earnestly desires, and through which, perhaps, the whole question may
be settled in the most friendly manner."

"I know of this casually," interrupted Manteuffel; "do you think the
project will succeed?"

"They seem favourable in Hanover," replied Bismarck; "in Norderney as
well as in Marienburg--time will show; for the present, I place more
reliance on our policy."

"And what has Count Platen promised us?"

"Neutrality, as he already promised Count Ysenburg!"

"And is the treaty concluded?"

"Count Platen could not, of course, conclude it himself, and he wished
the whole matter to be a profound secret, that the suspicions of France
and Austria might not be prematurely aroused. He made me the most
distinct promises, and spoke so bitterly of Beust, and of the ministry
of Vienna, that I could not but believe him."

"Forgive me," exclaimed Herr von Manteuffel, "for being on this
Hanoverian question,--I consider it of the greatest importance; in
short, forgive me for being still sceptical. It seems to me
negotiations have been carried on without any definite result, beyond
assurances and promises from Count Platen. Would it not have been
better to take some decided step in Hanover itself? George V. is no
Louis XIII., and Count Platen no Richelieu."

"I thought of that also," remarked Herr von Bismarck. "You know Herr
von Stockhausen, accredited here by Hanover, is related to the
Baudissins. One of the Baudissins, an author and writer in newspapers,
of whom you may have heard, has, through young von Stockhausen, his
father's secretary, formed a great friendship with Keudell; perhaps
through that channel we may influence the King of Hanover. I must,
however, repeat that I sincerely desire friendly relations with
Hanover, and the maintenance of the throne, and that I will do all in
my power to obtain this result, contrary to the opinion of many
Prussians, as you know. Hanover and Hesse Cassel always hang together;
the Prince of Hesse follows in the footsteps of the King of Hanover.
This question causes me little uneasiness, however; their forces are
small, and in any encounter we must be victorious."

"And," added Herr von Manteuffel, "will it be possible to engage
Bavaria and Wurtemberg to remain neutral during a war with Austria?"

"No," replied Herr von Bismarck, "the Austrian party is all-powerful in
Munich; and Prince Reuss writes me word that since a rumour has been
heard of the Italian alliance, all hopes of Bavarian neutrality are
gone. The only thing we may attain is a lukewarm war. The real
difficulty will be with Bohemia. I believe I have now candidly laid
before you the whole of our present position. If you wish any
particular point to be more clearly stated, question me upon it; and
now I beg your opinion _en connaissance de cause_."

Herr von Manteuffel looked for a moment on the ground in silence; then
he raised his eyes to the animated face opposite to him, and began to
speak in the soft melodious voice, and flowing, impressive language
which always, though he was never a great public orator, produced so
powerful an effect in private intercourse.

"I see, certainly, that you have considered every point which will
influence the approaching struggle, and in many respects the chances of
success are in your favour; but only one point is fully prepared,
complete, and sure: this point is the Prussian army. Everything else in
the building is tottering and unsafe. The relations with France are
neither clear nor certain; Germany appears to me hostile; then, to
speak candidly, I do not believe in the neutrality of Hanover; the
king's character makes a safe and prudent policy very improbable, and,
I repeat it, Hanover may be very dangerous. Remember the Kalik brigade
is still in Holstein; remember Hanover and Hesse combined, possess a
tolerably large army, and you would have no troops to spare for
operating against them. Italy? Her alliance is certain, you tell me;
well, I will believe she holds to her promises. Do you think an Italian
army can reckon on success? I do not think so. However miserable
Austria's military organization may be, let Italy be the theatre of war
in the district of those square fortresses, and Austria will always
win; the Austrian general-staff know all that district as well as a
chess-board: they have been educated, so to speak, drilled by it. I
foresee only defeat for Italy."

"But," interrupted Bismarck, with some warmth, "the very fact of
Austria's being compelled to carry on two wars at once will weigh
heavily against her. How many troops will be opposed to us? Austria, I
have been informed, hopes to obtain from the different German States
800,000 men; I know for certain there will not be half that number."

"Well," said Manteuffel, "let us leave off calculating the chances; I
acknowledge they are in your favour, chiefly through the excellence of
the army. But another grave question arises; Is war necessary? Is the
position such, that all the horrors, all the great dangers of a mighty
struggle must be encountered? You know I too desire to see Prussia at
the head of Germany; I desire it as a Prussian, I wish for it from
conviction as a German, and as a minister I laboured for it to the best
of my ability. I believed, however, it would be the result of organic
growth, developed by time, and I dreaded, as the greatest foe to
Prussian leadership, the mistrust of Germany. This mistrust, the
fear of the princes for their sovereignty and the future of their
dynasties--the fear of the different races lest their individuality
should be stamped out by Prussia, has been skilfully used by Austria,
who is secured from this mistrust by her greater complexity. I held it
should be the endeavour of Prussia (for which I worked myself) to
obtain the confidence of the princes and people of Germany. That
gained, the leadership is ours, and Austria's part played out; for were
it not for this mistrust, the German spirit--the spirit of creation and
enlightenment--the spirit of progressive national life, would turn to
us. I have besides my own views about a Prussian war. Our power is
great, but it is peculiar and especial; for when it is fully used it
sends the whole nation to the field of battle, and with one unfortunate
defeat we should be nearer an extreme catastrophe than any other
nation. So long as our power threatens, it is strong; it diminishes
when action commences. Whilst we stand 'on guard,' the world must dread
us. I think," added Herr von Manteuffel, with a shade of satisfaction
in his voice, "the Peace of Paris speaks in favour of my maxim. Where
is the need of destroying this feeling, greatly endangered by the
events with which the century commenced? where is the need of risking
Prussia's powerful position of reserve in the uncertain game of war?
You will perhaps think me a cowardly, narrow-minded pedant; but you
asked my opinion, and I am justified in giving it to you fully."

While Manteuffel spoke, Bismarck's face expressed lively emotion.
Increasing impatience trembled over his features, but he did not
interrupt by word or movement. As Manteuffel ended, he stood up,
approached his guest, and seized his hand, exclaiming:

"Oh, my honoured friend! I know your opinions; I know the noble ideas
which guided you while you held the rudder of the Prussian state; I
know your conscientiousness and wisdom, and believe me, I too am far
from wishing to risk the safety of the Prussian state, which it has
required a century of genius and industry to create. Believe me, it is
not I that provoke this war; I find myself forced to it by necessity,
and if I have not the king's pious horror of measuring myself against
perfidious Austria, yet I would never, unless obliged, drive matters to
extremity. But I know they have resolved on war in Vienna; they will
not allow us to take our rightful position. Yes, they have determined
to entangle and destroy us in the machinery of the Confederation, as
you know from the trouble and anxiety you yourself have experienced.
That Saxon Beust, and his friends in Vienna--the sanguine Meysenbug,
the ambitious pedant Biegeleben, and the fine gentleman Max Gagern,
dream of a new German empire, and of a parliament of their own making,
which is to place the Emperor Francis Joseph upon the imperial throne
of Germany; and the emperor himself lives and moves in these dreams;
they really turned his brain with that comedy at Frankfort. The fools
did not remember," he cried energetically, as he paced the room with
large strides, "that in Frankfort he was not emperor who roasted whole
the _b[oe]uf historique_, to the immense joy of the crowd, and who
roused the unhappy German princes from their beds in the early dawn,"
he added, with a bitter smile, "to listen, at a _matinée politique_, to
Beust's lukewarm-water eloquence. No, truly he was not the emperor.
Another rather, before whose cold refusal and quiet absence the whole
apparition vanished into thin air! And I am to wait quietly until they
perhaps find a more favourable moment for effecting their grand
designs? But, my revered friend," he continued, as he again approached
Herr von Manteuffel, who listened to him with the same calmness as
before, "but are there not moments in which bold resolution, rash
action, is needful to obtain great success and avert impending danger?
Does not the history of Prussia record more than one such moment?
What would have become of Prussia if Frederick the Great had waited
until the plans of Austria and Saxony--greatly resembling those of
to-day--had had time to ripen, if he had not, with the quick bold gripe
of his strong hand, destroyed the web of envy and wickedness they were
spinning around him? Where would Prussia have been without York's bold
decision? Oh! my honoured friend," exclaimed Bismarck, with emotion,
while his form seemed to expand, "my heart tells me, and my reason does
not contradict the feeling, that the spirit of the great Frederick, and
the spirit of 1813, is the breath of life which inspires Prussian
history; that the hand of the world's great time-piece points to an
hour in which this spirit must live again, and again urge Prussia
onwards: not to go onwards now is to turn back--back into unknown
paths. With this conviction in my heart, shall I sit still and let
misfortune come; wait," he added, in a lower voice, "until a hand
perhaps less strong than mine, a heart less courageous than my own, is
called upon to face the danger?"

Herr von Manteuffel, his arm resting on the writing-table, and his eyes
cast on the ground, had until now listened without moving. He rose and
looked straight into the prime minister's eyes, who waited for him to
speak with great excitement and anxiety.

"Herr von Bismarck," he said in his calm voice, in which a warmer tone
was heard than before, "you touch a string which vibrates through every
Prussian's heart. Who can deny that there are moments in which bold
action leads to safety? who can deny that by seizing such moments with
firm resolution, Prussia has become what she is? Whether the present is
such a moment no mortal can say with certainty, and I will not argue
the question with you. To act according to their judgment and their
conscience is the duty of those who stand upon the steps of the throne.
You stand there now, and I thank God that I do not; for what occurs you
must answer to history, your country, and your king. You must decide on
what you ought to do, and for nothing in the world would I throw a
doubt on your decision. Yet one more question; be patient, it shall be
the last, perhaps it is the most important."

Manteuffel came a step nearer to Herr von Bismarck, and in a low tone,
which made even a greater impression on his hearer, said:--

"What if the game of war goes against you? what if the chances are
wrongly reckoned? We are all liable to error; if the victorious foe
gains the power of carrying out the plans so long prepared, embittered
by the strife, and haughty with success, what scheme have you framed,
what preparation have you made to shield Prussia from danger, even from
destruction? You know I have always held the maxim, that a good general
must be prepared for a retreat, you will therefore think my question
natural, and know how important I deem it."

Herr von Bismarck's face, hitherto so animated, assumed an expression
of calm pride; his lips were firmly compressed, and his eyes flashed
like rays of light from naked swords. With the metallic vibration which
at certain moments rang through his voice, he replied,

"If I deemed it possible, or could believe that a Prussian army would
be beaten by Austria, I would not be the Prussian minister."

He uttered these words in a tone of inmost conviction, and Manteuffel
slowly stepped backwards, and gazed with amazement at the prime
minister's enthusiastic face, as though he scarcely understood him.
Then he turned leisurely away, seized his hat, and bowing politely to
Bismarck, he said quite in his ordinary manner:

"I believe our conversation is concluded; we have exhausted the
subject, and I must no longer waste your valuable time."

The excitement faded from Bismarck's countenance, and melancholy took
its place, as he answered, sadly:

"The subject is not exhausted,--say rather, you will discuss it no
longer, since, as I plainly perceive, we move in eccentric circles
which have not a single point in common."

"If such be the case," said Manteuffel, "any further revolutions on our
separate orbits would be useless, but I think," he added, smiling
slightly, "on one point we shall agree; time is too precious to be lost
in useless words."

"Then farewell," said Bismarck gravely, as he pressed Manteuffel's
hand; "you leave me by one hope poorer, by one support weaker."

"You need no support," returned Manteuffel, "and if your convictions
prove true, my most earnest wishes for the increase and development of
Prussia's greatness will be fulfilled."

He bowed slightly, and left the room.

Bismarck accompanied him to the ante-room, and then seated himself at
his writing-table; for some moments he was lost in thought.

"They all, yes, all!" he suddenly cried at last, as he sprang from his
chair and paced the room with hasty stops, "they all sing the same
song; they all talk of the responsibility, of the danger, of the
horrors of war. But do I not feel the responsibility? do I not see the
danger? does not my heart grow cold at the thought of the horrors of
war? But while I see the danger, I cannot withdraw from the necessity,
and while I am convinced of the necessity, I must undertake the
responsibility. I understand why most of them would withhold me from
bold action, the Liberals in the parliament fear the clash of arms;
yes, they dread even victory, and all those weak-minded creatures who
prefer to cling in cowardly submission to the present rather than face
the future, they are always the same through all the centuries of
history: but he--he is a man of courage and action, he knows danger and
does not fear it, yet he warns me back. This is serious; in comparison
to a word from this man, all the privy councillors, diplomatists, and
bureaucratists in the whole world are but a feather weight in the
scale: and he desires me to prepare for a retreat!"

He stood still for a moment and looked thoughtfully on the ground.

"And is he not right?" he said, sadly and gloomily. "If success fails
me, if the enemy is powerful enough to bow down, to break Prussia, what
could I do? walk away, like a careless gambler, judged by all, handed
down in all future history as a jest to the common herd; but then," he
cried, casting a glowing look upwards, "there is the other side, to
draw back, with a conviction of victory in my heart, to lose the
opportunity, perhaps for ever, of accomplishing for Prussia the great
and glorious future, which I see so brilliantly before me--


            'The moment comes, but if it is not seized,
            Not all eternity will bring it back.'"[1]


Again he stood still and gazed before him in deep thought.

"Oh, for light in this darkness!" he cried, "I must have the sky above
me, and the fresh air must cool my blood." He seized his hat and left
the room, descended the stair which led from his house to the
courtyard, walked through the courtyard with long strides and plunged
into the dark walks of a large garden, where trees of ancient growth
shaded the back of the hotel and Office for Foreign Affairs.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The same evening, in the same building, in an elegant and cheerfully
lighted drawing-room sat an elderly and a young lady, busied with
some light feminine work. On one side stood the tea-table, and the
tea-kettle sang that peculiar song, which is thought by the English,
when joined by the chirping of the cricket, to be the music of the
hearth, a greeting from home.

The two ladies were the wife and daughter of the president minister,
and von Keudell the minister of legation, the most intimate friend of
his chief, sat with them.

They spoke of several events in Berlin society, of the theatres, and
various other subjects of interest, but Madame von Bismarck frequently
looked with an expression of uneasiness and anxiety towards the door.
"Do you know if my husband has a visitor?" she asked, turning to von
Keudell; "I am always uneasy lest his excessive work should seriously
injure his health, and I feel quite bitter towards any visitor who
shortens the few moments he spends with us in the evening, to rest his
brain and refresh his nerves."

"I believe," replied Herr von Keudell, "no one is with him, but he has
a few things to conclude."

The door opened, and Bismarck entered. He greeted his wife and daughter
affectionately, shook hands with von Keudell, and seated himself in the
small family circle.

The minister's daughter poured out tea, whilst a servant handed him a
cut-glass of Bavarian beer, which he half emptied at one draught.

"Field Marshal Wrangel came to see me," said Madame von Bismarck; "he
wished to pay you a visit, but I prevented him, I told him you were
extremely busy."

"I thank you," replied her husband, "I certainly had no time to-day for
friendly visits. Affairs become more and more involved, and I need
solitude to arrange my thoughts,--and concentrate my will," he added,
as the preoccupied look, perceptible when he entered the room,
increased.

"The field marshal brought me something very delightful," continued
Madame von Bismarck, as she took up an envelope which lay on a little
table before her; "I had a good laugh with him at this very original
idea."

So saying, she drew out a little card and presented it to her husband.

"Ah!" he cried, "my likeness, with little Lucca--have they published it
already? Well, with all my heart; we are both in excellent company!" He
laughed as he examined the little picture, and added: "I met her lately
Unter den Linden, and walked with her a little way, she complained
bitterly of ennui.


                  "'I know not what there is to do,
                  Unless I'm photographed; do you?'


she cried, impatiently. I offered to join her in this singular
amusement, and the result is this comical little carte--which they will
talk about, no doubt. _Tant mieux_, a case of the dog of Alcibiades."
Madame von Bismarck looked at the funny little picture, and laughed
merrily, but her husband was again lost in gloomy thought.

After a few minutes, during which conversation languished, he raised
his head, turned to Herr von Keudell, and said:--

"Will you give us a little music, dear Keudell?"

Keudell seated himself directly at the open piano, which stood on the
other side of the drawing-room.

He struck a few chords, and then began to play a kind of prelude, with
his wonderfully clear and powerful touch; it progressed irregularly,
sometimes by unexpected dissonances, which seemed to accord with the
minister's feelings.

Bismarck rose and walked slowly up and down the room, stepping lightly
that he might not interrupt the music, nor disturb the impression it
made upon him.

Keudell played on and on, sinking ever deeper into the world of sound.
Suddenly some powerful chords shook themselves free from all
dissonance, and after an easy transition he began to play softly
Beethoven's "Sonata in A major."

He had scarcely began the simple yet affecting air, when Bismarck
paused, and the expression of his eyes and the smile on his lips showed
that Herr von Keudell's choice consoled and solaced him.

He again paced the room during the glorious variations evoked from this
simple air by the immense genius of the poet of sound; as their
wonderful sound pictures were unrolled, the minister's face expressed a
mighty inward struggle. Now he paused for a moment as if undecided,
whispering half-spoken words, then again he walked on rapidly, his eyes
gazing into an unseen distance, oblivious of everything around him.

Madame von Bismarck watched her husband with uneasy sympathy; she saw
his restless, agitated expression, but she did not disturb von
Keudell's playing by a word.

He had now come to that wonderfully beautiful part of the sonata called
by Beethoven, "Marcia funebre sulla morte d'un eroe," and his masterly
execution made the grand chords of the march resound through the room.

Bismarck stood still. His powerful hand grasped the back of a chair,
his eyes were directed upwards, and he looked as if an inspiration
passed through his mind as he listened to the impressive tones.

Then followed a representation of the muffled drums, the blast of the
trumpets resounded, and von Keudell, carried away by the beauty of the
composition, rendered it so as to surpass himself.

Madame von Bismarck had laid down her work and was listening
thoughtfully.

The president minister stood motionless. His chest heaved higher, the
powerful muscles of his arm grew stiffer, his eyes seemed to shoot out
light, as their upward gaze sought in imagination the dark sky bestrewn
with stars.

Once more the trumpet blast arose, then the clear sounds died away, and
after a short pause Herr von Keudell went on to the finale of the
sonata.

Bismarck looked around as if waking from a dream. He stood still for a
moment, and then half unconsciously whispered these words:

"And when I go to rest, upon such sounds my soul shall rise. Would a
poet ever have felt at a hero's grave all that those sounds reveal, if
there were not men who dared to banish the doubts that assail the
heart? _Jacta est alea!_"

And without noticing anyone he quietly left the room. Keudell played to
the end of the sonata. Madame von Bismarck put down her work and looked
anxiously after her husband.

When the music had ceased she turned to Keudell, who had left the piano
and had again approached her, and said:

"I am convinced my poor husband is ill, try to find an opportunity of
persuading him to take more care of his health."

"I will do what I can, dear lady," he returned; "but you know he is
difficult to persuade on this point. Besides, I do not believe he is
unwell; thoughts often come to him when he hears music, probably
something has occurred to him now, and he has gone to write it down at
once."

Herr von Bismarck had returned to his cabinet with a firm step, and had
seated himself at his writing table. All trace of indecision and
emotion had left his face, the cold calm of his features was now
lighted up by the clear expression of a firm unbending will.

He seized a pen and wrote, without pause or hesitation, a number of
notes on some foolscap which lay ready on his table.

After writing for about half an hour he rang the hand bell beside him.

The groom of the chambers appeared.

"Is Herr von Keudell still in the house?"

"At your excellency's command."

"Request him to come to me for a moment."

A few minutes later the minister of legation entered.

"Dear Keudell," said Bismarck, "here are some notes of instruction to
the ambassadors in Vienna, Frankfort, and Paris, will you have the
goodness to attend to their immediate transmission? Abeken, with his
usual talent, will complete the composition quite in my style. Usedom
must receive the same instructions, with the additions I have written
on the margin."

"I will take care everything is done immediately," said Keudell,
bowing, "and to-morrow they shall be sent off."

He glanced at the paper he held in his hand.

"Your excellency," he said with horror, "this is war!"

"It is," said Bismarck. "And now good night. Adieu, dear Keudell, until
to-morrow; we must sleep, I am really tired, and my nerves require
rest."

Herr von Keudell withdrew.

Half an hour later, perfect silence prevailed throughout the Foreign
Office; it was as completely shrouded in the darkness of night as the
fate of the future was veiled by the hand of Providence.



                               CHAPTER II.

                             FAIR WENDLAND.


Around the town of Lüchow, in Hanover, lies the fertile and peculiar
country, called, without regard to official subdivisions, by the
general name of "Wendland." It is one of the portions of Germany where
the old Wend race have preserved themselves tenaciously from any
admixture of blood, and where their own especial manners and customs
still survive.

This Wendland is a beautiful, rich, and luxuriant country, not
beautiful from picturesque views, where hills and valleys unexpectedly
arrest the eye, but delightful from the peaceful abundance which
clothes its broad plains. Groups of tall and beautiful trees alone vary
the even surface of the fields and pastures, but the trees here are
remarkable for their grand and stately growth, and from amongst them,
gilded by the golden sunlight, here peeps the church of some quiet
village, there the old roof of some nobleman's seat; in the distance
the outline of a little town appears; and the traveller feels how
peaceful it must be to live there, far from the noisy world, the faint
echo of whose turbulent waves can scarcely reach the quiet dwellings of
the peace-loving inhabitants. Sometimes large sandy plains stretch out
with their enormous pine woods; monotonous in colour, and solitary,
they have somewhat of the beauty of the sea; a broad sandy road leads
through them; the wild animals approach with little shyness, an
inquisitive daw accompanies the carriage; the strong horses go on
slowly, but easily; nothing is to be seen but the sky, fir trees, and
sand, unless another carriage appears going in the opposite direction;
it is seen a long way off, the travellers greet one another, exchange a
few words, and are glad of the incident. When the end of the pine
forest is reached, and the shadow of the luxuriant deciduous trees
falls on the head of the traveller wearied with the sun; when the rich
abundance of the cultivated land greets his eye, and he breathes the
mild but invigorating air, he feels the refreshing influences, the
horses shake their heads and begin to trot of their own accord, and the
coachman with the skilful cracks of his whip, brings out all the dogs
from the village inns.

In short, it is a country where travelling still has its troubles and
difficulties, and where its old poetry still exists; in the small towns
the old manners and curious customs survive, and the door of the
nobleman's house is still hospitably opened to the traveller, who seems
to bring with him a breath from the great world, the doings, of which,
with all its pursuits, sound only like sagas to the inhabitants of
these quiet homes.

Such is old Wendland, simple, beautiful, and true. The inhabitants are
like the country--healthy and strong as the nature around them, simple
as the land in which they live; rich, because they have what they want,
and make no wants they cannot satisfy; strong in their affections,
clear in their simple faith, full of natural unexpressed poetry, with
hearts full of warm pure blood.

Through one of these large solitary pine woods, as the sun was setting
on one of the first evenings in April, 1866, there rode along the sandy
way a young officer in the uniform of the Hanoverian Cambridge
dragoons. He left his beautiful thorough-bred horse to find its own
way, which it appeared to know perfectly, whilst he sat carelessly and
dreamily in the saddle. A fair moustache covered the young man's upper
lip, his blue eyes gazed thoughtfully into the distance, as if he
sought in the golden evening clouds surrounding the setting sun, the
pictures which filled and occupied his mind. His light hair, though cut
very short, contrived to curl coquettishly beneath the small military
cap, and his face was rather pale, and though perfectly healthy, showed
the peculiar delicacy which young people who have grown very fast
frequently retain for a few years after they have reached manhood.

For a quarter of an hour the young officer rode on slowly and dreamily
through the pine wood, the shadow of his horse, as it fell behind him,
growing longer and longer, and the voices of the birds telling they
were fluttering to their nests.

Then the road turned, the wood suddenly opened and a venerable castle
appeared at some little distance, surrounded by tall old trees, the
last rays of the sun making its large windows appear to stream with
light.

At the end of the wood the village began; it was built sideways from
the castle, in the form of a semicircle, as is usual in Wendland
villages.

The dogs barked. The young officer awoke from his reverie, and
straightened himself in the saddle. The horse felt the movement and
wanted no other urging; he quitted his walk, and trotted with pointed
ears through the village on the road to the castle.

The houses stood open on the warm beautiful spring evening. On their
gables were seen the characteristic horses' heads, which in all Low
Saxon countries play so important a part; their worship was formerly
accepted by the Wends here, and the figures are still carefully
retained.

Peasant women, both old and young, sat before their doors, occupied
with their needles; inside the open houses the women were seen
finishing their work at the loom, and as they worked, they sang the
strange, melancholy, monotonous songs which are peculiar to the Wend
race.

At every house the young officer was greeted, and he returned the
salutations in a friendly way, speaking to most of the peasants by
name, in a manner that showed he was well known, and near home.

On one side of the semicircular village, not far from the road leading
to the castle, stood a plain old church, and near to it, in a pretty,
well-kept garden, the quiet, cheerful-looking vicarage.

There was a foot-path from the garden to the broad road leading to the
castle, and on this path two persons walked towards the highway.

One was an old gentleman of nearly sixty years of age; his black coat
buttoned up to his throat, his dazzlingly white cravat of fine folded
cambric, as also that remarkable tall square biretta of black velvet,
made on the exact pattern of those handed down to us in portraits of
Luther and Melanchthon, and still preferred by the Hanoverian clergy,
showed at a glance that he was the village pastor.

His full, strongly-marked face, with its healthy colour, expressed,
besides benevolent cheerfulness, a great deal of energetic character,
and a decided, cultivated mind, which, separated from the great stream
of life, had developed wonderfully in seclusion, framing a world of its
own, where it found both peace and happiness.

It was Pastor Berger, who for more than twenty years had lived here
amongst his flock.

Beside him walked his only daughter; for the last ten years, ever since
her mother's death, she alone had shared her father's quiet life, and
he had bestowed upon her education great and loving care; avoiding the
common taste for amusements only to be found in the great world so far
off, and teaching her to enjoy the quiet happiness which so completely
satisfied himself.

The young girl's dark dress had a certain elegance, notwithstanding its
country simplicity. She was not tall, but slender and graceful; her
glossy chestnut hair appeared beneath the black velvet hat which shaded
her delicate oval face, the slightly parted fresh lips smiled as if
they breathed in happiness, whilst the brilliant though soft and
thoughtful eyes, showed depths of intense poetic feeling.

The young officer perceived them, reined in his horse, and raising his
hand to his cap for a military salute, exclaimed, "Good evening, Herr
Pastor; good evening, Miss Helena!"

The clergyman called out "Good evening" loudly and cheerfully, and he
too saluted with his hand; his daughter only slightly bowed her head
without uttering a word, but the smile trembling on her lips, the
joyful look beaming in her eyes, proved her greeting to be as hearty as
her father's.

They both hastened on, and in a few moments they overtook the young man
who awaited them on the high road; he sprang from his horse as the
pastor and his daughter approached, and held out his hand.

"You were expected yesterday, Herr von Wendenstein," said the pastor;
"your brother arrived the day before, and your father began to fear
your leave had been refused."

"I could not come sooner--I was on duty yesterday," replied the young
officer; "but that will enable me to stay two days longer. I can have
some more lessons in natural history from my little mistress," he
added, turning to the girl with a smile; she meanwhile was patting and
caressing the horse's neck and head.

"If you are not more attentive and diligent than you were last time,
you will make very little progress," said the pastor's daughter; "but
give me Roland's bridle, he likes me to lead him best, and make haste
to the castle; we were going there, and we shall be much more welcome
if we bring you with us."

She took the horse's bridle, stepped aside, and followed the two
gentlemen to the castle, leading the horse and speaking a coaxing word
to him from time to time.

The approach to the castle was through a massive gateway leading into a
paved court-yard, surrounded by low walls, which evidently had replaced
the ancient bulwarks.

In the midst of this large enclosure stood a single linden-tree of
great age; to the right and left were stables and domestic offices,
apparently modern, in two large low buildings. On the further side of
the court-yard was the dwelling-house itself, the remains of an edifice
evidently once of immense extent. Without any architectural beauty,
without even belonging to any particular period, the castle made the
impression which a large and ancient mass of stone-work of vast
dimensions, placed in the open country and surrounded with trees,
always produces.

The enormous oaken door of the house stood open; it led into a large
stone hall lighted by two great windows on the right and left of the
doorway. Against the walls of this hall stood many of those immense oak
chests, black with age, in which our forefathers from generation to
generation stored their household treasures of linen, silver plate,
their family papers, and whatever else they considered valuable and
worthy of preservation.

These old coffers tell us almost as much as a family chronicle, or as
some old Saga; they disappear in these modern times--there is no room
for them in our modern tiny drawing-rooms, or in the boudoirs crowded
with knick-knacks of the housewives of the present day. They are no
longer needed; who would now dream of beginning a collection of fine
linen for a daughter's trousseau as soon as she was born? it can be
bought good, cheap, and above all, in the newest style at the shops.
What need is there now for such deep, broad shrines to contain the
silver plate of the house, when electro-plate is so beautiful, and can
be changed with the fashion? However, these venerable old coffers still
stood in the place of honour, and cared nothing about the generation of
console-tables and tiny brackets which had taken the world by storm;
above them hung dark old oil-paintings, hunting pieces with wonderfully
stiff gentlemen riding equally stiff steeds, then came shepherdesses
leading their flocks through very flowery meadows to the shade of
woods, with long straight alleys strongly resembling Versailles; there
were family portraits of old gentlemen in enormous wigs and velvet
coats, in long-forgotten uniforms, and in black robes; there were
smiling ladies with ruffs, fontanges, or sacks. And the old times
seemed to live and breathe here quite naturally, as if it would always
be the same to-day as it was yesterday, and the same to-morrow as it
was to-day.

Right and left of this lofty and spacious hall, old oaken doors led to
the principal sitting-rooms; opposite to the entrance was a large
apartment, which in a modern house would be called the drawing-room,
but here its simple and massive furniture corresponded with the rest of
the castle. The only modern thing in the room was a beautiful piano; it
stood open, and the music lying about it showed it was constantly used.

A large high-backed sofa stood against the wall, behind an enormous
table of dark mahogany supported on column-like legs; a lamp with a
large ground-glass globe and a tall, slender green lacquered stand, was
already lighted, and struggled against the mild twilight which entered
the room through two large windows and an open glass door. Beyond the
glass door was a broad terrace, which extended along the whole length
of the house on the garden side, and ended at the right corner in a
round platform resting on stone foundations, evidently the spot on
which in former times a large round tower must have stood.

High trees enclosed the terrace, but there were well-arranged vistas
allowing the light to enter the windows freely, and opening out distant
glimpses of the rich country extending on every side. Flower-beds edged
with box adorned the well-kept lawn, already gay with variegated
crocuses and snowdrops.

Such was the old castle of Blechow, where for the last eighteen years
the worthy President von Wendenstein had administered the law after the
patriarchal fashion of Hanover, where formerly the large landowners
were also the chief magistrates, and the golden fruit of the tree was
more highly prized than the grey theory of administrative form.

Herr von Wendenstein was not the autocrat his forefathers had been; a
more severe standard had been raised, and the government of the country
was different--more unbending, more bureaucratic; but the old office
had devolved upon him with the castle of Blechow, and a considerable
fortune permitted him to live in the style of former Hanoverian _high
sheriffs_[2] and chief magistrates; his clear understanding and
knowledge of the law enabled him to satisfy the new authorities, while
he maintained the old order of things as much as possible, the personal
respect and esteem he inspired greatly strengthening his authority.

In the large family sitting-room, on the big sofa, before the table,
now brightly lighted by the lamp as the twilight decreased, sat the
mistress of the house, Madame von Wendenstein, the worthy mistress of
this great old echoing castle, with its enormous doors, bewitching
coffers, and venerable portraits. A snow-white tulle cap, with
carefully-plaited frills and silver grey ribbons, surrounded the old
lady's delicate-featured, somewhat pale face, which, although she was
only a few years younger than her husband, still bore traces of great
beauty in the well-formed mouth and the large almond-shaped blue eyes.
The hair, still abundant, though almost white, was smoothly parted, and
hung in carefully-curled locks on either side her face; these the old
lady frequently stroked back with her slender white fingers, and
arranged beneath the borders of her cap. Her features expressed unusual
mildness and gentleness, and at the same time such extreme repose
and unassuming dignity, that no stranger could have seen her, as she
sat in her simple black silk dress, made in no French fashion, either
old or modern, with its exquisitely white collar and cuffs, her hands
resting in her lap with the white embroidery on which they had been
occupied, her eyes fixed upon the evening sky with a look of thankful
happiness,--no stranger could have seen her without feeling that a
spirit of order, gentleness, and hospitality would greet all who
entered the house. No speck of dust, no ill-cooked dish, no deviation
from the regular times and hours would be permitted; but no trouble
could assail a member of the family, no body or heart could suffer
without the quick, true eyes of the mother and wife perceiving it,
without a kind, good word from her mouth endeavouring to alleviate and
console.

Such was the mistress of the old castle of Blechow. Her daughters, two
young girls, sat beside her, pretty, blooming creatures of fifteen and
eighteen, the latter possessing the beauty of the grown-up maiden, the
former the charm of childhood. Their toilettes were very simple, but
their beautifully-embroidered _lingerie_ and tastefully arranged hair,
gave them an appearance of great refinement.

With the ladies sat the auditor von Bergfeld, the assistant granted to
the president, who, according to old-fashioned custom, was received as
a guest in the family.

President von Wendenstein walked up and down the terrace with his
eldest son, who was employed by the Ministry of the Interior in Hanover
as a government assessor and reporter. He had come to Blechow to keep
his father's birthday, which had for some years past always been
observed by the family.

President von Wendenstein had a pleasing and dignified appearance. His
thick close-cut grey hair surrounded a broad forehead, with thick,
arched eyebrows, beneath which were dark grey eyes, so clear, sharp and
severe, yet with such an expression of jovial cheerfulness, such sparks
of fiery animation, it was impossible not to imagine him twenty years
younger than he really was. His long, well-shaped nose, his broad
mouth, with full red lips and excellent teeth, his fresh complexion,
formed altogether a picture of mental power and physical enjoyment of
life commanding sympathy and respect.

He had, according to the old fashion, no beard, and he wore clothes of
a light grey woolens material, with a light cap. His strong right hand
grasped an ivory-handled stick, with which he supported his steps, for
he suffered from gout, the only weakness that appeared in the healthy,
energetic old gentleman.

His eldest son walked by him, in features unmistakeably resembling his
father, in every other respect totally unlike him.

His dress, even to his hat, was that of a dweller in cities--glossy,
simple, and faultless; his face, paler than his father's, expressed
both polite civility and official reserve. His hair was smooth and
carefully parted, his whiskers cut after the newest fashion, and his
movements were quiet, gentle, and studied.

Such had his father never been in his youth--that could be seen at a
glance, but he had grown up in very different times: the father was a
character, the son a type.

"And you may say what you like," cried Herr von Wendenstein with
animation, as he stood still and planted his stick firmly on the
ground, "this new method of administration which is continually
progressing, will not answer, and will lead to nothing good. These
everlasting inquiries compel us to make reports, which take up an
endless time, and seldom give a clear account of the matter; these
orders on every possible subject (they often just miss knocking the
nail on the head) take from the immediate governors of the country all
self-reliance, all responsibility, and turn organization into
machinery. The people and the country, however, continue living flesh
and blood, and will not fit into the machine, hence the government is
estranged from those governed, the magistrates become mere scribes, and
stand helplessly by when an occasion arises requiring decision and
judgment. Ever since the most humble reports to every inquiry and the
most exact compliance with every order emanating from the boards of
green cloth have become essential, human beings, who cannot be shut up
and put away with law acts, have got on as they could, and," he added
with a jovial laugh, "that is the least evil, for folks often get on
best alone. The good old times--well, they had their faults, but in
this they were better. The magistrates knew the people, and lived
amongst them; they acted according to the law and their own
consciences, and the government supported them. The minister travelled
through the country once a year, and knew much better what went on, and
on whom he could depend, than they will ever discover now from the most
lengthy reports. But," he said laughingly, after a moment's pause, "I
have no right to complain. If they require reports they give me an
auditor to write them, and the orders I receive with due respect, but I
give judgment after the old laws, and my subjects are quite contented.
I think they will find everything in my jurisdiction in perfect order,
more so than in many others where the modern method is more fully
established."

His son listened with the respect always shown to his father in this
family, but he could not prevent a half impatient, half compassionate
smile from curling his lip. As his father ceased, he replied in the
measured, half pathetic, half monotonous voice peculiar to the
eloquence of the green board, and known throughout the world wherever
tables covered with green cloth, reports, and acts of parliament exist.

"It is only natural, my dear father, that you should love and defend
old times; but you will agree with me, when I say the developments of
time require alterations in government. The power of the landowners,
the basis of the national economy of former generations, made them
despotic, and divided the country and the people into isolated groups;
individuals and acquaintances composed these almost domestic societies;
they lived their own separate lives, and it was then right and suitable
that the government should be equally individual. Now the national
economy struggles for concentration; the great means of locomotion in
our day, always rapidly increasing, destroys the boundaries of time and
space, those powers which separated different societies. The individual
group now forms part of the comprehensive whole, and it is needful for
the government to follow out this development of life in the people and
the country, by quick changes and rapid concentration; a strong
principle, a pervading system, is required throughout the
administration, or the machine will stand still. Believe me, dear
father, the government does not force a new element into our life, it
is life itself in its irresistible development which obliges the
government to adopt a quicker and more precise form, of administration.
Besides," he added, "I do not believe our views are so very different;
with all your love for the past, you are quite equal to the present.
The minister told me lately the punctuality, order, and quickness in
your jurisdiction were admirable, and always remarked by the
authorities."

The old gentleman smiled, visibly flattered by his son's compliment,
and said good-humouredly:

"Well, I manage to keep pace with the present, but I love the past
best; and notwithstanding all you have said, I think matters might have
been managed with less system, paper, and ink. But we will not argue
about it any more," he said, as he patted his son's shoulder; "I am a
child of my own generation, you live in yours;--men always bear the
stamp of the times in which they live, whether they will or no. It is a
pity the Present takes it so easily, and that all her children are
stamped after the same pattern: they are made at a manufactory, and no
longer bear signs of good home-made work. But let us go in, your mother
is at the door calling us, and my old enemy," pointing to his foot with
his stick, "conspires with the evening air a new attack upon my old
bones."

He turned slowly to the glass door of the drawing-room where his wife
stood looking as if framed, as she gazed after him anxiously.

He had reached her side followed by his son, when the barking of the
dogs in the courtyard was heard, and soon afterwards voices sounded in
the hall.

An old servant in a neat green livery opened the door, and the pastor
Berger with his daughter Helena entered. The president, who had the
greatest esteem for the clergyman, welcomed him warmly, and shook hands
with him most heartily before he had time even to greet the lady of the
house: and his daughters seized on Helena.

"We come," said the pastor, "according to our custom at the close of
another year of your life, to return thanks to you for all the kindness
you have shown us during that period, and we bring the lieutenant with
us; we fell in with him on the road, and like a true cavalry soldier he
has gone first to the stable to look after his horse."

"He has come," said Madame von Wendenstein with joy. "I feared he might
not get leave."

The door opened hastily, and with quick steps and jingling spurs
Lieutenant von Wendenstein hastened to his mother, who embraced him
warmly, whilst he kissed her hand. He then went to his father, who
kissed him on the cheeks and gazed with pride on the handsome young man
as he stood before him with his upright military bearing.

"I am late," said the lieutenant, "because we have so much to do. My
comrades desire me to say they will all come to congratulate you
to-morrow, dear father, if possible, but we have an immense amount of
work of all kinds. The yearly exercises are to take place earlier, the
order has come quite suddenly, and you can imagine how much extra work
this has given us."

After the lieutenant had shaken hands affectionately with his brother,
he turned to his sisters and the pastor's daughter, and began a lively
conversation with the three young girls and the auditor von Bergfeld,
which was frequently interrupted by merry laughter, while the pastor
with the president and his eldest son, joined Madame von Wendenstein at
the large table before the sofa.

"It is very unusual," said the president, "this hastening of the
exercises, of which my son spoke, and which I had before seen in the
newspapers. Foreign affairs are not my province, and I generally
trouble myself little about them, but how this measure can assist in
the present grave crisis I do not understand."

"It is an exceptional means," replied his son, with the air of one of
the initiated, "used to meet a complicated embarrassment. The quarrel
between Prussia and Austria grows sharper every day, and the German
governments desire a mobilization of the confederacy's contingencies.
Prussia on the other hand requires strict neutrality, and the
man[oe]uvres have been hastened to avoid the mobilization, and yet to
have the troops in readiness should war break out."

"With all respect for your ministerial wisdom," replied his father,
jokingly, "I cannot see what good it will do. If Prussia requires
neutrality she will be as much hurt and disquieted by this irregularity
as by mobilization itself, though the military preparations for actual
war are much less complete, and Austria and her allies will see in this
a withdrawal from their common interests. My opinion is, a decision
should be made one way or the other. If war does not break out--as I
still hope--nothing is lost, and if it comes, we have at least on one
side a support and a strong position. What troubles me," he added
thoughtfully and gravely, "I do not love the Prussians; we Hanoverians,
from old wounds, feel little sympathy with Prussia. I regret that our
army has been taken out of the old Hanoverian uniform, and put into a
Prussian-like one; I regret still more that Herr von Beningsen and his
national unionists have so completely brought us under Prussian ideas;
but still I should prefer that we remained on a good footing with our
great and dangerous neighbour, and that we joined in no hare-brained
enterprise with Austria, in whom I have no confidence, and who has
never done us or Germany any good; above all things, I would not that
we, in our dangerously-exposed position, should sit upon two stools,
and yet," he said, pausing, "that is what our rulers are doing. Our
foreign minister, Count Platen, I do not know; I met him once in
Hanover, and he appeared to be an affable and agreeable man, but
Bacmeister I do know, and I know his character and his intellect,--what
does he say to this measure?"

The government assessor cleared his throat and replied, "These things
belong entirely to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the War Office.
I do not know whether the measure has been discussed in a general
council, certainly I have not heard my chief express his opinion, but
he is always careful not to commit himself on any subject. In Hanover
they quite believe hostilities will not really take place."

"God grant they may be right," cried the pastor with a sigh, "a German
war! what a frightful misfortune, and I know not on which side my
sympathy would lie; however the war ended, one of the two great German
rivals would preponderate. I cannot wish for papist Austria with her
Croatians, Pandurs and Sclaves; my own personal feeling draws me to our
northern brothers, with whom we have so much in common, but that
Prussian influence should be all-powerful in Germany without any
counterpoise, I cannot certainly desire; from Berlin came the
Rationalism now threatening the whole Protestant Church with its
dangerous indifference. May God direct and enlighten our king that he
may choose aright, and preserve the pure Lutheran church in our beloved
Hanover."

"Yes, God grant us peace! for this I pray daily," said Madame von
Wendenstein, looking anxiously at her youngest son, whose merry laugh
had just been heard from the group of young people established in the
window. "What sorrow, what misery war brings to every family, and what
end is to be gained? Greater weight in the political scale for one or
another power: I think if everyone would strive to make his own
household and his own immediate circle better and happier the world
would be more improved than by struggling after things which can give
no true happiness to a single human being."

"There we have my true housewife," laughed the president; "what does
not concern her house, her cellar, and her kitchen, is useless and
pernicious, and according to her views statesmen should turn into a
large family circle, and politics be thrown into the lumber room."

"And is not my honoured friend right?" said the pastor, smiling at
Madame von Wendenstein; "is it not woman's duty to work for peace, and
to cherish the seed we sow in the Lord's temple, that it may flower and
bring forth fruit in the house? God gives to the mighty ones of the
earth the right to draw the sword he has placed in their hand, they
must do their duty and answer for it afterwards; but I believe the
Eternal Father has more joy in the peaceful happiness of a united home
than in the most talented combinations of policy, or the bloody laurels
of the battle-field."

"Well," said the president, "we cannot alter the course of events, so
let us think of nourishing our own bodies; that will, I am sure, do us
all good."

The old servant had thrown open two large folding-doors on one side of
the drawing-room, and the spacious dining-room, with a table ready laid
and lighted with massive silver branches, appeared, whilst a most
appetizing odour of cookery invited everyone to enter and partake.

The president rose. The pastor gave his arm to the lady of the house,
and led her to the dining-room, followed by the rest of the party, who
were soon seated around the table in the plainly-furnished room
ornamented with stags' antlers and deer's heads, enjoying the excellent
dinner provided by the house steward, and the choice specimens of the
treasures in the cellars. There was plenty of cheerful conversation,
but nothing was said about politics.

In the meantime there was great excitement in one of the principal
houses of the semi-circular village, usually so quiet. The large hall,
the door of which was wide open, was brightly lighted and filled with
different groups of young peasant men and maidens in their best Sunday
costumes; the strongly-built young fellows wore jackets and hats
trimmed with fur, the maidens short, close-fitting dresses and white
handkerchiefs, with bright-coloured ribbons in their thick plaits of
hair.

Fresh guests continually arrived and joined the young people already
assembled, while the other inhabitants of the village, the older
peasants and children, walked up and down, and looked in at their young
friends.

Old farmer Deyke, one of the principal farmers of the Blechow estate,
a widower for some years, inhabited the large farm-house with his
only son Fritz. He went from group to group, and his old rigid,
sharply-marked countenance, with its cunning, piercing dark eyes,
beneath bushy eyebrows, showed itself capable of very different
expressions. Now it assumed jocular good nature, as he pressed the hand
of a rich farmer's son and whispered in his ear some tale of his own
youth; now his face expressed benevolent condescension, as he said an
encouraging word to a poorer neighbour; now cold reserve as he returned
the salutation of some young man not quite in good repute in the
neighbourhood, but whom he was too hospitable not to entertain on such
an occasion.

His son Fritz went about amongst his friends with much less dignity. He
was a slight but strong young man, with kind, true blue eyes, and
flaxen hair cut short in the military fashion. He joked with the girls,
and must have said very merry things, for they put their heads
together, and laughed and tittered, until they got red in the face,
long after the old farmer's merry son had left them and gone on to
another group; and then he went up to the young men, and seizing two of
them under the arms, led them to the table at one end of the hall
covered with a white cloth, and crowded with beer-jugs, hams, bread,
and cold beef. It was evident that Fritz was immensely popular.

He was very good-looking, beloved by young and old, and as the only son
and heir of the rich Deyke, the holder of the largest farm in the
neighbourhood, all the pretty girls belonging to the best peasant
families looked after him with beating hearts and unspoken hopes, and
there was no father or mother in the village but would have received
him as a son-in-law with the greatest joy.

But he was unscathed amongst all these pretty peasant girls; he joked
and laughed with them all, danced with them all at country festivities,
gave first one and then another a bouquet from his father's well-kept
garden, or a ribbon or a picture from the store of some travelling
dealer, and these gifts raised the hopes of the pretty Blechow girls;
but he never went any further, or seemed to see the kind looks of the
daughters, or to notice the encouraging hints of the fathers and
mothers. None of the young men felt jealous of him, he was never a
rival, he took every opportunity of treating his young friends, and
spent the thalers, with which his father plentifully supplied him,
quite as much on their pleasures as on his own.

The young people all made way, and left the centre of the hall free as
the village schoolmaster entered, a simple-looking old man, in a black
coat and a black cocked hat.

The elder Deyke greeted him in a manner that showed he respected the
position and character of his guest, but felt himself a person of much
greater importance, but his son hastily seized his old master's hand,
and cried: "We are all ready, Herr Niemeyer, and it is time to go to
the castle; the president sat down to dinner half an hour ago, and it
will be another half hour before we are all there and prepared, so
forwards! forwards!"

He quickly arranged all the young people in couples, first the young
men, then the girls, and to each young man he gave a pine-wood torch
from a large heap which lay ready on one side of the hall, and some
matches for lighting them. He then seized the arm of the schoolmaster,
and with his father they headed the procession, which silently moved
towards the castle, whilst the older villagers looked on with interest,
and then followed, whispering together.

The president's cheerful dinner had come to an end. The old butler
removed the cover of an enormous Saxony china bowl standing on a side
table, from which came the delightful aroma of Scharzhofberger Moselle,
mingled with the perfume of the pine-apple slices floating in the wine.
He uncorked some bottles of Champagne, poured the contents into the
bowl, put in the large silver ladle, and placed it on the table before
the president, who, after tasting and approving the mixture, filled
large glasses for all his guests.

The pastor raised his glass, inhaled the delicious fragrance for a
moment with visible respect, admired the light bright yellow colour,
and then spoke in a way happily combining the clergyman with the old
friend of the family:

"My dear friends! our worthy president, around whose hospitable board
we are now assembled, enters to-morrow upon a new year of his active
and useful life. To-morrow we shall greet the new year; to-day let us
take leave of the past. The cares and troubles it brought our friend
are over, and have only led to good; the happiness he has bestowed on
so many, the cheerful hours he has caused, should be remembered to
strengthen and refresh him in the evil moments the future will bring
even to him, as to all the dwellers on the earth, as long as darkness
and light wrestle together. May the remembrance of the past year urge
us all to continue true to one another in love and friendship. Let us
dedicate this quiet glass to the memory of the past year of our dear
president's life." And putting his glass to his lips, he emptied it to
the dregs.

They all followed his example, the ladies not excepted, for from the
simple, healthy life they led, they did not fear a glass of generous
wine as the more delicate specimens of the fair sex usually do in large
cities.

"God grant, my friends, that at the close of the next year, which looks
so threatening, we may all be sitting here as happy and as cheerful as
we are now," said the president, with emotion in his face and voice;
"and now," he added cheerfully, as he felt general conversation could
not be again resumed, "let us rise and smoke the pipe of peace. John,
bring the bowl, we will have another word with that."

The whole party rose and returned to the drawing-room. They found the
doors leading into the hall set open; the enormous house-door was also
thrown wide open, so that they saw right into the courtyard, with the
old linden-tree in the midst. It was lighted up with dark red flames,
and amidst the masses of smoke which here and there interrupted the
fiery waves, groups of men appeared, their movements looking strangely
fantastic in the reflections of the flames, and from them came the
sound of whispering voices.

The president was amazed and even alarmed, for his first idea was that
a fire had broken out in his stables; but the old servant stepped up to
him and whispered: "The young people from the village wish to serenade
you, sir, the evening before your birthday."

The president, who had been about to hasten into the courtyard, paused,
a look of happy emotion shining in his eyes. The pastor, who was
prepared for the surprise, exchanged a smile with the lady of the
house, and the young people gazed inquisitively into the courtyard.

After the president appeared, there was a moment of deep silence; then
strong, clear voices raised the simple touching chorale, "Oh! God, our
help in ages past."


                "Wer nun den lieben Gott läszt walten."


The full ringing sounds, and the dark red light of the torches streamed
through the large hall and entered the room where the family stood,
while from the large window on the garden side the full moon shone
brightly in from the dark evening sky, and shed long streams of light
upon the floor.

The president stood still, surrounded by those he loved in his quiet
home, the calm light of the moon falling upon him, as if it were the
farewell greeting of the past year. Was the uncertain, blood-red light
filling the courtyard the picture of the coming year? Yet from the
fiery light came the old pious hymn which has so often strengthened and
comforted men's hearts. Let the Future come; if she brings strife and
sorrow, she will also bring strength and consolation.

Such thoughts as these passed through the mind of the president. His
wife, who had placed herself beside him, had folded her hands together
and slightly bowed her head.


                 "O God, our help in ages past,
                   Our hope in years to come,
                 Our shelter from the stormy blast,
                   And our eternal home,"[3]


resounded. The old lady gazed at her soldier-son, whose eyes shone with
pleasure at the picturesque effect produced by the torchlight on the
groups of peasants, and on the buildings around the court. Her hands
were more tightly clasped, her lips moved in silent prayer, and a tear
ran slowly down her cheek; then she bent her head lower, and listened
without moving to the end of the chorale.

When the sounds had quite died away, a general movement commenced. Old
Deyke and the schoolmaster entered; and the former said, in his most
important and dignified manner, the schoolmaster standing meekly behind
him: "Herr President, the young people have had the honour of welcoming
your approaching birthday by a serenade; the schoolmaster has
instructed them"--(he looked round, and the poor man bowed shyly,
trying not to feel as if all eyes were upon him). "They came and
consulted me, and I saw no objection; for, Herr President, you are well
aware the whole village feels interested in your family festival; yes,
and we know you rejoice that we should show how much we have your
happiness and that of your worthy family at heart. My only anxiety was
lest the sudden commotion before the house might"--and he turned to
Madame von Wendenstein--"alarm your honoured lady; but the schoolmaster
said it must be a surprise, or the whole point would be lost."

"Thank you--thank you all from my whole heart. My good old Deyke!"
exclaimed the president, warmly shaking his hand, "you have given me
the greatest pleasure, and such an alarm as this will never injure my
wife."

"Certainly not," said Madame von Wendenstein, whose face had recovered
all its quiet cheerfulness. She offered the old peasant her small white
hand, which he took with a certain amount of care, and added: "I thank
you heartily for your affection to my husband."

"But where is Fritz?" cried the lieutenant. "I have been surprised not
to see him; eh! old Deyke, where is my old playmate?"

"Here, Herr Lieutenant," cried young Deyke's cheerful voice, as the
handsome young peasant stepped from a dark corner of the hall and
entered the sitting-room. "I am very glad you are here, sir, and that
you remember me."

Whilst the lieutenant warmly greeted the young peasant, his elder
brother shook hands with old Deyke, with a certain stiff politeness,
and the president cried:

"Now, every one must eat and drink in the courtyard. It is the young
people's turn to be pleased. It must never be said that my friends,
after giving me so much pleasure, went away with empty mouths."
Madame von Wendenstein gave her eldest daughter a sign, and soon all
the servants in the house were hastily carrying tables, white cloths,
plates, jugs, and bottles into the courtyard.

The schoolmaster, however, whispered something to old Deyke, who said,
"Herr President, the schoolmaster begs your kind entertainment may be
put off until the other songs are sung, as he fears the voices will not
be in such good order afterwards!"

"Are you going to sing to us again?" cried the president, with
pleasure. "Pray go on then, Herr Niemeyer. Sit down with us, my dear
Deyke, and let us drink a glass to old times!"

He had some arm-chairs rolled into the middle of the room, and made the
old peasant sit with the pastor and himself. The lieutenant fetched
some cigars; the eldest son filled the glasses. The old peasant
moistened his cigar with his lips, and smoked it with carefully
screwed-up mouth. He knocked his glass against the president's and the
pastor's, half emptied it, with a satisfied nod at its contents; then
he sat very upright on his chair, with a look which showed he was
sensible what a high honour it was to sit in such company, as well as
the conviction that he was quite the man on whom such honour should
fall.

The schoolmaster and young Deyke had hastened out again, and soon the
simple but beautiful _volkslied_ of the country commenced.

Madame von Wendenstein returned to her place on the sofa, and listened
thoughtfully to the melodious sounds; her eldest son stepped, with Herr
von Bergfeld, into a window-niche; the president's youngest daughter
had followed her sister; the lieutenant walked up and down the room,
listening to the singing with some impatience; for he longed to go out
to the young peasants, whom he had known from childhood, and joke and
laugh with them.

The pastor's daughter, forsaken by her young friends, stepped out on to
the terrace. She leant against the stone balustrade and looked up at
the moon; its silvery rays fell on her thoughtful, beautiful face, and
lighted up her large clear eyes.

After the lieutenant had paced up and down the room several times, he,
too, went on to the terrace. He breathed in the fresh evening air,
looked at the well-known plain below as it lay in the moonlight, and
then perceived the young girl, whom he hastened to join.

"Are you indulging in romantic dreams in the moonlight, Miss Helena?"
he cried, jokingly. "May I share them, or is it needful to be quite
alone?"

"The moon always makes me come out, whether I will or not," said
Helena, "and the singing sounds even better here. But I was dreaming a
little," she said, laughingly, as she raised herself from the stone
balustrade; "my thoughts were far away from here, up in the clouds,"
and she pointed with her hand to a black bank of clouds, stretching
from the horizon towards the moon, whose light touched their edges with
silver. They looked like a black mantle with a brilliant hem.

"I know your thoughts go far and wide, and I like to hear them, for
they take me to a world I love, but to which I cannot go alone. You
remember the old story of the wonderful garden no one could enter
unless they knew the magic word which opened the door in the rock? you
know this word. Even as a child I was never happier than when listening
to your ideas; they took me so far away from every-day life. Tell me
what you and the clouds have been talking about."

"Do you see," said the young girl, as she looked upwards, "do you see
that black cloud resting so quietly in the moonlight? An image of
peace, you might almost believe it had ever been there, and would ever
remain; yet in a short time the cloud has spread itself far, far over
the country--will it bring blessing and fruitfulness, or will it spread
tempest and destruction over the land, destroying the hopes of the
husbandman? Who can tell? but we know it will move away from the light
now so peacefully shining upon it, though the moon will shine on as it
has ever done. Such is life; such is the fate of man," she added, in a
melancholy tone; "now we are in happy peace; soon we may feel the wild
tempest."

"Your thoughts are always sad," said the lieutenant, with a slight
smile, whilst a reflection of the young girl's enthusiasm appeared in
his face, "always grave, but always beautiful; but I cannot imagine,"
he added, "how such ideas come to you."

"How can I help it?" she returned, "when they talk so much of war, and
the threatening future; how soon our peaceful happiness may vanish like
the moon if the cloud rises higher!"

The young officer looked grave, and was silent for a moment.

"How extraordinary!" he then said. "War is my business, and I have
always wished for a brisk, merry war, instead of our tiresome garrison
life; but what you say makes me sorry. Are we soldiers the black cloud
which is to blot out the moon's peaceful light, to spread tempest and
destruction, and to annihilate so many hopes? And may not the lightning
resting in the cloud's bosom smite even ourselves?"

"Oh! that it were granted to human power to guide the course of clouds
and the fate of men to light and peace," cried the pastor's daughter;
"but as the moonlight silvers the black cloud, so must our hopes and
prayers accompany those whom the storm of fate drives far away; such
comfort will remain for those at home."

The lieutenant was silent. His eyes were fixed with dreamy surprise on
the young girl's excited face, which looked almost inspired in the
moonlight. He slowly approached her; but the singing ceased, loud
voices and clanging glasses were heard in the court. The other young
ladies came on to the terrace, and the lieutenant and Helena hastily
joined them.

The president went into the hall, and again thanked the singers
heartily for the pleasure they had given him, proposing they should now
attack the refreshments. The whole party then mixed with the peasants,
and cheerful talking and merry laughter were heard throughout the
courtyard.

The lieutenant had gone into the drawing-room, and he remained there
for a time grave and thoughtful, though his sister and Helena had gone
to say a few friendly words to all the village maidens.

His elder brother went to the young peasants; he knew quite well what
to say to them, for he had been brought up amongst them, and they
talked to him without reserve: but it was somewhat of a ceremonious
conversation which he carried on in a quiet voice, as he moved from
group to group.

Loud bursts of laughter, however, accompanied the lieutenant, when he
entered the courtyard shortly afterwards. Accompanied by Fritz Deyke,
he spoke to all the young fellows, who, for a joke, arranged themselves
in the stiffest of military attitudes, under the auspices of some old
cavalry soldiers.

All was life and mirth. At last the lieutenant was surrounded by some
young folks, who made Fritz Deyke their spokesman. The lieutenant
laughed when he heard their request, nodded his head, and went up to
his father.

"They want to sing our Hanoverian air, father, but they wish for your
consent: they are not sure if it is quite the thing, they say."

"If it is the thing?" cried the president, cheerfully, "of course it
is; let them begin!"

Fritz Deyke, who had followed the lieutenant, hurried back to his
friends. They formed a semicircle before the door of the house, and the
curious song began, the words of which are scarcely comprehensible, and
often altered _ad libitum_, but which it is the dear delight of every
Hanoverian peasant and soldier to sing on every opportunity.

The president was delighted to hear the national song shouted by the
merry young peasants with all the strength of their lungs. He joined in
the chorus himself, as did the lieutenant, and


            "Our king before us we did see,
            Riding straight on so merrilie;
            And to his brigadier cried he,
            'Roystering Hanover boys are we,'"[4]


was loudly echoed back from the old castle walls to Blechow.
At last the peasants dispersed, and with loud laughter and cheerful
conversation returned to the village. The pastor and his daughter also
took leave, and went back to the quiet vicarage. Soon the whole castle
was hushed in peace and darkness.

Madame von Wendenstein kissed her youngest son affectionately, as she
bid him good-night, and her lips softly murmured,


            "O God, our help in ages past,
              Our hope in years to come,
            Our shelter from the stormy blast,
              And our eternal home."


The lieutenant sat thinking in silence for a long time in an ancient
arm-chair in his room; and when at last he went to bed and to sleep, he
dreamt he was on a black cloud, whirled along by a tempest; the
lightning flashed about him, the thunder groaned, and he was borne
farther and farther from the mild rays of the moon, though she still
pursued him with her peaceful light.



                              CHAPTER III.

                                VIENNA.


A number of carriages rolled rapidly along the Ballhofsplatz behind the
royal castle of Hofburg in Vienna, and drew up one after another before
the brilliantly lighted portal of the Office of State. Fashionable
equipages, with servants in various liveries, arrived; the porter, in
his light blue coat embroidered with gold and with his long staff,
hurried to receive the ladies who alighted in rich evening dress, well
wrapped up in their warm mantles and hoods; they hastened through the
large doorway, mounted the broad staircase to the right and entered
the upper apartments of the splendid palace in which Kaunitz and
Metternich had striven to prove the words true, _Austria est imperatura
orbi universo_. It was now occupied by Lieutenant Field Marshal
Mensdorff-Pouilly, minister of the empire and of foreign affairs.

Amongst the carriages there were a number of _fesche_ (cabs); they are
always used by the gentlemen of Vienna to go about in, in the town,
however extensive their own stables, and the porter received them with
the same alacrity that he bestowed on the occupants of the more
fashionable carriages.

A young officer got out of one of these cabs dressed in the brilliant
variegated Uhlan uniform of green and scarlet glittering with gold. He
threw off his large white cloak, left it in the carriage, and desired
the coachman to wait for him near the Burgplatz.

He gave a last look at his faultless costume, drew his small black
moustache through his fingers, and then mounted the stairs happy and
confident of success, as a young Uhlan officer always is, whether on
the parquet or on horseback, and which this especial young officer had
every reason to expect.

Lieutenant von Stielow, a native of Mecklenburg, had, like many of his
northern compatriots, entered the Austrian service several years
before; about a twelvemonth ago an uncle had died childless, and he had
inherited from him such a considerable fortune, that his yearly income
had excited astonishment even amongst the Austrian nobility, who are
accustomed to enormous revenues; and the extremely handsome and amiable
young man, who had formerly been treated with cold politeness, was now
welcomed by the highest nobility of Vienna as an intimate friend,
especially in those houses where there were daughters of an age to
marry.

It was, then, only natural that the young man before whom life was
opening so brilliantly should be full of joyful confidence as he
mounted the steps of the Office of State. This was on one of the
exclusive evenings, when the Countess Mensdorff, in contradistinction
to her large official receptions, entertained her own especial friends.
These evenings, though of a strictly private nature, were much
frequented by the political world; here it was hoped a corner of the
veil might be raised, in which each diplomatic camp had shrouded its
activity, trusting the world might believe nothing was taking place
which could disturb its happy relations with its neighbours.

Footmen, in the faultlessly elegant Mensdorff livery, opened the doors
leading to the smaller rooms inhabited by the countess, and Lieutenant
von Stielow entered a salon filled with ladies in fresh and varied
toilettes and gentlemen in brilliant uniforms, or in the black civilian
evening dress.

In a smaller room, opening out of the larger apartment, and filled with
the thousand comfortable trifles found in the everyday drawing-room of
a lady of rank, the minister's wife, by birth a Princess Dietrichstein,
sat on a low divan. Her appearance was highly aristocratic, and she
received her guests with the naturally graceful and friendly manner
peculiar to distinguished society in Vienna.

Beside the Countess Mensdorff sat a full, luxuriant form in black, but
the brilliancy of the wearer's priceless jewellery excluded all idea of
mourning.

This lady's pale face, set off by masses of black hair, was of unusual
beauty, though deeply melancholy; her large black eyes, full of fire
and expression, shone with no earthly happiness; their enthusiastic,
thoughtful look recalled rather the old portraits of the high-born
abbesses of some religious order.

She was the Princess Obrenowitsch, wedded to Prince Michael of Servia,
but being separated from her husband, she lived in Vienna with her
young son. This beautiful lady, by birth a Countess Huniady, was
received with open arms by the highest society in Vienna,
notwithstanding her separation from her husband, who took every
opportunity of expressing his great esteem for her; but though she
inherited the warm Hungarian blood, and possessed genius and health,
she led, without entirely renouncing the world, a life of great
seclusion, and devoted all her talents and care to the education of her
young son, the heir of the princely house of Servia. It was always an
event when the beautiful, proud, and pious princess quitted her
seclusion and appeared in one of the salons of Vienna.

Before these ladies stood a somewhat short gentleman, of about sixty
years of age. He wore the close-fitting grey uniform of a lieutenant
field marshal, and was decorated with the Maria Theresa Cross, the
Order of Leopold, and the Maltese Cross. His full red face, set on an
unusually short neck, which looked the more remarkable from his
closely-buttoned uniform, had an expression of inexhaustible fun and
mirth; his dark eyes sparkled with life and good-natured satire; both
his short moustache and thick hair were white as snow, the latter shorn
so closely that the red tint showed through the bristly locks, and
caused society in Vienna to maintain that Field Marshal Reischach's
head looked like a very well-sugared strawberry.

Baron Reischach, one of the bravest officers in the Austrian army, was
now incapable of active service from the many wounds he had received
over his whole body; though they often caused him acute suffering, he
was regarded in Vienna as a most cheerful member of society, to whom it
seemed almost possible to be in two places at once, so completely did
he see all that was to be seen, and know all that was to be known; his
amusing stories and witty observations always banished ennui from every
réunion where he appeared.

During a round of afternoon visits Baron Reischach was sure to be met
with more than once, for he never neglected the old ladies of his
acquaintance, and frequently called on them to inquire after their
health, relate all the news of the day, and to show them all sorts of
small attentions. In the evening he was to be found at the Burg
Theatre, and between the acts he was always to be seen in the boxes of
the older ladies, yet he managed to find time to slip behind the scenes
and to compliment the _prime donne_ on their toilettes or their acting.
After the theatre he was always in some salon, now hurrying through
some large "at home," bandying a _bon-mot_ here, relating a witty
anecdote there, then for a quarter of an hour he might be found at the
tea-table of some small circle, shaking from his inexhaustible
cornucopia the most amusing stories. Later still, he was to be found in
a corner of the dining-room of the Stadt Frankfurt Hôtel, beside a
glass of old Hungarian wine, the life and soul of some merry supper,
the body consisting of Counts Wallis, Fuchs, and Wrbna.

Such was Lieutenant Field Marshal Reischach, who now stood before the
ladies, holding his green plumed hat in his hand which rested on his
sword.

He was telling them something very amusing, for Countess Mensdorff
laughed aloud, and a smile passed over even the grave face of the
Servian princess.

"Now you must tell us, Baron Reischach," said the Countess Mensdorff,
"everything you saw last night at the theatre--not how Wolter acted, we
know in your eyes she is always superb, incomparable; but tell us what
you observed in the house and the boxes. I am sure a great deal went
on, or did not go on, that you can relate. You see you have made the
princess smile already, make her laugh outright."

The baron replied, with a slight bow to the Princess Obrenowitsch: "I
dare hardly hope the princess will listen much longer to an old
worldling like myself, especially as _nothing_ happened. Our young
Mecklenburg Uhlan passed some time in the Countess Frankenstein's box,
talking with great animation to Countess Clara, and thereby enraging
one of our friends. I need not tell her name, I saw----"

Here his confidences were interrupted by the arrival of their subject,
the young Uhlan officer, von Stielow, who advanced to pay his respects
to Countess Mensdorff.

She laughed. "We were speaking of you, Baron Stielow; it was easy to
see, this evening, at the theatre, it was not Wolter who engrossed your
attention, which Herr von Reischach regards as a great mistake."

The young officer coloured slightly, saluted the field marshal, and
said: "His excellency is a sharp observer. I was only a very short time
at the Burg Theatre, and I visited some friends in their boxes."

The repartee Herr von Reischach was about to make, was prevented by the
arrival of a tall gentleman in a general's uniform, accompanied by a
slender, graceful lady, and as they came up to speak to the countess,
Herr von Stielow seized the opportunity of escaping further discussion.

It was Count Clam Gallas, with his wife, Countess Mensdorff's younger
sister. The count's tall form had not the perfect ease in uniform
possessed by the great Austrian nobles, his features were completely of
the Hapsburg type, and he was decorated with the Golden Fleece; he
offered his hand to his sister-in-law with simple cordiality; whilst
his wife, whose figure was unusually elegant, and her beauty
extraordinarily preserved, though she was no longer young, sank into an
arm-chair beside Princess Obrenowitsch.

"Where is Mensdorff?" asked Count Clam Gallas, "I do not see him; he is
surely not ill again?"

"He was sent for by the emperor," replied the countess; "and, though he
has come back, he has something to despatch. I have had to offer his
excuses; but we shall not have to wait for him much longer."

"I have heard wonders of your fête in Prague, countess," said the
baron, turning to the Countess Clam Gallas, "they cannot praise it
enough; Countess Waldstein, whom I met to-day, at Princess Lori
Schwarzenberg's, has been quite enchanted."

"Yes, it was quite a success," said the countess, "and gave us all much
pleasure. We had the idea," she continued, turning to Princess
Obrenowitsch, "of performing Wallenstein's 'Camp in Prague;' of course,
it has been so often performed before, there is nothing remarkable
about that. The extraordinary thing was that the actors in this play,
in which Schiller brings Wallenstein's army so wonderfully before us,
were really direct descendants of the great leaders in the Thirty
Years' War. This gave an unusual meaning, and an unusual spirit to the
representation. I assure you we were all inspired by a breath from the
past, both performers and audience felt the same vivid emotion. The
ancient mighty spirit of Austria seemed to rise up before us, clashing
its arms, and a blast from the Swedish horns would have made the whole
company cry 'To horse!' and have sent them to ride forth like their
ancestors."

"Yes," said Count Clam Gallas, "it made a wonderful impression on all
of us--we all felt that the time will come, if it be God's will, when
the Austrian sword must again be drawn, and our emperor restored to his
old position. It looks to me as if the times were stormy, and we should
soon ride forth."

There was a moment's pause. Herr von Reischach looked grave and was
silent; when foreign policy and warlike action were spoken of, it
grieved his true old soldier's heart, that he, with his hacked and
shattered limbs, could no longer take a part.

Countess Mensdorff, whose fine tact always prevented political
discussions in her drawing-room, broke the short silence by observing
to von Reischach with a smile:

"It is a pity you were not there, Baron Reischach, you would have
performed the Capuchin excellently, and preached the moral to the
wicked world."

"Certainly," said he, and added in a tone of comic pathos: "_Contenti
estote_, be satisfied with your ammunition bread."

"Yes, but if a _pâté de foie gras_ came first, and a bottle of old
Hungarian wine," laughed the count, "he would leave the ammunition
bread alone."

"_Nullum vinum_," cried Herr von Reischach, stretching out his hand,
and shaking his head, "_nisi Hungaricum!_" he added in a lower tone,
bowing to the Princess Obrenowitsch, who thanked him by a slight smile
for the compliment paid her in her native tongue.

Other guests arrived, the circle of ladies increased, and Count Clam
Gallas and Baron Reischach withdrew, still conversing, into the outer
salon.

Here groups of ladies and gentlemen were talking with much animation;
the younger people busy about their own affairs, the elder ladies
watching the proceedings of their daughters, and the gentlemen casting
searching glances at the different members of the _corps diplomatique_,
who now exchanged a hasty word, now lingered in earnest conversation.

In the middle of the room, beneath the brilliant chandelier, stood the
French ambassador, the Duke de Gramont, a tall man, with a faultless
figure and military bearing, with the white star of the Legion of
Honour upon his black coat, and the broad red ribbon across his breast.
Short black whiskers framed his long, well-chiselled face, of the type
of the old French aristocracy, combining amiable friendliness with
dignified reserve. His small, beautifully-shaped mouth was slightly
shaded by a moustache, the points of which were turned upwards; his
brow was high and broad, but gently rounded rather than boldly arched;
in his dark eyes shone the careless indifference which is always the
heritage of the old French _noblesse_, and which in so many phases of
their history has caused them to treat the gravest and most important
subjects with a lightness and frivolity difficult to understand. The
arrangement of his abundant dark hair gave him a still greater
resemblance to one of those old grand seigneurs who, in the palmy days
of the monarchy, surrounded by pomp and stiff park alleys, led their
careless, graceful lives so easily.

The duke was standing for a moment alone, examining those around, when
he was joined by a gentleman of middle age, who, far from possessing
the French ambassador's careless and distinguished repose, was chiefly
remarkable for the rapid changes of expression seen on his thin,
strongly-marked face. He wore whiskers, and his light hair was cut and
arranged in the way peculiar to the North German soldier. He was
shorter than the duke, his movements were animated, his dress of
faultless simplicity, and across his breast he wore the white and
orange ribbon of the Prussian order of the Red Eagle.

Herr von Werther, the Prussian ambassador, greeted the duke with much
courtesy, but not with the cordiality which expresses personal
friendship.

"At last, duke," said Herr von Werther, in French, "I am able to wish
you good evening. How is the duchess? I do not see her."

"She has a bad cold," replied the ambassador. "And Madame von Werther,
she, too, has to remain in the house from this influenza?"

"She is very unwell, and I should not have come out myself," said Herr
von Werther, with a smile, "if it were not our duty to collect news."

"And have you succeeded?" asked the duke.

"Not yet. Count Mensdorff is still with the emperor, the countess tells
me; and I have heard nothing, except a few _cancans_ from the guests.
But," he added gravely, and in a lower voice, "the air seems to me full
of important events. You are well aware that the general feeling grows
stronger and stronger."

"I regret that it is so," said the Duke de Gramont; "for such sharp
opposition of conflicting views and claims can only lead to war.
Personally, this appears to me very undesirable."

"You know," replied Herr von Werther, "that we certainly do not wish
for war; but can we avoid it, without sacrificing our dignity and our
position? What would you advise?"

"We are completely out of the contention, we can only observe what
takes place," said the duke, in a tone of reserve; "and we can only
wish well to both sides: it would not become us to give advice, unless,
indeed, we were asked to mediate. Do you not see," he added, with a
forced smile, "that we are observed? We are rather isolated just here,
and our harmless conversation may give rise----"

"You are quite right," interrupted Herr von Werther; "let us avoid
these inquisitive eyes."

With a slight bow to the duke, and whispering to himself, "He knows
nothing," he turned to a tall, strongly-built old gentleman, with a
bald forehead, sharp features, and bright brown eyes, who stood a few
paces off, dressed in the uniform of a Hanoverian general.

"Good evening, General Knesebeck," he said, whilst the general politely
returned his greeting; "what news do you hear from Hanover?"

"None at all for some time past," replied the general slowly, with some
reserve. "My brother lives quietly in the country; he writes to me but
seldom, and troubles himself very little about events in Hanover."

"I rejoice," continued Herr von Werther, "that Count Platen has been to
Berlin, as I hear the visit was of a most friendly nature. God grant
that this may continue, and that all the little misunderstandings may
vanish which have arisen between Prussia and Hanover, two states who
really heartily esteem each other, as history and the traditions of the
Seven Years' War amply prove."

"From my heart I regret the misunderstandings which have arisen on both
sides," replied General von Knesebeck. "We in Hanover ardently wish to
live in peace with our neighbours; but, before all things, we must
labour to maintain the integrity of all the German states. Our safety,
both from within and from without, depends on the friendship of the two
great German powers, and on the united strength of the German
confederation. God preserve them!"

A further remark from Herr von Werther was prevented by the approach of
the English ambassador, Lord Bloomfield. He had the regular features
and characteristic countenance of the English aristocracy, with a
healthy complexion and a fresh, genial expression. He was decorated
with the ribbon of the Scotch order of the Thistle; and after he joined
in the conversation, it turned to the every-day events of society in
Vienna.

Thus the soirée in Countess Mensdorff's salons ran its course with its
usual smoothness, for the elegant and smiling guests betrayed none of
the restless anxiety which possessed the minds of many of those
present. On the other side of the Office of State in the meantime, in
the large ante-room of the minister's cabinet, with its furniture of
blue silk and blue window hangings, sat two men in great arm-chairs, by
the large round table near the wall. A small fire flickered in the
large fireplace in the corner, and an enormous lamp with its globe of
ground glass stood on the table, leaving a large part of the spacious
room in half darkness, but lighting up the two men who were close
to it very distinctly, whilst it shed a faint reflected light on the
life-size portrait of the Emperor Francis Joseph, which in a
magnificent gold frame filled up the middle of the wall, and
represented the emperor in the full uniform of a general, with the
youthful beauty of the early age when he ascended the throne.

One of these men sat carelessly leaning back in his arm-chair. He was
apparently half-way between fifty and sixty. His face bore the impress
of considerable talent, with a certain mixture of catholic enthusiasm
and repression, sometimes seen in old portraits of cardinals and
prelates. An apparent love of ease, small soft white hands, a
comfortable and elegant dress, completed the resemblance to the
portraits of the spiritual lords of the Italian school.

Such was the privy councillor and under secretary of state, Baron von
Meysenbug, and beside him sat the ministerial councillor von
Biegeleben, a tall, stiff, dry pedantic looking person, with a very
bilious complexion and bureaucratic manner. He looked half-way between
a professor and the manager of a counting-house, as he sat upright on
his chair with his hat in his hand.

"The count is long in coming," cried Herr von Meysenbug impatiently, as
he tapped with his slender fingers on the dark table-cover. "I am very
anxious--I fear, I fear he may yet play us a trick and persuade the
emperor to yield!"

"I cannot think it," observed Herr von Biegeleben in a slow, quiet
voice; "his majesty is too much penetrated with the idea of the former
position of Hapsburg in Germany to dream of falling in with the desires
of Berlin. In Frankfort he saw the glorious recollections of the empire
live again, and he felt deeply and bitterly the checkmate prepared for
him by Prussian resistance; he will be firm."

"But Count Mensdorff will resign, he will not be answerable for the
consequences of a rupture!" said von Meysenbug, thoughtfully.

"Well, and if he does?" asked Herr von Biegeleben with a stiff smile;
"the emperor will then perhaps proceed with more quickness and
decision."

"Perhaps so," said Herr von Meysenbug; "but Count Mensdorff is of a
reliant disposition and requires advice; should we hold the reins so
completely in our hands under his successor?"

"I do not think we could be dispensed with," said von Biegeleben. "Your
excellency stands so firm on the Roman basis it would be impossible to
set you aside; I, for my unimportant self--well, who have we who knows
and can work all the German embarrassments? Herr von Gagern?"

Herr von Meysenbug shrugged his shoulders and made a slight movement
with his hand.

At this moment the door of the ante-room opened and Count Mensdorff
entered.

There was nothing extraordinary in the appearance of this minister,
whose fate it was to guide Austria to such great disaster. He was a man
of middle height, of regular and pleasing features of the French type,
and of a complexion that showed ill-health; his short hair and small
moustache were black. He wore the uniform of a lieutenant field marshal
and the star of the order of Leopold. In consequence of chronic illness
his manner was feeble and uncertain, and he endeavoured to avoid
standing during a conversation, as it fatigued him.

Both the gentlemen rose.

After greeting them Count Mensdorff said: "I regret that I have kept
you waiting, gentlemen; I was detained longer than I expected." He then
walked slowly to his cabinet, inviting von Meysenbug and Biegeleben to
follow him.

The ministerial cabinet was a large apartment, and like the ante-room
it was lighted only by the lamp standing upon the large writing-table.

Count Mensdorff sank exhausted into an arm-chair near the table, and
gave a sigh of relief when he had placed himself comfortably and
supported his arms on the sides of the chair. He had first invited the
two gentlemen, by a movement of the hand, to seat themselves near him
at the writing-table.

The three men sat for a few moments in silence. The faces of the two
privy councillors expressed great anxiety. Mensdorff gazed wearily
before him.

"Well, gentlemen," he said at last, "it seems that your wishes will be
fulfilled. His majesty the emperor will not draw back--he will by no
means consent to the Prussian project for the reform of the
confederacy; in a word, he has decided to go energetically onwards and
to meet the great German question with decision--though the result
should be a breach, and war;" the last word he pronounced in a low
tone, and with a half repressed sigh.

Meysenbug and Biegeleben exchanged looks of lively satisfaction, and
awaited with great anxiety the further communications of Count
Mensdorff.

"I left nothing untried," he proceeded, "to dissuade his majesty from
this dangerous decision and unsafe policy. You know I do not pretend to
understand politics well--I rely upon your superior knowledge; but I am
a soldier, and though I have no right to consider myself a great
general, I know perfectly what is needful for an efficient army. Well,
gentlemen, the policy which we now pursue must lead to war--for
Bismarck is not the man tamely to submit,--but for war an efficient
army is needful, and this our opponents possess, and we have it
not--utterly and entirely we have it not, according to my military
convictions. What then will be our position?" He stopped, exhausted and
sad.

"But your excellency must not look at the black side of things," said
Herr von Meysenbug, "we have 800,000 men, according to the statements
made by the War Department, and----"

"The War Department," interrupted Mensdorff energetically, "may state
what it pleases. I am a practical soldier, and care little for the acts
of the War Department; I know the condition of the army, and if the
half of your 800,000 men can march I shall rejoice. And we shall be
forced to operate in two theatres of war at once," he added; "for you
must see that at the first cannon shot Italy will begin--I am convinced
an alliance has already been formed with Prussia."

Herr von Biegeleben smiled with the air of an experienced picture
dealer who hears a dilettante expressing an opinion, and he remarked in
his measured tone,--"May I remind your excellency that our ambassadors
in Berlin and Florence assure us most positively that there is no
question of an alliance between Prussia and Italy; yes, they even say
that the slight difficulty which has arisen respecting the recognition
of Italy by Prussia still increases. Certainly Italy would not, as the
Duke de Gramont has told me to-day, seek so zealously the French
mediation respecting the ceding of Venetia, if a Prussian alliance
were concluded or likely to be so."

"Yes, yes," said Count Mensdorff thoughtfully, "the ambassadors
maintain there is no alliance, I know that well, and yet I am certain
of the contrary. I am also certain that the first threads of this
treaty were spun in Paris--I feel quite sure of it--though it may not
yet be a treaty placed in the archives."

"But," exclaimed Herr von Meysenbug, "the Duke de Gramont would surely
not----"

"Gramont!" interrupted Count Mensdorff with still greater energy; "and
do you really believe Gramont knows what is going on in Paris? Do you
believe that the Emperor Napoleon has the last word of his labyrinthine
policy written out in an official despatch and sent off to Gramont?
Gramont knows what he is to say, and," he added, speaking more slowly
and in a lower voice, "he is certainly not to say anything which might
prevent war, for this war will be quite for the advantage of France.
Paris has greatly feared lest the Prussian and Austrian arms should be
united in Holstein; rather let Germany clash in a bloody struggle!
Whichever side is defeated in this war, it is Germany which is
defeated, and the conqueror wins for France!"

"Events look blacker and blacker to your excellency," said von
Meysenbug with a slight smile. "I, on the other hand, hope that the
victory of the Austrian arms will again establish German unity beneath
the banners of the empire,--and if Italy moves we shall soon make an
end of that impious kingdom which threatens Church and State with
annihilation!"

"Would to God I could share your faith," said Count Mensdorff,
mournfully; "but I do not believe in the success of the Austrian arms,
and if Benedek knows the army and its construction as well as I do, he
will say the same. I have told the emperor all this," he continued, in
a still lower voice, "and I implored him to take from me the office of
prime minister, as it made me responsible for a policy which must lead
to heavy catastrophe."

"But your excellency!" cried both the gentlemen in alarm.

"No, no," said Count Mensdorff, with a feeble smile, "I am not going
out. His majesty has commanded me to remain at my post, and as a
soldier I obey--as a soldier," he repeated with emphasis, "for were I a
political minister of the modern school, I should not remain. But so it
is. Well, the order is given, and now we must march on. How must we act
to hasten the decision, to bring on the quarrel; for since we are to
act, I am for acting at once; every day will give our opponent fresh
strength."

"The means are simple," said Herr von Biegeleben, sitting very upright
in his chair, and raising his hand as if imparting instruction; "the
Holstein states must be urgently called upon to discuss the position of
their country, and to decide upon the succession; let us assemble them;
this will cross all the Prussian plans and oblige the gentlemen in
Berlin to show their hands; at the same time we shall gain a powerful
support in the sympathy of the Grand Duchies, and the great German
party."

"But our rule is only conjoint in the Grand Duchies." suggested Count
Mensdorff; "by the Treaty of Gastein we only exercise the sovereign
rights in common with Prussia."

"That is the precise point, permit me, your excellency," interrupted
von Biegeleben, "which will bring on the conflict, and it will come
under the favourable circumstances of being in a national cause."

"Well, it does not seem quite right," said Mensdorff, "and I care very
little for the sympathy of the beer-shop orators in the Grand Duchies
and in Germany and for all the singers and rhymers. I would rather we
had an army like the Prussians; but be so good as to make me a small
memorial on the subject with an instruction for Gablenz, and I will lay
it before the emperor."

Herr von Biegeleben bowed, and a slight smile of satisfaction passed
over Herr von Meysenbug's countenance.

"What is the aspect of Germany?" asked Mensdorff; "how do things
progress in Saxony? Are they ready?"

"Perfectly," replied von Biegeleben. "Herr von Beust is very impatient,
and has sent me a memorandum in which he points out the necessity for
immediate action. Also he considers the assembling of the Holstein
states as the best means for letting light into the situation. The
disposition of the people in Saxony is excellent. Would your excellency
like to read Count von Beust's note on the subject?"

He opened the portfolio which lay on the table.

Count Mensdorff waved his hand.

"How can Beust ever find time to write all that?" he said, with a
slight smile and a sigh. "With regard to Hanover," he then continued,
"have we any chance there?"

"A courier has just arrived with a despatch from Count Ingelheim,"
replied Herr von Biegeleben, whilst he drew some papers from a case,
and looked hastily through them; "he is satisfied. Count Platen has
returned from Berlin, and assures him that all the efforts made to win
him and Hanover to the side of Prussia have been unavailing. He has
promised nothing, and he told Count Ingelheim to make known his
inclinations in Vienna."

"Yes, I know him," said Count Mensdorff, slightly shrugging his
shoulders. "And King George?" he asked.

"The king," replied Herr von Biegeleben, "will not hear of war; he
always maintains that a good understanding between Austria and Prussia
is the salvation of Germany; yet, if it comes to a rupture, the king
must stand on our side."

"That does not seem to me certain," said Mensdorff. "King George, in my
opinion, is a German and a Guelph, but he is not an Austrian. The
traditions of the Seven Years' War still live in him."

"It is true," said von Meysenbug, who now took up the conversation,
"that the King of Hanover is not devoted to Austria, and yet I believe
he is safe, notwithstanding the powerful Prussian influence with which
he is surrounded. We must endeavour to offer him something which will
flatter his ideas; the king's hero is the Great Henry the Lion. Count
Ingelheim knows through Doctor Klopp that he has been much engrossed
with the history of his great and unfortunate ancestor."

"Doctor Klopp? Who is he?" asked Count Mensdorff, repressing a slight
yawn.

"A schoolmaster formerly, who compromised himself in the year 1848 as a
democrat and advocate of the rights of the people, but he is
converted."

"To our church?" asked Mensdorff.

"Why--no," replied Herr von Meysenbug, with some hesitation; "but to
our ideas and interests. He shows great talent in composing historical
plays favourable to our side; he has obtained a certain celebrity, and
is appointed editor of the 'Leibnitziana.' He sees a good deal of Count
Platen, and is very useful to us."

"Well, well," said Count Mensdorff, smiling, "I suppose he is under
your secret rule, dear Meysenbug?"

"I interest myself certainly in all rising authors," replied Herr von
Meysenbug, calmly; "but Count Ingelheim especially protects them in
Hanover."

"Well, and the bait for King George?" asked Mensdorff.

"My opinion is," said Herr von Meysenbug, "that a treaty should be made
with Hanover guaranteeing them Prussian Westphalia and Holstein at the
favourable termination of the war. We shall thus create a strong and
irresistible position in the north, and Hanover thus strengthened can
make no friendly alliance with Prussia, but will be entirely devoted to
us in future."

"Dividing the bear's skin whilst he still wears it in the wood," said
Count Mensdorff; "well, make a memorial on the subject; I will lay it
before the emperor. I very much doubt whether for such a bait the King
of Hanover will place his country in grave peril."

"We must give him the means of meeting the danger. The Kalik Brigade is
up there; let us place it at his disposal, and Lieutenant Field Marshal
Gablenz as its general."

"Our best soldier!" exclaimed Mensdorff; "yet the post is most
important,--but if King George will accept nothing of all this?"

"Then events must take their course," said Meysenbug. "The vacillation
of Count Platen in taking no decided step on either side will oblige
Prussia to menace Hanover; this will arouse the pride of the king, and
an important Prussian force will be occupied in the north, without,"
added Herr von Meysenbug with a smile, "our owing any duty to Hanover.
They are taking immense trouble about Hanover in Berlin," he continued,
"and they proposed, when Count Platen was in Berlin, a family union."

"So?" asked Count Mensdorff, attentively; "what then?"

Herr von Meysenbug took a letter from his portfolio, and handed it to
the minister, pointing out the particular passage with his finger.

"Count Platen assured Ingelheim the affair should come to nothing," he
said, rubbing his hands, whilst the minister read; "and in Berlin there
is Stockhausen quite devoted to us, and determined to prevent any
understanding being arrived at."

"Well, gentlemen," said Count Mensdorff, rising and returning von
Meysenbug his paper, "you now know his majesty's intentions, so apply
yourselves to the work. I shall see you when you visit the countess."

Both the gentlemen bowed, and left the cabinet.

Count Mensdorff sat for some time leaning back in his arm-chair. His
features expressed gloomy thought, and his eyes saw nothing that was
around him, but gazed into space.

He raised his head slowly, and looked round the large dimly-lighted
room.

"Oh! ye great men who have watched in this spot over Austria's
greatness, would that ye were in my place! My hand is ready to draw the
sword for my country, but it is unable to guide the vessel of state
through this dangerous sea so full of sunken rocks. I see the abyss on
the brink of which Austria, my beloved Austria, stands. I cannot
restrain her,--I cannot even resign the place which burdens me with the
whole responsibility. I must tarry at my post since I am a soldier, and
yet I cannot serve as a soldier."

Again he sank into deep thought.

A low knock was heard at the inner door of the cabinet, and almost
immediately two boys entered, of the ages of five and eight; they
advanced shyly and cautiously at first, but when they saw the count was
alone, they ran up to him, and climbed on to his chair.

Count Mensdorff awoke from his reverie; his face cleared, and he smiled
as he put his arms around the two boys.

"We have not seen you before to-day, papa," said the youngest, "and we
waited to say good night. Good night, dear papa, we were to go to bed
directly, and we are very tired."

Count Mensdorff gently stroked their hair as he drew the two children
nearer to him, and pressed a kiss on their pure white brows.

"Good night, my children," he said, affectionately; "thank you for
staying up to see me. I hope you have been industrious and good all
day."

"Of course we have, papa," cried both the children with proud
certainty, "or they would not have let us stay up to see you!"

The minister's eyes, before so sad, shone with affection; no one could
have imagined that this man, with his mild face and smiling look,--his
two children in his arms,--that this was the man who was to guide a
great empire through its most dangerous crisis, and to encounter
Germany's mightiest and bloodiest catastrophe.

"Sleep well, my children," said Count Mensdorff. "God bless you!" He
kissed them once more, and made the sign of the cross over their heads.

He looked happy until they left the room, then his eyes grew sad again.
"They are happy," he whispered; "care has not yet robbed them of
sleep."

He rose and rang a bell.

The attendant entered.

"Does the countess entertain a large party?"

"It is a small reception day, but the guests are very numerous."

Count Mensdorff sighed, glanced for a moment at the mirror, and then
left his cabinet, to repair to his wife's drawing-room.

There the crowd had become even larger, and the greatest animation
prevailed. The politicians had extracted all the news, or convinced
themselves there was none to hear, and the whole company was passing
the time in light conversation in various groups, until the minister's
return; the younger gentlemen fluttered round the young ladies, and
Lieutenant von Stielow was seen in animated conversation with a young
beauty of most pleasing and distinguished appearance.

This young lady, the only daughter of the widowed Countess
Frankenstein, was the same who had so occupied him in the theatre when
he had been observed by Baron von Reischach, and now the young officer
seemed extremely absorbed in the apparently light drawing-room
conversation, for he looked down on the young lady with great interest,
and she leant on the arm of her chair and raised her large brown eyes
to his face, whilst her hand played with her white feather fan, which
matched her dress in simplicity; it was entirely white, and only
ornamented with small bouquets of violets.

"Then it is arranged, countess," said Herr von Stielow, "if you go into
Switzerland with your mother you accept me as your travelling
companion. I know all the most beautiful parts, and I will make you an
excellent guide."

"I have not the selection of our travelling companions, Herr von
Stielow," replied the young lady; "but I am sure it will be agreeable
to my mother if we meet you in Switzerland, and if you are kind enough
to show us some of its beauties."

"That is an excessively courteous reply, fair lady," said the
lieutenant, with some displeasure, "but to me it is rather too
courteous. I am quite sure that the countess will welcome me if she
meets me, and that she will not refuse her consent to my joining your
tour among the mountains, but----"

"Well," said the young lady, with a saucy little laugh, "then our
travelling plans are made, and everything is arranged; or did you wish
for an uncourteous answer? You could hardly expect one from me."

"You are unkind, countess," replied von Stielow, biting his lips in the
vain endeavour to gnaw his short moustache; "you know well I am not
making idle conversation, but that I ask an important question. I do
not at all wish to be intrusive, and to owe it to your mother's
politeness that I am not sent away. You see," he added, more warmly,
and with less constraint, "I expect such pleasure from our trip,--I
love the free pure mountain air,--and I am sure that you, too, will
find immense enjoyment in the lovely valleys and high peaks; you will
appreciate their beauty, you must be happier there than here, 'in the
breath of the tomb,' as the poet says."

The young lady listened to him with her upturned eyes glowing brighter
and warmer, but she suddenly cast them down, and said in a mocking
tone, which was, however, softened by the smile on her lips, "And how
do you know that I am not quite in my element in the tomblike breath of
the town?"

"I know it, Countess Clara," said the young officer, with animation;
"and because I know it I wish to guide you to the great poem of
glorious nature, and to read it with you,--but only if you honestly
wish it, and will be really glad to have me with you."

"We make plans for the summer, and the whole world speaks of war. Who
knows," she added, as her brows clouded, "whether all our plans will
not be thrown to the winds, or consumed in the flames?"

"Good heavens!" cried Herr von Stielow, "if war breaks out of course
all will be changed; but that need not prevent our making plans in case
all should keep quiet. So----"

"Here comes Count Mensdorff," said the young lady, rising. "Perhaps we
shall now hear something. Mamma signs to me; forgive me for leaving
you, Herr von Stielow; we shall see you in a day or two; you will tell
me then if we are to have peace or war, and if our imaginary trip has
any chance."

"Then you will take me?" he asked, earnestly; "but I want no courteous
reply, give me a kind and honest answer."

She looked firmly at him for a moment, and then said, as a slight blush
heightened the tender colour in her cheeks, "Yes--if you will find us
piquant enough, and if you can forget Vienna."

And with a light elastic step she glided over the parquet, and joined
her mother and a circle of ladies on the other side of the room.

Herr von Stielow looked after her for a moment with emotion, and then
joined various other groups.

Count Mensdorff, on entering the room, first joined the circle
immediately around the countess, and remained in conversation there
some little time.

The diplomatists all grew uneasy, and broke off with more or less
politeness the indifferent conversations in which they were engaged.

At last the minister entered the second drawing-room alone. The Duke de
Gramont immediately approached him with easy grace, and was warmly
welcomed.

The two personages became the centre of general observation, but no one
ventured near to disturb their earnest conversation, which lasted about
ten minutes.

When Count Mensdorff turned away from the duke he found himself just
opposite Herr von Werther.

He spoke to him with perfect politeness, and immediately all the
anxious side glances were employed in watching their interview.

It lasted only two minutes.

Count Mensdorff turned from the Prussian ambassador with a low bow, and
walked hastily through the room to General von Knesebeck, took his arm,
led him aside, and commenced a most cordial and animated conversation.

The Duke de Gramont had again joined the other guests. Von Meysenbug
and von Biegeleben had appeared, and were surrounded by diplomatists of
the second rank.

In about a quarter of an hour Baron Werther was surrounded by an icy
atmosphere; every attempt he made at conversation fell to the ground,
after the few phrases which politeness demanded; and it required all
his talent to conceal his isolation, until the happy moment came which
permitted him to retreat.

At last the time of departure arrived, and the salons of the palace
grew empty.

Lieutenant von Stielow went down the broad steps and found his cab in
the appointed place.

He gave the coachman an address, got in, and wrapped himself in his
white cloak.

"What did she mean about forgetting Vienna,--can she know? Well, all
Vienna knows it; I make no secret of my life. If _she_ wished it, I
would cast aside every folly, but does she wish it?"

He grew very thoughtful.

"She will wish it," he cried, "and then my life shall follow its true
star,--away with every erring meteor; but how charming they are!" he
whispered to himself.

The carriage stopped before a large house in the Ringe.

Herr von Stielow dismissed the coachman, nodded to the porter as if he
knew him well, and ascended a couple of steps. A pretty lady's-maid
opened the glass door of the entrance hall.

The young officer threw off his mantle, and entered a room elegantly
furnished with dark blue satin; before the fire-place stood a tea-table
lighted by a large Carcel lamp.

Upon a _chaise longue_, on one side of the fire-place, reposed the
slender form of a young and beautiful woman clothed in white.

Her pale features of the noblest Grecian type were partly illumined by
the lamp, partly by the red glow of the fire, and her eyes, of deeper
black than even the smooth ebon tresses of her hair, now shone in soft,
sweet reverie, now sparkled with quick, brilliant rays.

Her slender white arms half concealed by her large open sleeves, lay in
her lap, and her slight fingers played with the clasp of her girdle.

Her whole appearance was of wonderful beauty, with a demoniacal look
heightened by the changing lights which played over her face and the
whole of her figure.

As the young man entered, she sprang up, and her eyes flashed; it were
hard to say whether with love, pride, or triumph.

Such must have been Cleopatra, when Antony approached her.

She flew to meet him, and threw her arms around him, whilst her glowing
looks were fixed upon his eyes.

"At last you come, sweet friend!" she whispered; "I have waited long!"

When the young man entered the room there had been a certain coldness
on his face, and now there was more politeness than tenderness in the
movement with which he placed his arm around her shoulder.

Did she feel this?

Her eyes dilated and became more glowing, her arms were pressed closer
round his neck, and through her slender form passed a slight shiver.

A magnetic stream seemed to pass from her to her lover. He led her
gently to her seat, knelt down before her, and kissed her left hand as
it hung by her side, whilst with the right she stroked the hair upon
his brow.

The star was veiled with clouds, the baleful meteor glowed in vivid
brightness.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                               NAPOLEON.


The crowd flowing along the Quai Voltaire in Paris, on the shores of
the Seine, changed its varied pictures so quickly that it resembled a
kaleidoscope.

One bright morning about ten o'clock, a man was to be seen pursuing his
way with hasty steps from the Rue Bonaparte across the bridge towards
the Tuileries.

Although he was scarcely of the middle height, and rather shabby
in dress, yet he caused many passengers to look at him for a
moment--certainly only for a moment, but a Parisian seldom looks at
anything much longer--from the unusual swiftness of his step, and the
thoughtfulness with which he hastened on without looking to right or
left, pursuing his way in a manner which proved him to be usually a
dweller in large capitals.

The man thus hurrying to the royal and imperial palace was even meanly
clad; from his dress, and his bent form, he might have been supposed a
master in some elementary school, or a lawyer's clerk; but the changing
expression of his sharply-cut features, his red and white northern
complexion, and the penetrating glances of his light grey eyes, gave to
his appearance a character which belied the impression first formed.

The man gained the other side of the Seine and entered the courtyard
leading to the portal of the Tuileries.

He showed the sentry a paper, and on glancing at it the _voltigeur de
la garde_ stepped back, and with a short "_Bien, Monsieur_," admitted
him into that inner court of the imperial residence, where no profane
foot was permitted to enter, and into which only the court equipages
and the carriages of the grandees of the empire were allowed to drive.

Without slackening his pace the little man hastened on. He passed by
the great imperial entrance--before which, under a wide canopy,
supported by golden lances, stood a group of officers of the household,
and _laquais de palais_, conversing in whispers--to a smaller one,
where he entered with the assurance of one who well knows the locality.
He went up a step and into an anteroom, where in a large arm-chair sat
a _huissier de palais_, performing his duty with quiet dignity.

"M. Piétri?" said the visitor.

"M. Piétri is in his cabinet," replied the huissier, half raising
himself from his chair.

"Ask if he will receive M. Hansen, he has an appointment with me."

The huissier rose at once and entered the cabinet of the emperor's
private secretary; after a moment he opened the door, saying, in a low
tone, "Enter, sir!"

The former Danish advocate, that unwearied agitator on behalf of the
rights of Denmark, entered the cabinet of Napoleon III.'s private
secretary.

This cabinet was a large, light room, full of tables and repositories
for papers, deeds, and maps. At the farther end was a spiral staircase
which led into the apartment above, the entrance to which was closed by
the silken folds of a dark _portière_.

Piétri sat before a large writing-table. He was still a young man, and
slightly made. His rather long face had a bright, peaceful, spiritual
expression, which gave a charm to any ordinary employment undertaken by
him.

He bowed as Hansen entered, pushed back a packet of letters with which
he was occupied, and politely pointed to an arm-chair which stood at a
little distance from the writing-table.

"Well," said Piétri, commencing the conversation, as he fixed his
bright eyes in expectation upon his visitor, "you have come from
Germany, what have you seen and heard? Are matters ripe? In what mind
are the people? Tell me everything--we must know every detail of what
is occurring there, in order to take up our own position."

"Let me begin with the central point of the position," replied Hansen.
"I was lately in Berlin, and I discovered nothing there, with regard to
the views of statesmen or the national feeling, to make me doubt the
correctness of my impressions."

At this moment a noise was heard at the top of the stairs at the
further end of the cabinet, the heavy folds of the _portière_ slowly
opened, and a man appeared standing on the top step.

It was Napoleon III. who thus descended into his private secretary's
cabinet.

Piétri rose as soon as he heard the _portière_ withdrawn and the foot
on the stairs, and remained standing before the writing-table.

Hansen followed his example.

The emperor slowly descended the steps. It was not the form represented
in the life-size portrait; the hand placed commandingly upon the crown
and sceptre of France, proudly draped in the imperial mantle, which
well became the graceful, slender figure.

It was an old man who descended the stairs; _embonpoint_ had destroyed
the elegance of his figure, illness and pain made his carriage feeble
and uncertain, his grey hair no longer thickly surrounded his brow, but
fell in thin locks over his temples, and his eyes, in former times
often veiled though capable of stormy flashes, now looked dull and
wearied.

The emperor, dressed in a plain black morning coat, and smoking a
cigarette, the strong and excellent aroma of which preceded him in a
light blue cloud, carefully descended the stairs, and entered the
cabinet.

He walked slowly, with the heaviness of later years.

He stopped before his secretary, gave him a peculiar look from the
veiled shadows of his eyes, and bowed low to Hansen. He seemed to scan
him completely in a quick momentary examination, and he then turned his
head to Piétri, with a slight expression of inquiry.

"Sire," said Piétri, "Monsieur Hansen, a Dane who is completely devoted
to his country, and who has also done us good service, for as a Dane he
loves France; he has travelled through Germany, seen many personages,
and was about to tell me the result of his observations."

The emperor again bowed to Hansen; the amiable and charming kindness
with which he could at will exercise a magic influence, shed a glow
like sunshine over the weary indifference of his face.

"I know," he said, in his low but clear and penetrating voice, which
expressed in a masterly way the finest shades of feeling, "I know that
all Danes love their country, and for that reason they have warm hearts
for France, their country's friend. Your name is known to me, sir, as
that of a man distinguished for his burning and active patriotism, even
in so patriotic a country as Denmark."

Hansen bowed low, whilst the pleasurable emotion he felt at the
emperor's words caused him to blush.

"Sire," he said, "so gracious a recognition from your majesty's lips
almost makes me forget that my zealous efforts in my country's behalf
have been fruitless. If my humble name is known to your majesty, you
must know, too, how much I love France and revere her emperor, upon
whose mighty will it depends whether Denmark shall win back and
maintain her rightful position amongst the nations of Europe."

The emperor bowed his head slightly. A sudden deeply penetrating glance
shot from his half closed eyes towards the Danish agitator, whose
upturned face expressed only deep veneration.

"My dear Piétri," said Napoleon III., turning to his secretary, "I came
down to look through the morning's correspondence. Is it ready for me?"

"Here it is, sire," said Piétri, taking some papers from the table and
handing them to the emperor.

Napoleon took them, and with a movement recalling his youthful agility,
he rolled a chair close to the window, seated himself, and took from
his _étui_ another cigarette, which he lighted at the end of the one he
had just smoked.

"I will not disturb your conversation," he said with an engaging smile.
"Go on as if no one were here, I will quietly read my letters."

Piétri again seated himself before the writing-table, and signed to
Hansen to do the same.

The emperor looked at the first of the papers he held in his hand very
attentively; it was marked with a blue pencil at the most important
passages.

"So you were lately in Berlin?" asked Piétri, again looking at Hansen
expectantly.

"I was there," he replied, "and I brought away with me the conviction
that a great German conflict is unavoidable."

"Do they desire it?"

"They do not desire the conflict; but they desire what cannot be
obtained without a conflict."

"And that is----?"

"The perfect reform of the German Confederation, the military
ascendency of Prussia to the Main; the complete setting aside of the
traditions of Metternich's Germany. Count Bismarck is recklessly
determined to reach his aim, and I believe he, too is convinced that
this aim cannot be reached without war."

Piétri was silent for a few moments, and his eyes glanced at the
emperor still immersed in his papers, then he looked full at Hansen and
said:

"And would they not be pacified by the sole possession of Holstein and
Schleswig? Provided Austria cedes her conjoint authority in the
Duchies, I thought they intended to settle the boundaries of Silesia to
your advantage."

A slight glow passed over Hansen's face, but he replied with unmoved
voice:--

"No, the conflict cannot thus be avoided. I believe they were inclined
to make great concessions in exchange for the entire possession of the
Duchies; and if France heartily demanded it, Danish North Schleswig
might be restored; but no palliative will prevent the conflict.

"Believe me, sir!" he continued, with animation, "this conflict is no
quarrel about the German Grand Duchies; they know well enough in Berlin
that they must in time fall to Prussia, and they do not fear the
resolutions of the Grand Duke of Augustenburg. The strife arises from
the historical development of Prussia and Germany. Prussia is really
not the second German state, but the first, and the German
Confederation grants her only the second place, and represses her
natural powers of development by a machinery the springs of which are
set in motion in Vienna.

"This is the true cause of the quarrel: Prussia desires the place which
naturally belongs to her, and which Austria held formerly. The quarrel
has lasted years and years, and would perhaps have continued many years
longer in its latent form--for the exercise of the wits of European
diplomatists--if Bismarck had not been at the head of the marvellously
expansive Prussian state. This statesman is an incarnation of the
Prussian spirit, strengthened by an extraordinary and genial
originality. He knows how to develop in the highest degree the rich and
well-knit strength of the country, and he has determined to put an end
to Prussia's present position. He can be led to no second Olmütz; he
will gain for Prussia her place in Germany, or perish."

The emperor's hand with the papers it held slowly sank into his lap,
and his eyes, suddenly opened widely, and burning with excitement, were
fixed on Hansen's face. His master's attention did not escape Piétri;
he said, with a slight smile:--

"It is indeed wonderful to hear a Dane speak so enthusiastically of the
Prussian minister, here in Paris."

"Why not?" asked Hansen, quietly. "This man who knows what he wants,
and exerts all his powers to gain what he wills, who loves his country
and determines to increase its greatness and power, compels my
respect,--he deserves esteem for his efforts--admiration if he
succeeds. Between Bismarck and myself stands my country, Denmark. The
German part of the Duchies we do not desire and could not make use
of,--but we want what is Danish, and what is necessary to protect the
Danish frontier. If this is yielded we shall have no cause to be the
foe of Prussia or Germany. If this is withheld Prussia may for ever
reckon little Denmark amongst her enemies, for exactly the same reasons
which influence Herr von Bismarck's policy."

Napoleon III. listened attentively.

Piétri said:--

"Have you gained the impression that there is an inclination on the
part of Prussia to meet the wishes of Denmark?"

"I do not think this impossible," replied Hansen, firmly, "especially,"
he continued with great distinctness, "if Prussia, in her difficult
position, might by such an arrangement, gain the support of one of the
great powers. It would then only be necessary to arrange the frontier
line, so as to maintain the interests of both Denmark and Germany."

As he slowly uttered these words he looked at the emperor. Napoleon had
raised the letter in his hand near to his eyes, which were fixed
without any especial expression upon the paper.

Piétri enquired further:--

"Supposing that Bismarck desires war, or more properly, desires objects
only to be obtained by war, will the king proceed to extremities,
rather than dismiss his minister? I speak to you without reserve," he
added, apparently with reckless candour; "you live in the political
world, and know as well as I do what is said in the circles surrounding
the Prussian ambassador. Did you receive the impression in Berlin that
Count Goltz might possibly succeed Bismarck?"

"No," replied Hanson, decidedly. "The King of Prussia shrinks
excessively from war,--that is to say, not from war itself, but from a
war with Austria--a German war. The king dreads such a war and
earnestly wishes to avoid it. If Vienna would meet him in the principal
points, he would probably make many more concessions than Bismarck
would approve. But when once the question is asked the king will not
yield the principle. He has created a new army organization. According
to all judges it is exemplary, and he carried it out in spite of the
opposition of parliament; he will not draw back when the first
opportunity comes of vindicating and enlarging Prussia's powerful
position in Germany. The king will strike with a heavy heart, but he
will strike, and after the first cannon has fired he will be only a
general. I have not conversed with King William myself," continued
Hansen, "but what I have said is the _résumé_ of conversations I have
had with those who know intimately both the situation and the
personages concerned. As to Herr von Bismarck's position," he
continued, "it is perfectly firm. Bismarck will never forfeit the
king's confidence."

"Why not?" asked Piétri, with animation.

"Because he is a soldier."

"That is to say, he wears the Landwehr uniform."

"That is only the exterior, but in this case it is not an idle
appearance. Bismarck is a soldier: he is a man of action, of quick and
clear decision; his diplomatic pen does not tremble at the roar of
cannon or the clash of arms; he would be as calm riding over a
battle-field as sitting by a green table. The king feels this; he is
himself a soldier, and he trusts him. I know Count Goltz has many
friends, but these friends deceive themselves, and I can assure them,
that if they have chosen him in Paris, they have not in Berlin."

There was a short silence.

After Piétri had glanced at the emperor, he further enquired:--

"But what is the national feeling? Judging from the press, war is not
popular?"

"Indeed it is not," replied Hansen; "the people dread a defeat, and the
parliamentary opposition believe in their short-sightedness that
Bismarck is commencing a war to get himself out of the blind alley into
which they think they have forced him. They little know the man with
whom they have to do!"

"But," objected Piétri, "will not the Prussian government place itself
in a very dangerous position if it begins a war against Austria and
Germany, whilst its own subjects oppose this war and regard it
unfavourably?"

"I think this danger is apparent, but not real," replied Hansen. "The
army--and this is the main point--will do its duty, and in spite of all
opposition will be ready in full strength; and all who speak and write
against Bismarck now, will fall at his feet after the first victory.
Interior strife will be extinguished when the first battle is won: each
addition to Prussia, each step towards the unity of Germany, will tend
to make the war which procured them more popular."

"Victory!" exclaimed Piétri; "but will Prussia be victorious?"

"It must be so," said Hansen, calmly. "Austria deceives herself both as
to the forces she can, with the help of Germany, place in the field,
and those at the command of Prussia. The strength of the Prussian army
is immense; it is quickly concentrated and homogeneous. The Austrian
army is weak, and cannot be properly bound together, or placed under a
united command. The South German soldiers with whom I have spoken, and
who know the condition of Austria, have no doubt of the success of
Prussia. The conduct of the war on the South German side must be a very
lame affair, for they have not yet even begun their military
preparations. Hanover and Hesse desire to remain neutral, but they have
concluded no treaty, and after all their hesitation they will be
surprised. Austria will find her only energetic support in Saxony,
where Beust, the life and soul of the anti-Prussian movement, has
succeeded in getting the army ready to take the field."

"You believe entirely in victory for Prussia?" asked Piétri, in a tone
that showed he was not inclined to share the belief without demur.

"I do," replied Hansen, "and I think all prudent policy must reckon on
it almost as a certainty."

"You spoke just now," said Piétri, after a short pause, "of additions
to Prussia. What do you think she will demand, or take, if victory is
on her side?"

"All that she needs, and can keep."

"That is, expressed in names and numbers?"

"The whole of North Germany unconditionally."

Piétri made a movement of incredulity.

"Be assured I am not deceived," said Hansen; "the people themselves
will desire conquests when Prussian blood has once flowed: what is to
be gained from Prussia must be gained before the war; after one victory
they will not listen to argument in Berlin."

The emperor stood up.

Piétri and Hansen also rose.

Napoleon placed the packet of papers which his secretary had given him
again on the table.

He bowed his head slightly to Hansen, and said--

"I am very glad, sir, to have made your acquaintance, and I shall
always be happy to be useful to a nation whose every member is so
inspired with patriotism."

Hansen bowed low, and left the room.

As the door closed behind him the emperor rose quickly, his eyes shone,
and he said, as he stepped hastily towards Piétri:--

"Piétri, do you believe that man observes sharply, and is well
informed?"

"I know him to be a sharp observer. As to his information, I know that
Bismarck has received him; that he has had intercourse with various
political personages in Germany, and that he has a talent for
discovering the direction of popular opinion. Nevertheless I think he
over-estimates the power of Prussia. Bismarck impressed him greatly,
and the impression made is mirrored in his report. We have seen the
same before; this Prussian minister well knows how to gain those whom
he wishes to win."

The emperor gazed thoughtfully before him. "I fear," he said, in
a low voice, "that the man is right, and that we have a great and
difficult historical problem before us. Can we support Austria without
wounding Italy, already too strong to be ignored? Can Prussia prevail,
and Germany be reconstituted, without danger to the prestige of
France--yes, even to our frontier! Alsace and Lorraine once were
German."

Piétri smiled.

"Your majesty loves to jest!"

"Ah! Piétri," said the emperor, placing his hand on his secretary's
shoulder, partly to impress his words, partly as if seeking a support,
"you do not know the Germans; I know and understand them, for I have
lived amongst them. The German nation is a lion, which knows not his
own power; a child might lead him with a chain of flowers,--yet in his
claws there is strength to destroy the whole European world, when he
knows his own nature and when he once tastes blood. And in this war he
will taste blood--the old jest, '_l'appetit vient en mangeant_' will
turn to frightful earnest; let this Prussian lion once break his chain,
and he will be a frightfully dangerous neighbour."

The emperor said this half aloud in short broken sentences, while his
eyes, as if following a vision, stared into space.

A quiet smile played round Piétri's lips.

"Your majesty has a dark hour," said he, in the calm encouraging tone
used to one ill and excited; "I believe the strongest element in the
German lion is sleep--should he awake and play the dangerous pranks
your majesty describes, he will find on our frontier our large armies
and the imperial eagle. The impertinent lion will soon be taught his
place."

The emperor let his head sink down on the arm still resting on Piétri's
shoulder; his whole figure seemed to collapse, his eyes glowed wildly
beneath their veil of eyelashes, his breath came with difficulty
through his parted lips, as if it struggled to form words which might
express his gloomy thoughts. The mighty emperor seemed oppressed by the
darkest forebodings; at last, without the least movement in his lips,
he said, in a low tone which filled the quiet room with a trembling
shudder,

"I am not the Great Napoleon!"

The voice was so sad, so chilling, so deeply melancholy that Piétri's
face, before calm and smiling, turned pale as if touched by deadly
cold.

He sought for a reply; but a noise was heard, the _portière_ was
withdrawn, and on the upper step of the staircase appeared the
emperor's groom of the chambers, who announced:

"M. Drouyn de Lhuys requests an audience."

At the first sound the emperor had withdrawn his arm from Piétri's
shoulder, and his countenance had regained its usual calm, cold
expression. He received the announcement with his ordinary manner, and
replied:

"I will come."

The groom of the chambers withdrew.

"I know what he wants," said Napoleon, "he wishes me to put a spoke in
the rolling wheel, to prevent hostilities. I often wish to do so--but
is it possible? Shall I risk at this moment the great question? for if
I speak and my word is not obeyed, the firebrand is kindled which will
endanger the existence of France and of myself. If I permit things to
go on, time at any rate is gained, and time brings favourable chances,
and the possibility of strengthening the power and influence of France
without a war. Well, let us hear what he wishes."

And he walked slowly towards the stairs. At the first step he paused,
and returned several paces into the cabinet.

"Piétri," said he in a low tone, "what do you think of Drouyn de
Lhuys?"

"Sire," he replied, "I admire his deep and extended information, and I
have a great respect for his character."

The emperor was silent for a moment.

"He is very near the House of Orleans," he said with some hesitation.

"Sire," replied Piétri firmly, "he has given your majesty his oath, and
I know M. Drouyn de Lhuys too well to doubt that his oath is sacred."

The emperor was again silent for a moment, then he made a slight sign
of adieu to Piétri with his hand, and mounted the stairs to the
apartment above.

Piétri returned to his writing-table, and looked through the remainder
of the correspondence.

Napoleon III. entered his plainly furnished cabinet, walked up to the
writing-table and touched a bell. The groom of the chambers appeared.

"M. Drouyn de Lhuys!" said the emperor.

A few moments afterwards the Minister for Foreign Affairs entered his
sovereign's cabinet.

Drouyn de Lhuys at this time was about sixty years of age, tall and
strongly made. His thin grey hair and equally grey whiskers, arranged
in the English fashion, surrounded a healthy looking, fresh-coloured
face, lighted up by an expression of kindliness and affability.

The appearance of this well-known man resembled a well-to-do English
landlord, rather than an experienced statesman who had thrice already,
under circumstances of great difficulty, filled the position of
Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The eyes alone, sharp, clear, and observing, beneath the broad brow,
gave an idea of the talent of this strong, excellent, and distinguished
man, accustomed to unravel and knit together the tangled threads of
European policy.

The minister wore a black morning coat, with the large rosette of the
Legion of Honour in the button-hole.

The emperor advanced to meet him and held out his hand.

"I am delighted to see you, my dear minister," he said, with an
engaging smile, "what have you to tell me? how does Europe get on?"

"Sire," replied Drouyn de Lhuys with his peculiarly slow, and
pedantic-sounding sharpness of pronunciation, "Europe is sick, and will
soon have a dangerous paroxysm if your Majesty does not employ soothing
measures."

"Do you not over-estimate my power," said the emperor, smiling, "by
thinking that I can? But," he added seriously, "speaking without
metaphor, you wish to tell me that hostilities in Germany are about to
break out--is it not so?" and sinking into an easy chair, he signed to
his minister also to seat himself.

"It is true, sire," said Drouyn de Lhuys, as he seated himself, opened
his portfolio and drew from it some papers, "that this is what I wished
to say to your Majesty. Here is a despatch from Vienna stating,
that--in incredible blindness--they have determined to commence
hostilities and to urge matters to an immediate rupture. They are about
to summon the States in the duchies without the consent of Prussia, and
Count Mensdorff has forwarded a despatch to Berlin, which is really an
ultimatum, as it requires in a high tone the immediate suspension of
all military preparations."

The minister handed the emperor the despatch; he looked through it
hastily, and placed it on the table.

"Here," added Drouyn de Lhuys, "is a despatch from Benedetti, stating
most positively that Herr von Bismarck is determined to take the most
decided measures to obtain for Prussia her proper position in Germany.
The project of reform which he brought before the assembly of the
German Confederacy in Frankfort, was a moral declaration of war against
the preponderance of Austria, and the position bestowed on her by the
treaty of Vienna. Count Mensdorff's despatch, which I have had the
honour of naming to your Majesty, has already arrived in Berlin, and
been presented by Count Karolyi. It has given great offence. Benedetti
describes it as one of those compositions which in former times the
German Emperor addressed to the Margrave of Brandenburg, and it has
served greatly to diminish the King of Prussia's repugnance to war.
Thus on both sides matters are hastening towards war, and, in a few
weeks perhaps, the armies will be opposed to each other, and the whole
of Europe will take part in the quarrel, if your Majesty does not
command a halt."

The minister stopped, and looked at the emperor inquiringly. Napoleon
leant dreamily on the arm of his chair.

"And what do you advise me to do, my dear minister?" he asked after a
short pause, as he raised himself a little and looked anxiously at
Drouyn de Lhuys' calm and open countenance.

"Your Majesty knows my opinion on this subject," he replied, "though I
fear you do not share it. A German war must be prevented for the sake
of France, for the sake of the peace of Europe. I think I do not
deceive myself," he continued, "when I express my conviction that
Prussia will emerge from such a war more powerful and more to be
dreaded, for I cannot believe in the military success of weak and
decaying Austria; and as to the remainder of Germany, it is not worth
speaking of, with its isolated little armies without military or
political connexion. To permit Prussia to become more powerful--to
become the supreme leader in Germany--is completely against the
interest of France. Your Majesty must allow me to say that the
France of to-day--the France of Napoleon," he added, slightly
bowing,--"should, according to my views, pursue the same course of
policy towards Prussia and the House of Hohenzollern as Bourbon France
formerly pursued towards Austria and the House of Hapsburg. Then
Austria's endeavour was the union of the military and political
strength of the German nation, and France, wherever she turned, found
herself opposed by the House of Hapsburg. Prussia now holds the same
place, and continually thwarts our lawful ambition, and if in this war
she succeeds in uniting in her own hands the military power of Germany,
our plans will all be crossed, and the influence which we justly
exercise on the affairs of Europe greatly diminished."

"But if Prussia is beaten?" asked the emperor.

"I do not believe in such a result," replied Drouyn de Lhuys, "but
grant it is so, what do we gain? Austria, with unbounded power, would
place herself at the head of Germany, and the old enmity of the House
of Hapsburg, strengthened by the Italian war, would be exercised with
new energy to our disadvantage. There is but one policy for France,
that is, to uphold the present position in Germany--to nourish, to
sharpen the antagonism between Prussia and Austria, but never let it
come to a war, to a decision; and to make use of the fear felt for both
these powerful rivals in the smaller courts of Germany to extend our
own influence. Thus, in an imperceptible way, we shall easily obtain
what the Emperor Napoleon I. obtained from the confederacy of the
Rhine--the power of using federal Germany against the two great states.
I cannot believe there is any other policy for France to pursue with
regard to Germany. Prussian or even Austrian Germany must always be our
foe, and a very dangerous foe: let us oppose the two great powers, and
drive in between them the wedge of the German kingdoms and dukedoms
jealous of their sovereignty; then, if we act prudently and carefully,
and require nothing to hurt the national feeling, Germany will be
completely subservient to our will."

"You think then--?" said the emperor inquiringly.

"That your Majesty must prevent the outbreak of war in Germany with all
your energy, or the position of France in Europe will be much
imperilled."

The emperor was silent for a time, and tapped with his fingers upon the
arm of his chair, then he said:

"Do you believe that I can prevent war; do you believe I am strong
enough to force back the half-drawn sword into the scabbard? Yes, if
Palmerston still lived," he said, thoughtfully; "with him it would have
been possible; but with the England of to-day, who has great words, but
deeds no longer!----Do you believe my single voice will be heard? And
if I am not heard? Must I not fear that, as in the story of Jason, the
two foes about to fall on each other will quickly unite against him who
would have thrust himself between them? Bismarck would soon see such a
game. Oh! I have let this man become too great!"

Drouyn de Lhuys calmly replied--

"I do not share the fears and difficulties your Majesty has so
graciously pointed out. A single word from you would prevent the war. I
must impart to your Majesty a conversation I had with Bismarck, the
last time I saw him. He explained to me with the greatest openness and
freedom from all reserve, the position he desired Prussia should hold
in Germany. A war with Austria he declared was an absolute necessity
for the historical development of Germany, since Austria would never
freely allow Prussia to take the place due to her. 'But though this war
is necessary,' said the Prussian minister, 'and though I, and every
Prussian government, must regard it as a certain logical event, yet the
exact moment in which it must commence depends upon the will and
statesmanship of the government. I should certainly not be so foolish
as to undertake two great wars at once, and to strike France and
Austria at the same time. If you are in earnest in desiring the delay
of the outbreak required by the chronic German question, say so plainly
and openly. I can wait.' So said Herr von Bismarck. I implore your
Majesty," continued Drouyn de Lhuys, "to authorise me to make the
declaration he thus invited, and to say plainly that France will not
permit a German war, and that in case hostilities commence, her armies
will at once start for the frontier."

The minister looked anxiously into the emperor's face. He still gazed
thoughtfully before him.

After a few moments Napoleon spoke:

"I cannot entirely share your views, my dear minister. Like yourself I
see the danger that may accrue to France from a German war; I also
acknowledge the truth of your opinion that the relations of the old
confederacy enabled us to exert considerable influence in Germany in a
comfortable and easy manner. But," he added thoughtfully, "could such
relations continue? A movement is passing through the world, urging
national union, and I think it highly dangerous to endeavour to oppose
the spirit of the times. I know you are dissatisfied with what I have
done in Italy, with what I must perhaps still do; and yet I think I am
right. The pulses in the life of the people now beat so strongly, that
the balance of the world can no longer be maintained by those little
weights which old politicians threw now into one, now into the other
scale. National agglomerations must take place, and we must endeavour
to place such a weight in the balance as shall prevent its kicking the
beam. Besides, Germany will not be so dangerous as you fear. The German
races have no craving for foreign conquest; they are not offensive, and
only struggle for a federal formation. I regard, too, the result of the
war differently. I do not think that either of the two opponents will
be completely and absolutely victorious; they will weaken each other:
we will, to a certain extent, harass the victor, and I believe in the
end Germany will be divided into three parts: Prussia with North
Germany, Austria, and South Germany. Then," he continued with a smile,
"you will have an excellent opportunity, my dear minister, of proving
your favourite proverb--_Divide et impera_, and your work will be less
in detail than heretofore."

"Then your majesty will not forbid the German war?" asked Drouyn de
Lhuys.

"I believe I neither can, nor ought," replied the emperor; "Italy too,
presses me to fulfil my promise. Free to the Adriatic!"

"A promise your majesty ought never to have given," said the minister,
firmly.

"Perhaps," said Napoleon; "but it is given, and I cannot leave every
question open. Mexico weighs heavily upon me."

Napoleon sighed deeply. After a pause he added:--

"I will make an effort to reconcile your views with my own. Let us ask
in Vienna if they are willing to yield me Venice to restore to Italy.
It would form the basis of a possible alliance with Austria, which
would enable us to interfere with real power and a prospect of success
in the complicated German question. Then, even if the negotiation were
successful, it would leave us free."

"I do not believe the measure would be successful," said Drouyn de
Lhuys; "the House of Hapsburg prizes Venice highly, although it has
always been a burden and a drawback; but I do wish to obtain this apple
of discord, for without it an alliance may one day be formed against us
between Austria and Italy. I doubt, too, whether a free choice will
hereafter be left to us. The rôles are distributed before a performance
is begun, and those who dally may be set aside. Nevertheless, I can say
nothing against the principle of the step your Majesty proposes, and if
you wish it, it shall be carried out immediately."

The emperor seized a letter which lay on his writing-table, and said,
as he looked through it hastily, "I am urgently requested by Saxony to
grant no support to the Prussian claims. I cannot give any distinct
response; but will you instruct the ambassador in Dresden,
confidentially, that he may discreetly insinuate, that it depends upon
the cabinet in Vienna whether the wishes here expressed are fully
complied with, and that they completely meet my own views."

Drouyn de Lhuys bowed.

"It will also be needful," continued the emperor, "to talk
confidentially in Berlin of the guarantees which Bismarck might be
inclined to give us, provided his plans in Germany succeed. You know
how evasive and dilatory they are in Berlin on this point. They wish to
hear my demands, and I cannot and will not express them definitely."

Drouyn de Lhuys again bowed in silence.

The emperor stood up. His minister also rose.

Napoleon stepped up to him and said with the fascinating smile which
lighted up his face with an irresistible charm:

"You are not satisfied, my dear minister; but believe me this policy is
the best. We shall gain time, and in political life time is a power
which gives everything to those who use it aright."

"I know the value of time," replied the minister, "but perhaps in
gaining time we may lose the right moment."

"True," said the emperor, drawing himself up with a movement recalling
his earlier years, "yet trust in my star, and in that of France."

"These stars are too bright not to inspire confidence," replied Drouyn
de Lhuys, but without any enthusiasm. He took up his portfolio, and
said:

"Has your majesty any further commands?"

"I will not detain you," said Napoleon, and shaking his minister
heartily by the hand, he dismissed him.

After he had left the room the emperor remained for some time lost in
thought.

"I cannot directly force events," he said half to himself, "I must
allow them to take their course. If my veto were not heard, I should be
obliged to undertake a frightful war, and then? I must endeavour by the
careful and prudent study of events to turn them to our advantage."

He placed himself before a marble bust of Cæsar which stood on a black
pedestal in his cabinet, and he gazed for some time on the beautifully
chiselled features of the Roman conqueror of the world.

"Thou great antetype of my house," he said, while an electric
brightness beamed from his upturned eyes. "At this moment I too must
say, _Jacta est alea!_ But," he added gloomily, "thy dice were thrown
by thyself, and forced by thy mighty hand to fall according to thy
will. The pitiless iron hand of fate throws my dice, and I must take
them as they fall!"

An attendant entered and announced:--"The emperor's breakfast is
served."

Napoleon left the cabinet.



                               CHAPTER V.

                               GEORGE V.


One morning, when the trees on either side of the long avenue leading
from Hanover to the royal residence were still clad in their brightest,
freshest green, a carriage rolled rapidly along, and approached the
gilded iron gate which shuts off the outer entrance to the castle.

The carriage drew up before the entrance to the inner courtyard.

A slight man, somewhat under the middle height, alighted; he was about
thirty-six years of age, very fair, with a long drooping moustache upon
the upper lip, and he was dressed in black with a grey overcoat.

This man walked in at the side gateway in the corner of the principal
building of the old electoral and royal palace, built by the renowned
Le Nôtre, and resembling a miniature of Versailles; he passed through a
long passage which led directly to King George V.'s Cabinet.

Before the door of this cabinet, which was on the ground floor, with a
small entrance from the park and garden, sat the king's groom of the
chambers. Close to the entrance of the royal apartments was the waiting
room for the gentlemen summoned by the king, chiefly adorned by the
portraits of celebrated Prussians. There were represented in life-size
Blücher and Ziethen, and there was an exquisite painting of Prince
Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, who fell at Saalfeld.

The gentleman who had left the carriage, and reached the entrance to
the royal apartments, asked the groom of the chambers:

"Is his majesty alone?"

He had risen and taken the visitor's overcoat, and he replied in broken
German with a strong English accent:

"Privy Councillor Lex is with his Majesty."

"Will you announce me!"

The groom of the chambers knocked loudly at the king's door, and the
clear voice of George V. was heard. He cried--"Come in!" in English.

The attendant returned after a few minutes.

"The king begs M. Meding to wait a moment."

And he opened the door of the waiting-room, which Meding the councillor
of state entered.

The room was empty. Meding took up a position on a large sofa.

After about five minutes the door opened, and a gentleman, somewhat
bent with age, entered. His hair and moustache were as white as snow,
and he wore the uniform of a Hanoverian lieutenant-general, with the
golden epaulettes of an adjutant-general. His breast was decorated with
the Grand Cross of the Guelphic Order, and with the medals of 1813, and
Waterloo. It was General Tschirschnitz, the king's right hand in
military affairs, the medium of every appointment in the army.

Meding rose with the words, "Good morning, your excellency."

"Good morning!" replied the general, in a curt military tone, whilst he
laid a large closed portfolio on the table. "Are you here so early?
Shall we have long to wait? I hope you have not much to do."

"The king is working with his cabinet councillor, and apparently
writing letters; how long that will last, it is difficult to tell. As
far as I am concerned I have only a little to do, and my audience will
not take long."

The general threw himself back in his chair with a loud groan.

"Do you know, my dear Meding," he said after a pause, "how long I have
waited already, during the course of my life?" and he raised himself a
little and looked inquiringly at his friend.

Meding by slightly shrugging his shoulders implied that it was
impossible to reply to the question.

"Eight years, seven months, three weeks, and four days!" cried the
general in a loud voice, and with great disgust.

Meding could not help laughing aloud.

"Your excellency has certainly suffered to the utmost, and your
patience has stood the proof!"

"I have a book," said the general dismally, with a sort of grim humour,
"in which I have written down every day since I first received my
commission from my late lamented master, the length of time I have
passed in this waiting room. It now amounts to eight years, seven
months, three weeks, and four days. What do you say to that? They say,"
he continued, "that I am sixty-eight years old. It is not true; I have
_lived_ but fifty-nine years, five months, one week, and three days.
The rest of the time I have _waited!_"

And the general threw himself back in the arm-chair with a look of
resignation.

"I must say, your excellency," said Meding, "it would never have
occurred to me to make a statement of the hours fruitlessly passed in
the ante-chamber. I should prefer for them to remain uncertain, and to
allow the dark moments passed in this _salle des pas perdus_, to fall
into oblivion."

"You are still young, and inclined to dawdle away your time," replied
the general, "but I----"

"Your excellency's time is much more valuable than mine," said Meding,
politely.

At this moment a bell was heard.

A few minutes afterwards the groom of the chambers appeared, and
called--"M. Meding."

He bowed to the general and walked to the royal apartments. He passed
through the ante-room, the doors of which were set wide open, and
entered the king's cabinet.

In this cabinet, filled with many different flowering plants, and
with windows wide open to the garden, sat the king at a square
writing-table. George V. was at this time forty-six years of age, a
handsome man in perfect health. The regular and classic features of his
race were seen in their purest lines in a face beaming with
cheerfulness and amiability; but which also expressed much royal
dignity. A slightly upturned fair moustache covered the upper lip, and
few of those who for the first time saw the king's free movements, and
the rapid changes of his expressive face, discovered the fact that he
was totally blind. The king wore the uniform of the Jäger guard
regiment, comfortably unbuttoned. Across his breast, beneath his
uniform, ran the dark blue ribbon of the Order of the Garter. He also
wore the small crosses of the Orders of Guelph and Ernest Augustus.
Near the king, stood the privy councillor, Dr. Lex, a small, dried-up
looking man with thick grey hair, sharp, intelligent features, and a
modest, almost bashful manner. He was in the act of arranging his
papers.

A small King Charles spaniel lay at the king's feet.

"Good morning! my dear Meding!" cried the king in his clear voice, "I
am delighted to see you. Seat yourself and tell me the news. What says
public opinion in my kingdom?"

"Good morning, your majesty," replied Meding with a low bow, as he took
a chair opposite the king.

The privy councillor had arranged his papers and slowly withdrew.

"I must impart to your majesty," said Meding, "that public opinion is
much excited, and is making every effort to urge on a war; it desires
your majesty to unite with Austria, and at once take a decided step
against Prussia."

"Why so?" asked the king, "the amiable newspapers of the opposition
often sigh for a Prussian head."

"Why, your majesty," replied Meding, "it is difficult to say why--so
many and such different influences are at work; but the fact
remains--all public opinion in the kingdom of Hanover craves to unite
in common cause with Austria."

"Extraordinary," said George V.; "Count Decken spoke just in the same
tone when he was here yesterday; he was furiously Austrian!"

"Count Decken, your majesty, speaks from the heart of the German union
he created. He is also a violent admirer of Herr von Beust----"

"I know! I know!" exclaimed the king, "but is he quite right in
saying that the whole world--the army, especially the younger
officers,--predict a war with Prussia?"

"He is right, your majesty," replied Meding.

The king thought for a moment.

"And what do you do to stem this flood?" he then asked.

"I seek to calm, to guide, and to enlighten as far as my influence
extends by means of the press, for I consider this flood pernicious; it
tends to war, the greatest misfortune which could fall upon Germany,
and such a war would place Hanover in a most dangerous position."

"Right! quite right!" cried the king, with animation, "every thing must
be done to allay this warlike and anti-Prussian excitement. You know
how strong is my conviction that a good understanding between the two
first powers of the confederacy is the only sure foundation for the
welfare of Germany, and what efforts I have made to maintain this. You
know, too, how highly I prize the friendship of Prussia. They call me,"
added the king, "the enemy of Prussia, but indeed I am not. I defend my
right of perfect independence and sovereignty, but I most ardently
desire to live in peace and unity with Prussia. Those who would
interrupt this peace are ignorant of the true interests of both states.
They talk in Berlin of the policy of Frederick the Great; how little
they understand his policy! How highly did Frederick II. esteem the
alliance of Hanover, from whence he obtained the Duke of Brunswick, his
best general! And how great and beneficial were the results of this
alliance, though it was directed against Austria. Oh! that it were
possible to unite the two powers in a real and lasting friendship, and
that it might be granted me to be the dot over the _i_ in this
alliance! But should a rupture--which God forbid!--actually occur, I
will take no part in so deplorable a war on either side."

The king said all this with the clearness and decision with which he
always spoke to those completely in his confidence, for he loved to
express his views to them on every question with great distinctness,
that they might be able fully to carry out his plans and wishes.

"You are very right," he added, "in doing all you can to oppose this
warlike and anti-Prussian propaganda."

"I am rejoiced," exclaimed Meding, "to hear your Majesty's views so
plainly stated. My position, from being by birth a Prussian, is in this
crisis extremely painful. What I regard as most desirable for the
interest of Hanover and your majesty, purely from my own conviction,
may easily be imputed to other motives, and will by some be so imputed.
It is therefore doubly necessary that I should always be completely
informed what your majesty's views really are, that I may act
accordingly."

"Do not trouble yourself to fight against foolish notions," said the
king, with his peculiarly engaging and gracious smile. "I am sure, my
dear Meding, you will always have my interests and the interests of
Hanover at heart. You know I regard public opinion as the sixth great
power of Europe--perhaps as the first--and the press, the organ of this
great power, I wish to use as a mainspring of royalty. I desire to hear
what the people say and think, and, in the organs of the government
alone, to see my wishes and intentions expressed. I wish to know the
real thoughts and opinions of the people, whether they are right or
wrong, and I wish the people to know my views and desires. Thus perfect
openness exists between my subjects and myself, and the interests of
the crown are furthered. You know so well how to express my thoughts,
and have created for me what I long ardently desired and held to be
necessary--do not fear any mistrust or misconception."

And the king offered his hand to Meding. He rose and pressed his lips
on the royal hand.

"Your majesty has always permitted me," he then said, "to express my
views and opinions freely and without reserve on all questions of
state, whether foreign or domestic, and this right is an unspeakable
assistance in the fulfilment of the difficult task which your majesty
has given me. I humbly beg your permission in this grave moment freely
to express my opinion."

"Speak, speak, my dear Meding, I listen anxiously," said the king, as
he leant back in his arm-chair, and supported his head with his hand.

"Your majesty knows that it is a kind of _mot d'ordre_ of German, yes,
even of European diplomacy, _not_ to believe in a war between Prussia
and Austria. This seems to me like the conduct of the ostrich, who hid
his head, hoping to escape danger by not seeing it."

"You believe in war, then?" asked the king, without changing his place.

"I believe in it, your majesty, from the present state of affairs. The
disputed questions are on a steep incline, and have rolled down too far
to return. The despatches from Berlin and Vienna confirm my views that
war is inevitable, as well as the Austrian and Prussian official and
unofficial press."

"They speak most peaceably, you told me so yesterday," interrupted the
king.

"Exactly for that reason I believe both sides are determined on
hostilities. If they only wished to threaten, and to use their
armaments as a weight in the balance, by which they might obtain a
diplomatic compromise, all the government newspapers would be
clattering the sword. These assurances of peace disquiet me. Each side
seeks the best _casus belli_, and desires to throw the blame of a
rupture on the opponent. I am convinced we shall soon be in the midst
of war unless a miracle occurs. Count Platen will not believe it."

"The ostrich," said the king.

Meding smiled, and proceeded:--

"This situation is more dangerous for your majesty and for Hanover than
for any other state. In the moment of action Prussia will respect
nothing."

"I have already declared that under any circumstance I shall remain
neutral," said the king.

"Certainly, your majesty; but no treaty is concluded. Count Platen has
only expressed your majesty's intention to remain neutral generally to
Count Ysenberg; but, from fear of giving offence in Frankfort and
Vienna, no negotiations are proceeding and no treaty is concluded."

"Do you regard a formal treaty as needful?" asked the king.

"I regard it as indispensable. Prussia will willingly conclude such a
treaty now, and once concluded she will respect it. In the moment of
action she will ask more, and after victory, I think a treaty of
neutrality will be the guarantee of the independence--yes, even of the
existence--of Hanover."

The king sat upright.

"Do you hold it possible that Prussia could think of attacking the
existence of Hanover?"

"I would neglect no guarantee to the contrary," replied Meding; "the
war about to break out is a war for existence: old Germany will fall in
ruins; under such circumstances we must not expect to be particularly
respected. A veritable treaty of neutrality, concluded now, not only
secures our existence, but perhaps our full independence in a new
Germany, for, I must repeat it, I believe if Prussia once signed such a
treaty it would under any circumstances be respected."

"But," objected the king, "they are daily telling me how prejudicial a
treaty with Prussia will be, supposing Austria is victorious."
"I have heard this remarkable logic," replied Meding, "and I cannot
understand it. If Austria is the conqueror, will she give Hanover to
Prussia? Besides, your Majesty knows I do not believe in Austria's
success."

The king was silent.

"It is a difficult position," he said, at last. "Sir Charles Wyke was
here yesterday, conjuring me to be firm to Austria and the confederacy.
He brought me a letter from Lord Clarendon to the same purport."

The king took a small key and opened a sliding panel in his writing
table, and, after feeling in the recess for a minute, he handed Meding
a letter across the table.

"Read this."

Meding looked through the paper.

"I quite understand the policy of England, your majesty," he then said:
"in London they wish to maintain peace at any price, yet they desire to
lecture Prussia on the Danish question. They hope, if your majesty
places yourself decidedly and without reserve on the side of Austria
and the Saxon party in Frankfort, Prussia will withdraw from the
struggle in alarm, and make concessions, perhaps call on England to
mediate; by which means the English cabinet might find an opportunity
of effecting something in favour of Denmark. I think they are quite out
in their reckoning. But be it as it may, your majesty has to guide the
policy of Hanover, and not of England. Lord Clarendon's letter is
useless, unless he promises the English fleet to back it up. If your
majesty should get into danger and difficulty from following the advice
here given, not a single English man-of-war would come to your
assistance. England undertakes the part of that evil demon, who
appeared to Hector under the form of his brother Deiphobus, and who
urged him to the combat with Achilles, but who had vanished when the
Trojan hero looked round for a fresh spear. I wish," continued Meding,
after a short pause, "to tell you of an idea, which if carried out
would greatly remove the objections made to the conclusion of a treaty
of neutrality."

The king raised himself in his chair, and fixed his eyes with a look of
such interest on the speaker it was almost impossible to believe them
sightless.

"Your majesty doubtless remembers," said Meding, "the immense advantage
derived from your close alliance with Hesse Cassel during the last
political crisis, and the strong and beneficial influence it had on the
course of events; this alliance alone prevented Herr von Beust's
unheard-of Augustenburg policy from being carried out, and the whole
confederacy broken up. According to my convictions, your majesty in
this dangerous crisis should act entirely in concert with Hesse Cassel,
and gain the Grand Duke of Oldenburg to take part in an alliance of
neutrality. Your majesty would thus be at the head of a group willing
to have you for a leader; you would secure the future safety of
Hanover, do Prussia a service, and divide the displeasure of Austria
amongst several pairs of shoulders. It is my firm conviction that in
concert with Hesse Cassel you should conclude a treaty of neutrality
with Prussia. Should this treaty not be respected hereafter--which I
own I consider impossible--at least a compact body will be ready to
defend it. I believe a firm and energetic step in this direction will
do more to prevent war than Lord Clarendon's advice of entire devotion
to Austria."

"When Meeting ceased speaking, the king, who had listened to him with
the greatest interest, struck the table with two of the fingers of his
right hand.

"You are right," he cried aloud; "you are perfectly right."

He pressed with his left hand upon a knob attached to his writing
table. The groom of the chambers entered.

"The privy councillor immediately!" exclaimed the king.

As the attendant withdrew, the king said:--

"Do you think the Prince of Hesse will be inclined to take this step
with me?"

"I know that the Minister Abée is quite of my mind," replied Meding;
"and I know his Royal Highness the Prince of Hesse has the greatest
satisfaction in acting in concert with your majesty."

"I must beg you, my dear Meding," said the king, "to go yourself to
Hesse Cassel, and propose this to the prince."

A knock was heard at the outer door. The groom of the chambers opened
it, announcing--"The Privy Councillor."

"My dear Lex," said the king, "Meding has given me an idea which I wish
to carry out immediately. He thinks that I ought at once, in common
with the Prince of Hesse, to conclude a solid treaty of neutrality with
Prussia. I will send Meding to Cassel without delay, as I am sure he is
the best ambassador for bringing the matter to a happy conclusion."

Meding bowed to the king, and said:

"I must tell your majesty that Count Platen quite approves of this
step, and has authorized me to tell your majesty so."

"_Tant mieux, tant mieux_," said the king; "what do you think of it, my
dear Lex?"

"I perfectly approve," he replied, in a clear, somewhat sharp voice;
"if your Majesty had concluded a treaty of neutrality at all with
Prussia, I should be much happier, but if it is done in common with
Hesse Cassel, the guarantees are stronger."

"Will you kindly draw me up a proposal," said the king to Lex, "with
Meding's assistance, for him to take with him to the Prince of Hesse,
and bring it to me to sign immediately."

"At your command, your majesty," replied Lex.

"How does the affair of the trades-law go on?" asked the king.

"Your majesty," replied Meding, "the guilds are all much excited, and
think the removal of all protection will cause their destruction. I do
all I can to enlighten them, and by means of the press, I point to
England as an example, where the various guilds, without the
intervention of government, exercise so great a municipal influence. I
hope the horror of innovation may give way here before clearer
knowledge; the minister Bacmeister grasps the whole question with so
soothing, so prudent, and so skilful a hand, that I have no fear of its
success."

"I am sorry," said the king, "that the good people of the guilds should
feel injured; but they will soon find out that the removal of all
constraint benefits them, and the guilds, from hated and stagnant
institutions, will become powerful living organs. Even if otherwise,
the greatest freedom of action is needful, in the sphere of national
economy. How much I rejoice to find in my minister Bacmeister, a mind
so swift and capable in receiving my ideas, and a hand so skilful in
executing them."

"Indeed, your majesty," replied Meding, "Bacmeister is the most able
and talented man I have ever known; personally, he has great influence
with the opposition, and almost every evening he is at a kind of
parliamentary club, formed by himself, with the assistance of Miguel
and Albrecht. Many things have been discussed there in a friendly
spirit, which would otherwise have caused the greatest bitterness and
strife in the chambers."

"That is exactly what I have always felt!" exclaimed the king; "they
talk so much in Germany of public life, and yet they understand nothing
of it, since they are not capable of meeting a political foe on neutral
ground, as a gentleman.--Were you at the opera yesterday?" he asked,
changing the subject.

"No," replied Meding; "but Schladebach told me he was much
dissatisfied, and that he should write a severe criticism."

"He is right," said the king. "I shall be anxious to read his critique;
Doctor Schladebach has a fine appreciation of art, and much tact in
expressing his opinion. If we could but find an equally good critic for
the theatre!"

"I am exerting myself to find such a critic," said Meding; "but I must
still beg your Majesty's patience. Talent is not easily found, nor
quickly formed."

"True, true," said the king, "_chi va piano va sano_; but I hope we may
find a critic of real talent. It is indispensable for any form of art,
if it is really to flourish, and to fulfil its grand mission. And now
adieu, my dear Meding, go with God's help, and with much friendship on
my part, to the Prince of Hesse. Come back soon!"

"God bless you!"

Meding and Lex left the cabinet.

George V. remained alone.

For a time he sat quietly in his chair, his eyes fixed on the table.

"It is too true--it is too true," he said at last in a low tone; "the
great conflict draws near. The German confederacy, which has been so
beneficial, and which for fifty years has maintained peace in Germany
and in Europe, cracks in all its parts, and will break up in the mighty
struggle. The only hand that could have calmed this mighty uproar with
a sign rests in the grave. The emperor Nicholas is no longer here to
grasp the rolling wheel of fate with his strong hand. And weight on
weight is heaped upon me, now by one, then by the other side; where
shall I turn? how shall I save the fair, rich, and faithful land which
God has entrusted to me, and which has been bound to my ancestors for a
thousand years in joy and woe?"

The king remained silent for some time; then he rose, and, supporting
his hand on the back of his chair, he turned to the side of the room
where the portraits were hung of King Ernest Augustus and Queen
Frederica, and he sank slowly on his knees.

"Oh! Thou almighty, triune God!" he said, in a voice low indeed, but so
fervent that it filled the room; "Thou seest my heart, Thou knowest how
I have wrestled in prayer to Thee in the dark hours of my life; Thou
gavest strength to my soul, to bear my heavy fate, never to look upon
the face of wife or child; Thou gavest me light and strength in those
troublous times when I first governed this land: bless me now, grant me
wisdom, enlighten my understanding, that I may know how to save my
country, and lead me graciously through the storms of this day! Yet not
my will, but Thine be done; and if it is decreed that care and sorrow
must be my lot, give me strength to bear, courage to endure!"

The king's prayer ceased, and deep silence prevailed. Suddenly a gust
of wind slammed-to the open window, something heavy fell to the ground,
and the sound of shattered glass was heard.

The small King Charles spaniel barked.

The king started, rose quickly, and returned to his chair. Then he
pressed the knob of his electric bell.

The groom of the chambers entered.

"What fell on the ground near the window?" asked the king quickly.

The attendant hastened to look.

"It is the rose, that her majesty the queen had had forced, and that
she placed here."

"Is the flower hurt?"

"The flowers are all broken," replied the groom of the chambers, as he
picked up the pieces of the pot, and pushed the scattered earth aside.

The king shuddered slightly.

"The flowers are all broken," he repeated half to himself, lifting his
head and raising his enquiring eyes to heaven.

"Who is in the ante-room?" he asked.

"General von Tschirschnitz, Count Platen, General von Brandis, and the
minister Bacmeister."

"Call all these gentlemen," commanded the king.

The groom of the chambers placed four chairs near the writing table and
withdrew.

After a few moments the four gentlemen entered the cabinet, the
attendant announcing them by name.

"Good morning, gentlemen," cried the king as they came in; "seat
yourselves."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count Platen zu Hallermund, a
descendant of the well-known Count Platen so frequently spoken of in
connexion with the Königsmark mystery, took the chair nearest the king.

He was a man of fifty years of age, with regular and agreeable
features, the glossy black of his thick hair and moustache seemed
hardly to accord with his years, though it did so completely with the
youthful and elastic bearing of his slight and elegant figure.

On the other side of the king sat the Minister of the Interior,
Bacmeister, a man little older than Count Platen, but who bore far more
the stamp of his age. His thin fair hair was grey, and his features had
an expression of weariness, partly from the fatigue of an overworked
mind, partly from sickness and bodily suffering. Only when his
attention was aroused did his features start into life, his eyes
sparkled with high and unusual intelligence, and an expression of fine
irony played round his intellectual mouth.

When he spoke, his words were accompanied by the most animated and
expressive action, which implied besides the words he uttered many
unspoken thoughts, his clear and well-toned voice, his excellent choice
of words, combined with this action, and fluent eloquence, greatly
influenced even his political opponents, who could not resist the
impression, and who usually fell _sous le charme_ of this, at first
sight, uninteresting person.

Both the ministers wore the blue coat of office, with black velvet
collars.

The Minister of War, General von Brandis, was a man seventy-one years
old; a follower of the iron Duke of Wellington, he had served in Spain
and taken part in the campaigns of 1813 and 1815. Jovial cheerfulness
beamed from his fresh, healthy face, which was surmounted by a short
black wig. His upper lip was concealed by a small black moustache.

He seated himself at the side of the table, opposite the king, as did
General Tschirschnitz.

"I have called you together, gentlemen," said the king, "because at
this grave moment I wish again to hear your opinions and to express my
will. I have called for you, General Brandis, and for you, my Adjutant
General, as representatives of the military relations of the kingdom;
for you, Count Platen, as my Minister of Foreign Affairs, to whose
especial department the most important questions belong; and for you,
my dear Bacmeister, because you know so well the interior condition of
the country and the opinions of the people; and," he added with a
gracious smile, "because I place extreme confidence in your views and
advice."

The Minister of the Interior bowed.

"You remember, gentlemen, that a short time ago in the large council
which I held here, and at which you were present, the great question
arose of what position Hanover must take in the lamentable quarrel
which, unhappily, grows sharper and more threatening between the two
great powers of Germany. The military gentlemen, especially General von
Jacobi, declared unanimously that the army was not in a state of
preparation for immediate war--which God forbid! a mobilization and
general military preparation is on political grounds highly
undesirable: on the other hand it is necessary, from a military point
of view, to make some arrangement to prevent our being surprised
unprepared. To reconcile these opinions I commanded the yearly
exercises to be held at an earlier time, so that the troops may be more
ready to march in case of need, and also that the people may not be
inconvenienced by having the exercises during the harvest. The
difficulties are constantly increasing, and an outbreak of hostilities
appears unavoidable. Then arises the serious question for Hanover,
whether to take part on one or the other side would be possible or
advisable; or whether the strictest neutrality should be maintained. I
beg you, Count Platen, first to give us your views."

Count Platen spoke:--

"I do not doubt, your majesty, the gravity of the position, but I do
not believe a war will really ensue. We have so often seen great
_échauffements_ in the political world, which yet have all cooled down
again. I then humbly give my opinion that the moment has not yet come
for forming or expressing any decision."

A slight, almost imperceptible, smile passed over the king's face.
General von Tschirschnitz shook his head.

"If it were needful to take a definite and positive course," added
Count Platen, "it would certainly not be my advice that we should place
ourselves decidedly on one or the other side. We have interests on both
sides to consider, and we do not know which will be victorious.
Neutrality appears to me our natural course."

"You would advise me, then, to conclude a treaty of neutrality?" asked
the king.

"A treaty, your majesty!" replied Count Platen, his slender figure
seeming to contract; "a treaty is the last step I should recommend; it
would give great offence in Vienna, and if a war never broke out we
should scarcely be forgiven."

"But how are we to maintain neutrality without a treaty?" asked the
king.

"We can conclude it at any moment," said Platen; "they will be only too
delighted in Berlin to find we shall not act against them."

"You would then----" asked the king.

"Gain time, your majesty--gain time," said Count Platen; "we are now in
request on both sides, and we should lose our favourable position if we
decided positively for either. The longer we wait, the more
advantageously we can place ourselves."

The king covered his face and eyes with his hand, and remained silent
for a moment; then he turned to the other side, and said:--

"And what do you think, Bacmeister?"

He replied in the low voice which always so magically compelled
attention:

"It is always my principle, your majesty, to be perfectly clear as to
the later consequences of present actions. The position which your
majesty now takes will have very important results. Your majesty can
join either Austria or Prussia. Should you cast in your lot with
Austria,--and should Prussia be as completely beaten as they hope she
will be in Vienna,--and as I do not think she will be, perhaps you
would gain more extended power and greater influence in Germany; but
should the play be adverse, the forfeit is your crown. Such a policy
may be bold and great, but it risks all on the game. Should your
majesty decide on this course, the decision must be your own: no
minister could advise his master to use his crown as the stake in a
dangerous game. Should your majesty join with Prussia, you follow the
course natural to Hanover, and in case of victory your position will
not be so brilliant, neither do you run so great a danger in case of
defeat, for Austria, though victorious, cannot weaken Hanover. But your
majesty still fortunately possesses the power of maintaining
neutrality, which they are willing to accept in Berlin, and in return
you preserve the safety of your country and your crown; perhaps you
will even partake of the advantages of victory without the sacrifices
of war. According to my views the decision cannot be doubtful, and I
pronounce unhesitatingly for neutrality. But," continued the minister
with greater energy, "neutrality must be sealed at once by the most
binding treaty. As events progress, I see with dread the moment
approaching when Prussia will no longer be satisfied with neutrality
alone, but will demand what your majesty cannot and will not grant.
Nothing can be gained by delay and hesitation except mistrust on both
sides, and at last the complete isolation of Hanover in a war in which
we are not strong enough to stand alone and unprotected. I give my
voice therefore for the immediate conclusion of a binding treaty of
neutrality."

"General von Brandis?" said the king.

The general replied without the least change in the expression of his
cheerful, smiling face:

"Your majesty knows I hate Prussia. As a child I remember the
occupation of 1803, and the impression made on me then I never lost. I
tell your majesty openly, my dearest wish would be gratified if I might
draw my old sword on the side of Austria. But I acknowledge that the
Minister of the Interior is perfectly right in his reasoning, and I
fully subscribe to his views."

"And you, General von Tschirschnitz?" inquired the king.

"Your majesty," said the general, in his bluff, soldier-like voice, "I
must strongly protest against the statement that the army is unfit for
an active campaign. According to my opinion the army is ready to march
and to do its duty, and to gain honour for the name of Hanover, and in
the pages of history. I say this from complete conviction, and I shall
never alter my views. As to political considerations and interests, I
would rather your majesty did not ask me about them. I own the
reasoning of the Minister of the Interior is correct. As a soldier I
lament our neutrality, and I would far rather be marching beside you at
the head of the brave Hanoverian army. If your majesty has decided on
neutrality, I should advise you immediately to make the measure strong
and unalterable. I abhor all half measures and uncertain situations,
and I have never seen any good result from them."

The king raised himself from the position in which he had been
listening, and said:

"You all then, gentlemen, advise the neutrality of Hanover in the
deplorable war now, alas! impending between Austria and Prussia. Count
Platen, only, believes we ought to gain time, and to put off the
conclusion of a treaty, whilst Herr Bacmeister and the generals desire
an immediate treaty that we may not lose the favourable moment. For
myself, I incline to the views of the Minister of the Interior for the
reasons he has so plainly stated. I beg you, my dear count, to act
after my views," he said, turning to Count Platen, "and immediately to
commence the necessary negotiations with Count Ysenburg."

"If you command it, your majesty," replied Count Platen, with evident
reluctance, "yet surely you will wait at least a few days, until the
situation is more declared, and we learn what is really taking place in
Austria, and their wishes in Vienna. Count Ingelheim imparted to me
this morning, that Prince Karl Solms is on his way hither, with an
important charge from the emperor."

The king raised his head with an expression of astonishment.

"My brother Karl?" he cried, "what brings him here?"

"I do not know, your majesty," said Count Platen, "and Count Ingelheim
did not know, or would not disclose, but we must wait to hear this
mission before taking a decided step towards Prussia."

The king considered. Bacmeister shook his head in silence.

A knock was heard at the outer door. The groom of the chambers
announced Herr Meding, who entered the cabinet and said:

"His royal highness Prince Karl Solms has just arrived, and requests an
audience."

The king rose.

"Where is the prince?"

"He is with her majesty the queen, awaiting your majesty's commands."

The king rang.

"Beg Prince Karl to come," he said to the attendant who appeared; "you,
gentlemen," he continued, turning to the ministers, "must kindly remain
at Herrenhausen to breakfast, the privy councillor will be your host.
My dear general, I thank you, and will no longer detain you. We cannot
to-day do our regular work. I beg you to return to-morrow."

The four gentlemen withdrew. Lex walked up to the king's writing-table.

"The letter to the prince of Hesse, your majesty,--a short explanation,
that your majesty under any circumstances desires to remain neutral,
and confiding the rest to Herr Meding's personal explanation."

"It is quite right, give it me," said the king.

Lex placed the letter on the table, dipped a pen in the ink and gave it
to the king, placing his hand on the exact spot on the paper for the
signature. The king wrote in large bold characters: "George Rex."

"Is it right?" he inquired.

"Perfectly," replied Lex. He took the paper and withdrew.

Scarcely had he left the cabinet when the groom of the chambers threw
open the doors with the words: "His royal highness Prince Karl."

The prince who entered was the king's step-brother, from Queen
Frederica's previous marriage with the prince of Solms-Braunfels. He
was a man of about fifty, tall and slight, with short grey hair; he
resembled the king, though his features were much less regular; his
face had the colouring of health, but an expression that told of
suffering.

The prince wore the full uniform of an Austrian major general; in his
hand he held his hat with its green plume and a sealed letter. On his
breast he wore the Hanoverian Guelphic Order, and around his neck the
Austrian Order of Leopold.

He hastened to the king who embraced him warmly.

"My dear Karl," cried King George, "what procures me the unexpected
happiness of seeing you here? But first tell me how are your people?"

"Thank you for your kind interest," replied the prince, "we are all
better at home, and my wife has quite recovered."

"And the Duchess of Ossuna?"

"I have excellent accounts of her."

"And you--how is your health?"

"My nerves plague me at times, otherwise I am well."

"So!" said the king, "and now sit down and tell me what brought you
here. I heard a rumour through Count Ingelheim."

The prince seated himself near the king. "I wish I came in less serious
times, on a less serious mission," he said sighing; "the emperor sends
me to you. Here is his letter."

And he gave the king the note which he held in his hand. The king took
it and passed his fingers lightly over the seal, then he laid it on the
table before him.

"Do you know the contents; is there anything important in it?" he
asked.

"Nothing important; only my credentials. My mission is personal."

"Speak then. I am anxious to hear."

"The emperor has determined," said the prince, "to commence a war, and
to carry it on with all his power for the future formation of Germany,
since he is convinced that by such a war, and by a decided Austrian
victory alone, can lasting peace be procured, and lasting safety and
independence for the princes of Germany."

"Then I was not mistaken," said the king, "war is decreed."

"It is," replied the prince, "and the emperor ardently desires to be
surrounded in this war by the German princes, as he was at the
Fürstentag at Frankfort."

"When they tried to catch me," said the king; "but go on."

"The emperor," added the prince, "prizes the alliance of Hanover above
all things. He commanded me to say that he considered the interests of
the Houses of Guelph and Hapsburg identical in Germany."

"The Guelphs have always fought against the imperial family," said the
king.

"The emperor," proceeded the prince, "hopes that the old and intimate
relations between Hanover and Austria may continue during the present
crisis. He considers that at the congress of Vienna, Hanover did not
receive her proper position in Germany, especially in North Germany.
Called upon to be a powerful and independent barrier against Prussia's
hegemonistic struggles, Hanover was yet left too weak through the
diplomacy of the Vienna congress."

"Because Metternich's efforts were not supported," interrupted the
king, half to himself.

"The emperor," continued the prince, "is desirous of repairing the
errors of the Vienna congress by a new formation and organization of
Germany, and for this purpose he wishes to conclude an offensive and
defensive treaty with Hanover."

"On what basis?" asked the king.

"The most important points of the alliance which the emperor has in his
mind are these," said the prince. "Hanover shall immediately place her
whole army on a war footing, and in common with Austria, and at the
same time, shall declare war against Prussia. In return the emperor
will place the Kalik Brigade now at Holstein at your disposal, and will
offer you General von Gablenz for a time as its commander. He promises
his utmost support to Hanover should the war be unfavourable, and in
case of victory he guarantees that Holstein and Prussian Westphalia
shall be incorporated with your kingdom."

"In case of victory?" said the king; "do you believe in victory?"

The prince was silent for a moment.

"I am an Austrian general," he then said.

"Lay aside the Austrian general for a moment, and answer me as my
brother."

"If our forces are properly led, and actively employed," replied the
prince, after a short hesitation; "and if Germany supports us strongly
and energetically, we must be successful. Our artillery is excellent,
and our cavalry very superior to the Prussian."

"Hum!" said the king; "yet let us put aside these considerations, or
you will believe me to be swayed entirely by interested motives, and I
assure you it is not so. In this crisis there is a higher principle
than success, and by this principle alone will I be guided."

"I humbly beg you," said the prince, "to consider the future advantage
and greatness to be gained for your country, and not to forget that
Prussia, with her power and her present political tendencies, is a
dangerous and threatening neighbour to Hanover."

The king remained for some little time silent and thoughtful.

"My dear Karl," he then said, "be assured that everything that comes
from the emperor shall receive my gravest consideration and hearty
respect, and that, by giving me the happiness of seeing you as his
messenger, he has strengthened still more my feelings of regard. I am
always ready to show my enduring friendship to Austria and to the house
of Hapsburg. But here--I must say it at once--principles enter into the
question, which as the ruler of my country and a member of the German
confederacy stand higher than all. At this moment I will give you no
definite answer. You can remain here a few days?"

"A few days certainly," replied the prince; "the emperor awaits my
return with anxiety, and I cannot stay long."

"I will not detain you long, and your proposals shall at once be laid
before my ministers."

The king rang, and said to the attendant who appeared,

"If the gentlemen have breakfasted, beg them to come here."

Shortly afterwards Count Platen, General Brandis, and Bacmeister
entered the room.

Prince Karl greeted them separately with great heartiness, and they all
seated themselves around the king's writing-table.

George V. spoke:

"The situation we have just discussed is somewhat modified. My brother
Karl is the bearer of a proposal from his imperial majesty of Austria
of a distinct treaty of alliance under certain conditions. I beg you,
my dear Karl, to recapitulate the conditions."

The prince repeated the points which he had previously named to the
king.

Count Platen rubbed his hands together laughingly.

"Your majesty perceives," he said, in a low voice to the king, "we are
wooed by both sides. What a favourable position our policy has
secured!"

Bacmeister shook his head slowly, and twisted the thumbs of his folded
hands, an expression of amused irony playing around his mouth.

"Your Highness," he said, "speaks of the important acquisitions of
Hanover in case of victory. But what will happen--we must consider
every side of the question--if Prussia should be the conqueror?"

"Under all circumstances the emperor guarantees to support Hanover,"
said the prince.

"How would his imperial majesty be able, if Austria were vanquished, to
support Hanover against victorious Prussia?" asked Bacmeister.

"No discussion now, I beg, my dear minister," said the king.

"Gentlemen," he added, "you have heard the proposal. On this occasion I
will depart from my usual custom, and at once tell you my views. I take
up my position on the standing-point that a war between two members of
the German confederacy is, according to the laws of that confederacy,
impossible. Such a war, alas! can and may come upon us, like a
convulsion of nature, or some scourge of God;--to contemplate it
beforehand, to conclude treaties on the subject, I hold to be
irreconcilable with my duty as a German prince. I should by such a
treaty take part in the guilt of a rupture of the confederacy so
blessed to Germany and the whole of Europe. Never, with my consent,
shall Hanoverian troops fight against German soldiers, except from dire
necessity.

"But there is another reason why I cannot subscribe to this treaty. I
cannot consent to the eventual enlargement of Hanover; I cannot sign a
treaty by which I stretch out my hand for my neighbour's goods. It is
my joy and my pride that throughout the country I rule, there is not a
foot's breadth of earth that has not descended to me by legitimate
inheritance; shall I now sign a treaty for the acquisition of lands
that do not belong to me? Westphalia belongs to the King of Prussia,
with whom not only do I live in peace, but to whom, as a member of the
confederacy, I regard my obligations as sacred. Holstein belongs by
right I know not to whom--to the Grand Duke of Oldenburg, to the Duke
of Augustenburg, to Prussia,--I cannot enter into the difficult
subject,--certainly it does not belong to me. No, gentlemen, I cannot
part with the happy knowledge that I hold my kingdom entirely from
God's justice, and by God's grace: never," cried the king, striking his
right hand upon the table, "will I stretch out this hand to take what
is not mine. Hence, according to my views, the treaty proposed is
inadmissible. A proposal, however, from his Imperial Majesty of Austria
has an undoubted right to our gravest and most earnest consideration. I
therefore beg each of you conscientiously to think through this
subject, to weigh it deeply, and express all that can be said against
my opinions. Not to-day, but to-morrow I will preside at a council of
my assembled ministers, including your absent colleagues, in order to
decide upon our answer. For to-day I thank you, I will let you know the
hour of council for to-morrow."

The king rose.

With grave looks and in silence the ministers left the cabinet.

Prince Solms gazed sorrowfully before him.

"Am I right?" asked the king.

The prince looked at his royal brother with an expression of deep
veneration.

"You are right," he said in a low tone, "and yet," he added, his eyes
growing sadder and his head sinking down, "yet very, very wrong."

"Now, my dear Karl," said the king cheerfully, "you shall go out with
me. I wish to go where you must be my guide."

He pressed on a second knob at the right hand side of his
writing-table. The groom of the chambers of the private apartments
appeared, from a door leading to the king's bed-room.

"I am going out," said the king, buttoning his uniform.

The attendant handed him his cap and gloves.

"Does your majesty wish for a cigar?"

"No. Inform the equerry on duty that I shall not want him. The prince
will accompany me."

The king took the prince's arm and walked through the corridor, passing
various bowing lacqueys in their scarlet livery, to the principal
entrance. In the hall leading to the door an animated conversation was
heard.

"Who is that?" asked the king.

"Count Alfred Wedell and Devrient."

The persons mentioned stood close together in the vestibule engaged in
so engrossing a conversation that they did not perceive the king's
approach.

Count Alfred Wedell, the king's chamberlain, and governor of the
castle, was a tall, strongly-built young man of about thirty years of
age, with a healthy complexion, and handsome, though decidedly marked
features. He was in undress uniform, a blue coat with a red collar, and
he stood opposite the famous Hanoverian actor, Devrient, a man well
past sixty, who had taken part in the German wars for freedom, but who
felt so little the burden of his years that he still played Hamlet with
great success. Neither when off the stage did his animated face, his
sparkling eyes, nor his upright figure, show any sign of age.

"Good morning, Devrient," said the king in his clear voice, stopping in
the middle of the hall.

The gentlemen broke off their conversation, and Devrient hastened to
the king.

"Well, how are you?" said George V. kindly. "Always fresh and active.
Devrient is an example to us all," he said, turning to Prince Solms,
"he has the secret of eternal youth."

"Your majesty," said Devrient, "the youth you so graciously ascribe to
me has a behind the scenes. I am not always before the lamps, the gout
is a very poor prompter. I came to beg your commands for the next
rehearsal, but I see your majesty is going out."

"I am busy to-day, dear Devrient," said the king, "and to-morrow. Will
you come to me the day after to-morrow?"

"At your command, your majesty."

And, with a friendly nod, the king went through the great entrance,
both doors of which had been opened by the porter.

As they entered the courtyard of the castle, where the sentries on
guard presented arms, Prince Karl asked:--

"Where are you going?"

"To the mausoleum," said the king.

Taking his brother's arm, he walked firmly and quickly through the
castle courtyard.

Devrient turned to Count Wedell after he had watched the king for a
moment.

"When I see our master walking thus, and when I think of the times in
which we live, I could wish to conjure all the good angels of heaven to
watch over his dear head. It does not please me," he added, gloomily,
"to see him leaning on the arm of an Austrian general. God grant it may
be no evil omen."

"You are incorrigible!" cried Count Wedell, "will you again rant on
politics, and air your hatred against Austria? All Germany takes the
emperor's side; shall the king sacrifice himself for Prussia?"

"I do not love the Austrian uniform," said Devrient, moodily.

"I wish we had thirty thousand of them here," cried Count Wedell; "I
will remind you of to-day, Devrient, when the great victory is won, and
when grateful Austria----"

"Gratitude from the House of Austria!" cried Devrient, with a
theatrical tone and gesture; and without saying another word he put on
his hat and rushed through the open door, along the broad alley which
led from Herrenhausen to the city.

Count Wedell laughed, and shook his head as he retreated into the
interior of the castle.

In a deep wood in the gardens of Herrenhausen is the tomb of King
Ernest Augustus and Queen Frederica, similar to the mausoleum at
Charlottenburg, where Frederick William III. of Prussia and Queen
Louisa rest.

The king and queen lie chiselled in marble by a master's hand upon a
sarcophagus, in a building resembling a temple, the light from above
falling with wonderful effect upon the beautiful, lifelike figures. The
building in its profound stillness and pious simplicity impresses the
beholder with the full majesty of death, not to be felt without a
shudder, but also with the perfect peace of eternal rest.

A single sentry stood before the entrance.

Four persons were leaving the mausoleum in silence, evidently impressed
by the royal tomb. The castellan followed them.

Three of these persons were old acquaintances from Blechow--the pastor
Berger, his daughter Helena, and the eldest son of Baron von
Wendenstein. Their companion was a young man of about seven or eight
and twenty, who was evidently a clergyman, from his plain black dress
and white neck-tie; his smooth, fair hair hung low on his temples, and
surrounded a round, shiny face, which was neither handsome nor
interesting. His small grey eyes, partly concealed by eyelids
habitually cast down, were quick and rather hard, and on his thin,
firmly closed lips appeared an expression of self-satisfaction and
ascetic assumption, which formed a remarkable contrast to the
amiability and calm cheerfulness of old pastor Berger, who wore his
usual dress--a closely buttoned black coat, and the square _berretta_
of the Lutheran clergy.

The whole party advanced slowly up the wide avenue leading from the
mausoleum to the park immediately surrounding the castle.

They had not gone far from the mausoleum, when they heard the sentinel
present arms, and the castellan said in a low voice:--

"His majesty the king!"

George V. appeared from a side walk, leaning on the arm of Prince
Solms.

The three gentlemen removed their hats, and they all respectfully stood
still.

"They are acknowledging you," whispered the prince.

The king touched his cap.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"From his dress, a Lutheran clergyman," replied the prince.

The king stood still and exclaimed:

"Herr pastor!"

Pastor Berger walked up to him and said in a firm, clear voice,

"I salute most respectfully my royal master and supreme bishop!"

The king started when he heard his voice.

"Have I not met you formerly in Wendland?"

"It is too gracious of your majesty to remember it. I am the pastor
Berger from Blechow."

"Quite right, quite right," exclaimed the king with satisfaction; "I
remember the great pleasure your loyal reception gave me, and all the
interesting things you told me of the customs of your people. How glad
I am to meet you here! What brings you to Hanover?"

"Your majesty, my strength is not what it used to be, and I am obliged
to think of procuring some assistance that my flock may not suffer from
my increasing age. The service must not grow old and feeble. I
therefore greatly wish my sister's son, the candidate Behrman, to be
appointed as my adjunct, and, if God wills, my successor in my holy
office. I came hither to make my request to the consistory."

"It is granted, my dear pastor," cried the king; "the qualifications of
your nephew are doubtless correct, or you would not make the request.
Your nephew is your adjunct. How happy I am to fulfil your wishes here
and at once."

Touched and surprised, the pastor could only say: "I thank your majesty
from my heart."

"And now, my dear pastor, I must take care that you are shown
everything worth seeing in Hanover. Make yourself quite at home at the
castle. To-morrow I shall expect you to dinner; come an hour
beforehand. You must tell me much about my dear, faithful Wendland.
Have you seen the park and the hot-houses?"

"We were on our way, your majesty. I have just left the mausoleum, and
I am still deeply impressed. I lifted up my soul to God there, and
prayed fervently that he would protect your majesty in these difficult
and dangerous times."

The king looked very grave.

"Yes," he then said, "the days are dark and difficult, and we need
God's blessing. I will do what you have done. I will pray at the grave
of my parents for strength and wisdom. Farewell; we meet to-morrow."

And with a soldier's salute he turned away and walked towards the
mausoleum.

Pastor Berger looked after him with great emotion; he raised his hand
as if impelled by some unseen power, and he said in a clear voice,
which resounded strangely through the wooded solitude:

"The Lord bless thee and keep thee! The Lord lift up the light of His
countenance and be gracious unto thee! The Lord lift up the light of
His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace! Amen!"

At the first words of this blessing, King George stood still and
removed his cap. A deep feeling of devotion appeared in his face.

As the pastor's words ceased, he covered his head, greeted him by a
silent movement of the hand, and slowly entered the quiet, simple
building, which protected the last rest of his parents.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                           AN ERRING METEOR.


In the boudoir of the house in the Ringstrasse, where Lieutenant von
Stielow had repaired after Count Mensdorff's soirée, the same
wonderfully beautiful woman who had received him with such glowing
passion lay stretched upon a couch.

She wore a pearl-grey morning dress with light rose-coloured ribbons,
and a white lace handkerchief surrounded the fine oval of her face, and
nearly concealed her glossy hair.

The morning sun streamed through the window hangings of her very
elegantly furnished room. The reflections that played over her face at
every movement were most becoming to the young lady's extreme
loveliness, and apparently she knew it, for she glanced from time to
time at a round mirror, which was so placed on the opposite wall as to
show nearly the whole of her form, and she was careful not to withdraw
the dark red cushion on which her head lightly rested, from the
softened sunbeams.

Her features did not wear the enchanting expression of softness and
enthusiasm with which she had received Lieutenant von Stielow; an icy
coldness rested on her face, and a look of scorn played round the
beautiful lips, which were slightly parted and showed her white teeth
to be firmly closed.

Before her stood a man of about thirty, dressed with a much greater
adherence to fashion than is usual amongst persons of real distinction.
His features were not ugly, but they were common, and his appearance
betokened a dissipated man of the second or perhaps third rank of
society.

This man, who accorded so ill with the really elegant arrangements of
the boudoir, and still less with the graceful and æsthetic beauty of
the young lady installed there, was her husband, the merchant and
exchange agent, Balzer.

The conjugal tête-à-tête did not appear to be of an agreeable nature,
for the husband's face bore evident traces of anger and scornful irony.

"You know me," he said, in a rough voice, which betrayed too great an
indulgence in stimulants, and nightly dissipation, and in the rude
manner only found amongst uneducated persons, destitute of good
breeding. "You know me and you know I will have my wishes attended to.
I must have twelve hundred gulden, and have them by to-morrow," he
cried, stamping with his foot on the ground.

The young lady played with a bow on her dress; its rosy colour was not
softer nor brighter than her small finger tips, and she replied without
altering her position or looking at her husband, in an almost hissing
voice:--

"Then gamble luckily, or cheat some of the people who trust you with
their business on the Bourse."

"Your sneers are lost upon me," he said, with feigned indifference; "I
believe we may both spare ourselves the trouble of displaying our wit.
I am practical, and above all things a man of business," he added, with
a cruel laugh; "you know our compact, and you know under what
conditions I, your rightful lord and master, shut my eyes to
proceedings to which I might strongly object--if some day it should
please me to do so."

She did not move a muscle, but the slight blush which passed over her
beautiful white brow, showed some inward emotion.

Without in the least modifying her tone, she said coldly:--

"You also know how easy it would be for me to free myself from the
chains with which you threaten me. You must know me well enough to feel
sure that my conversion to Protestantism would not give me a moment's
uneasiness, if I wished to obtain a separation."

"I do not think religious compunctions would ever trouble you," he
said, scornfully.

"Well, then," she said, calmly, without looking up, "I only continue
to endure this heavy chain, because I wish to avoid scandal, and
because I do not wish a creature"--and this she said with unbounded
contempt--"whose name I bear, to fall into the lowest depths of vulgar
crime. These are my only reasons for enduring and maintaining you. Take
care of making the chain heavier than it is. As to what you are pleased
to term our compact, on my side it has been punctually fulfilled. Have
you not regularly received what I promised you?"

"I am not talking about that," replied Herr Balzer, rudely; "I am
saying what I want, to meet unavoidable debts, and I must have twelve
hundred gulden and you must get them for me,--you _can_ do it easily.
Your little Uhlan lieutenant is an inexhaustible gold-mine," he
continued, with a low laugh.

"I am sorry," she replied, coldly, "that you require another
gold-mine."

"You wish to avoid scandal, as you said just now. Eh bien! I will
arrange a fine scandal for you as soon as he comes."

"Such a scandal," she said, smiling, "would cause you to be kicked
down-stairs, neither would you ever receive another kreutzer from me."

He was silent for a moment, her simple logic seemed to make some
impression upon him. But after a short time he came a step or two
nearer to her; a horrible smile played round his mouth, and spiteful
satisfaction shone in his eyes.

"You are right," he said, "such a scandal would be aimless. But since
your dear Herr von Stielow is so ungenerous, I shall take care that you
break with such a sterile friend, and turn to others who bear more of
the golden fruit. Herr von Stielow shall be freed from the sweet chains
in which you hold him captive. I am sorry to give pain, for it seems as
if this little Uhlan had somewhat touched the hitherto icy heart of my
wife. But what must be, must--business first and pleasure afterwards."

Her slender fingers trembled slightly, but she grasped the ribbons she
held firmly, and for the first time during the conversation she raised
her dark eyes. She flashed a piercing look at her husband; he perceived
it, and smiled triumphantly.

She cast down her eyes again and said with a slight vibration in her
voice:

"You are at liberty to do what you like."

"Of course," he replied, "and I shall act with great prudence and avoid
all scandal. I am sure it will be very interesting to Herr von Stielow
to compare the exercises of style which, he receives from the lady of
his heart, with those she sends at the same time to earlier and absent
friends."

"What do you mean?" she asked quickly. She raised her head from the
crimson cushion and gazed full at her husband.

"I mean," he replied brutally, "that I shall send Herr von Stielow one
of Count Rivero's letters to you, and your answer. Though husbands are
sometimes indifferent to these little eccentricities, lovers are apt to
be more punctilious."

She pressed the rosy nails into her tender hands, and looked
thoughtfully before her for a moment.

"Where are the letters of which you speak?" she asked coldly.

"Quite safe," he replied laconically.

"I do not believe you; how came you by a letter from me to the Count?"

"You were in the act of answering him. His letter and your reply lay on
the table, when you had hastily to receive your dear Stielow, and you
threw your shawl over them. You forgot them, and when I paid my dear
wife a visit, I took them that they might not fall into improper
hands." He said this with a scornful laugh.

"In fact, you stole them?" she said contemptuously.

"We are discussing the seventh commandment, not the eighth," he said
rudely.

"I must pay for my carelessness," she muttered to herself. Then raising
her eyes, with icy coldness she said:--

"You shall have the twelve hundred gulden to-morrow morning in exchange
for the stolen letters."

"I will be here punctually at the same hour to-morrow," he replied in a
satisfied tone. "Has my charming wife any other commands?"

She raised a finger and pointed to the door.

At the same moment a bell was heard.

"Herr von Stielow!" exclaimed the waiting-maid as she entered. The
clatter of a sword was heard in the ante-room.

"A good business and much pleasure!" cried Herr Balzer, as he departed
by a side door.

Scarcely had he left the room, when the young lady's expression changed
as if by magic. All the hard sharp lines, which had caused her face
during her conversation with her husband to look like a beautiful waxen
mask, disappeared, the clenched teeth were parted, and the eyes gained
a magnetic brilliance, which gave them a magical charm.

She half rose and stretched out her arms.

Herr von Stielow, fresh, bold, and elegant as ever, hastened to her; he
seemed for a moment dazzled by her beauty, then he bent over her and
pressed his lips upon her mouth.

She wound her arms around his neck, and breathed rather than said, "My
sweet friend!"

After a long embrace he drew a low chair towards the couch on which she
lay, so that their heads were on the same level. She altered her
position with a slight graceful movement and placed her head upon his
shoulder, then taking his right hand in both her own she pressed it to
her heart. Whilst her gentle snakelike movements took her nearer and
nearer to him, she closed her eyes and murmured:--

"Ah! how happy I am!"

The two beautiful and graceful young creatures formed an exquisite and
poetic picture; with all their trembling passion there was no sign of
vulgar or ignoble feeling,--it seemed a picture of a pure and happy
love.

The face of the beautiful woman showed no trace of the scene she had
just taken part in, in that very room, and no one could have thought,
had they looked at the young man as he pressed his lips against the
perfumed hair of the head resting on his shoulder, that notwithstanding
the enchanted mist that surrounded him, a purer star was shining ever
brighter for his heart.

It was a picture of the present, of a happy fleeting moment, enjoyed
without a thought of what went before, of what must follow.

A deep sigh heaved her breast and trembled through her form as she
leant against her lover.

"Why do you sigh? my sweet Tonia. What happiness is wanting to her who
is created to give happiness?"

"Oh! my beloved," she said, and a second sigh trembled from her lips,
"I am not always so happy as now, when I rest on your breast, and just
before--" she hesitated.

"What happened just before?" he asked, "to make those lovely lips twice
sigh, though formed only for smiles and kisses?"

And he slightly raised her head and pressed his lips to hers.

"My husband was here," she said, sighing the third time.

"Ah!" he said, "and what did the fellow want who calls such a flower
his own, and knows not how to enjoy its fragrance?"

"For him it never shall be fragrant," she said with a vibration in her
voice, which recalled the previous scene. "He tormented me," she
continued, "with reproofs--with jealousy."

She stammered, then she raised the beautiful head from his shoulder,
slipped back a little and replaced it on her crimson cushion, but she
still retained his hand.

"Before," she said, "when he used to reproach me, and act Othello,
because this or that gentleman looked at me too often, or another had
smiled when he saw me, I was quite indifferent; I despised it all, and
answered without my heart beating faster, or my eyes being cast down,
but now," she added, tears coming to the eyes she rested on him, and
the rosy ribbons on her breast rising and falling quickly from her
emotion, "now I tremble; I wish to hide my eyes with a thick veil; my
heart beats fast, as the blood throbs through my veins, for--"

Again she throw herself into his arms, leant her head as if exhausted
on his breast and whispered,

"For now I love!"

He bent over her and pressed her to himself.

"And do you repent it?"

"No," she replied passionately; "but it humbles me when I remember that
he is still my husband, on whom I am dependent--dependent," she
stammered, in a low voice, "in all material things; and he makes me
feel this dependence--feel it bitterly."

"And why," ho interrupted, "should you be dependent upon him? Why
remember such dependence for a moment? Have you not a friend, a slave,
who would be too happy if you would but tell him what you want, all
that you wish?"

"Ah! I want so little; but he denies me everything!" she said.

"Poor Tonia!" he cried; "is it possible those lips have ever framed a
wish in vain?"

He put her hand to his lips.

"What was it, what did he deny you?"

"Oh!" she cried sadly, "that I should profane the sweet hours of our
love--leave it--it is already forgotten!" and she sighed again.

"It cannot be forgotten until you have told me. I beg you, if you love
me, tell me what vexes you, that this melancholy may all be driven
away."

"He was angry with me," she replied, without raising her eyes, "about
my dressmaker's bill, and positively refused his assistance; and," she
said with animation, "such troubles torment me so, these things suit
neither my head nor my heart--where one thought alone, one feeling
reigns."

"Only one word more," cried he cheerfully, "the amount of the wretched
bill, that so presumptuously seeks to share with me this lovely head,
this sweetest heart."

"Two thousand gulden," she whispered.

"What economy!" he cried; "yet your perfect beauty does not need the
aid of dress. I humbly beg to be allowed to chase this cloud from the
bright eyes I love."

And he kissed her on both eyes.

She hastily pressed her lips on his hand.

"That I must receive, always receive!" she cried. "Oh! that I were a
queen, and you poor and unknown, that I might shed rays of splendour
and happiness over you, and, preferring you among a thousand, might
draw you up the golden steps of my throne!"

She had risen, and she now sat with a really royal dignity. Her eyes
shone with dark fire, and as she slightly raised her hand, a man had
sworn that at a sign from that fair hand, armies would march and a
thousand courtiers kneel in the dust. Then she cast down her eyes and
said in gentle melting tones,--

"I have nothing to give but my love!"

"And more I do not wish for, from my queen!" he cried, rising from his
low chair and sinking on his knees, whilst looking up at her with
glowing eyes.

She took his head in both her hands and pressed a long kiss upon his
brow.

Suddenly the sound of a bell rang through the room.

A noise was heard in the ante-room.

The servant entered hastily, and cried, more as if giving an alarm than
making an announcement: "The Count Rivero!"

The young lady rose hastily. Roughly and vehemently she pushed Herr von
Stielow back into his chair.

Her face was very pale.

Stielow looked at her with amazement.

"Decline this ill-timed visit," he whispered.

"It is an old acquaintance, whom I have not seen for a long time," she
said in a constrained voice, "it is--"

Before she could conclude, the _portière_ of the anteroom was pushed
aside and a tall distinguished-looking man of about five-and-thirty
entered; his dress was dark in colour, his face was noble, with regular
features and the clear pale complexion of the South, his large dark
eyes were surpassed in depth of colour only by the blackness of his
short hair and moustache.

Count Rivero approached the young lady of the house with the quiet
self-possession of a perfect man of the world, whilst his dark eyes
shone with a warmer glow.

She offered him her hand, he took it and pressed it to his lips for a
longer time than politeness alone required.

This did not escape Herr von Stielow, whose astonishment began to
partake of mistrust.

"From a sudden change in my affairs, I am able quite suddenly and
unexpectedly to return here much sooner than I expected, and to have
the pleasure of again meeting my friends in Vienna. My first greeting
naturally is to you, fair lady, the loveliest flower in the wreath of
my recollections of Vienna."

He again pressed to his lips the tender hand he had retained in his
own, and he then seated himself in an arm-chair, whilst, with a slight
bow to Herr von Stielow, he cast a look of enquiry at the lady.

She had completely recovered from the disquiet and painful surprise
which the count's arrival had caused. Her eyes were bright, her lips
smiled, and a faint rosy tinge was seen on her cheeks. In a light
graceful way she said:

"Ah! gentlemen, you are strangers. Herr von Stielow--the rest is told
by his uniform--a worthy member of our jeunesse dorée, who was just in
the act of telling me the latest news of the fashionable world; Count
Rivero, a traveller, a man of learning, a diplomat--according to his
whim--he has just come from Rome, and will tell me all about the
carnival, or the catacombs, I know not to which scene his heart may
have inclined him."

The two gentlemen bowed, Count Rivero coldly, but with the perfect
politeness of a man of the world, Herr von Stielow with scarcely
concealed dislike.

"My heart," said the count, turning with a smile to the young lady,
"has neither the superabundant mirth of the carnival, nor is it yet
ripe for the catacombs, but my fair friend loves always to ascribe to
me extremes."

"You have not been in Vienna for some time, count?" asked Herr von
Stielow coldly.

"My affairs have kept me in Rome for a year," replied the count, "and I
thought I should have stayed there still longer, but necessary business
has recalled me here. And I am thankful to necessity," he added,
glancing at the lady, "for leading me back to my friends in beautiful
merry Vienna."

She threw a rapid glance at Herr von Stielow who sat biting his
moustache, and her lips trembled slightly. Then she said laughingly:

"And what will you tell me of, count, since neither the carnival nor
the catacombs have interested you?"

"Of the beautiful antique statues," he replied, "those pictures in
marble a thousand years old, yet offering us the image of living
youth."

"In Vienna you will find no taste for the antique," said Herr von
Stielow, in a voice which caused the count to look up in surprise, "the
world here does not care for the past, but holds only to the present."

"The world is wrong," said the count coldly, a proud smile playing
around his mouth, "the past has depth, the present is shallow."

Herr von Stielow frowned. The lady gave him an imploring look but he
did not perceive it.

"The past is often tedious," said the officer shortly.

The count appeared to find his manner disagreeable, he answered curtly,
"And the present often very dull."

Herr von Stielow's eyes flashed.

The count rose.

"My beautiful friend," he said, "I am rejoiced to find you so blooming
and unchanged. I will see you again soon, and I hope I may find a time
when we can talk undisturbed, and I can tell you of Rome and the past
without fearing to be tedious."

He kissed her hand, bowed almost imperceptibly to Herr von Stielow, and
left the room.

Herr von Stielow sprang up, seized his cap, and prepared to follow him.

The young lady caught his hand and cried: "Karl, I implore you to hear
me!" He tore his hand away with an impatient movement, and hurried
after the count.

She looked after him with staring eyes and outstretched hands.

She seemed to wish to follow him, but she stood still, her hands sank
slowly, and her head drooped on her breast. So she remained for some
moments, and the only sound was her sobbing breath.

"That has occurred which I hoped to avoid," she said to herself in a
low voice, "I can do nothing, I cannot interfere, without making the
evil worse. They will fight--and how will it end? Shall I lose them
both? The count is needful---needful for the future of which I
dream--he loves me not; oh! no--but he requires me for his plans, I
feel that, and through him I can reach what I thirst after--power,
influence, rule. And this young officer, what can he be to me, what can
he offer me? he is rich," she whispered, "but what is that? and yet,
and yet," she cried aloud, "would I could tightly grasp him, cling to
his beautiful head, and draw him back from danger."

"Antonia, Antonia!" she said, suddenly growing cold and hard as she
raised her head, "your heart is not dead, you are about to be a slave!"

She shook her head as if to dispel a dream. A look of defiance came to
her lips, she drew up her slender form, and her eyes were widely opened
in flaming energy.

"No!" she cried, "no, I will not be a slave, not even to my own heart.
I will rule--rule--rule," she repeated, her voice growing lower and
lower, but firmer and more determined.

Suddenly the violent constraint gave way, her limbs failed and she sank
upon her couch, her lovely hands were crossed upon her breast, her head
fell languidly upon the cushion, and whilst her eyes were veiled with
tears, she whispered with trembling lips:

"Oh, he was so beautiful!"

And she seemed to sink into dreamy unconsciousness.

Herr von Stielow overtook the count as he was going down the steps.

"I did not answer your last remark, count," he said, "because my reply
would not have been seemly in a lady's presence. You appear to wish to
lecture me, and my name as well as the uniform I wear, ought to tell
you, that I will be lectured by no one, at least not by strangers."

The count stood still.

"It seems, sir," he said, "that you wish to quarrel with me."

"And if I do?" cried the young officer boiling over.

"You are much mistaken," replied the count.

"I cannot be mistaken in punishing insolence," cried the young officer,
who grew more excited from the count's calmness.

"Very well, sir," said the latter, "I believe we had better cease
talking, and leave further arrangements to our seconds."

"I like haste and punctuality in these matters," cried Herr von
Stielow.

He handed the count a card.

"I shall wait at home for your second."

"I have nothing to prevent my settling the affair at once," said the
count.

And bowing coldly they parted.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                         THE DUEL AND THE ROSE.


An hour afterwards the seconds had arranged all that was needful.
The next morning, in the earliest dawn, two carriages were seen driving
to a secluded spot at the farther end of the Prater.

Count Rivero and Herr von Stielow, with the seconds and a surgeon,
walked over the dewy ground of a small grassy opening amongst the
trees.

The preparations were quickly concluded.

Two crossed swords marked the barrier. The pistols were loaded, and
each combatant placed himself ten paces from the barrier. Lieutenant
von Stielow was very pale; his face bore traces of a sleepless night,
and there were dark circles below his eyes. Yet his expression was
calm, almost joyful.

His second, an officer of his regiment, stepped up to him and handed
him the pistols.

"There is yet time," he said, "for a little word of apology, and all
mischief will be avoided."

"You know I am always ready to bear the consequences of my words and
actions," replied Herr von Stielow; "to draw back now would be unworthy
and cowardly. But make yourself easy--I, at least, will do no
mischief."

He took the pistols. The seconds stepped aside.

The opponents saluted with their weapons.

The count looked fresh and calm, and showed no trace of emotion.

He had the first shot, and the right of advancing to the barrier.

He did not take a step forward, but raised his pistol, lowered it
slightly, and fired.

Lieutenant von Stielow's képi flew from his head--the ball had hit the
upper rim.

The lieutenant raised his arm, took aim for a moment, but, as the
seconds could see, much too high, and the ball flew two feet above his
adversary's head.

"Count," said the lieutenant, with calm courtesy, "what honour and
custom amongst those of our position required, is now accomplished. I
beg to apologize for my words of yesterday."

The count came forward hastily, a look of great satisfaction shining in
his eyes, as a master who is well pleased with the conduct of a pupil.
And with dignity, but great kindness, he offered the young lieutenant
his hand.

"Not a word more," he said, heartily.

"Yes," said von Stielow, "I must beg for one word more, and that I may
say it to you alone."

The count bowed, and they walked together into the wood, out of the
hearing of the seconds.

"Count," said the lieutenant, and his lip trembled slightly, "what I
have to say--what I have to request, will, I fear, seem extraordinary
to you, but I hope you will reply to my question as frankly as I ask
it. Before we had exchanged shots it would have been a new insult; now
I venture to put it as from one man of honour to another."

The count looked at him inquiringly.

"How do you stand with--that lady?" asked Herr von Stielow; "you have a
perfect right not to reply, but if you will answer me, you will do me a
favour I shall never forget," he added warmly.

The count considered for a moment, and fixed his calm gaze on the eyes
of the young man who stood before him anxiously awaiting his reply.

"I will answer you," he said; and he drew from the pocket of his
over-coat a letter-case, and taking from it a letter, handed it to Herr
von Stielow.

He looked through it. He smiled, half sorrowfully, half contemptuously.
The count's dark eye rested on him with deep sympathy.

"One more request," said the young officer, "which can only be
justified by the strange position in which we are placed."

The count bowed.

"Will you lend me this letter? I give you my word of honour not to
retain it more than an hour, and that no eyes, save those of a certain
lady, shall see it," said von Stielow.

"This, too, is granted--a proof of my unbounded confidence."

"I take it, then, and I thank you from my heart."

"And now, sir," said the count, in a deep resonant voice, "permit me to
request your friendship. I am older than yourself, and many of life's
circumstances, which are still strange to you, lie before me like an
open book, and the book of life cannot be read without pain and sorrow.
The hand of a friend, of an older and experienced friend, is a great
protection--mine is always at your service."

And with a frank and noble movement Count Rivero offered the young
officer his hand. Stielow seized it, not without emotion.

"I have behaved like a foolish child," he cried, with candid
heartiness, "and I have to thank you for much; perhaps, for a happy
change in my life."

They returned to the seconds, and drove back to town.

Herr von Stielow went home, seated himself at his writing table, and
placed three bank notes, each for a thousand gulden, in a large
envelope; he added the letter with which Count Rivero had entrusted
him. He sealed and addressed the packet, then he rang.

"Take this immediately to Madame Balzer in the Ringstrasse. Give it
into her own hands," said he to the servant.

Then he stretched out his arms with a deep-drawn breath, and threw
himself into an arm chair.

"The meteor has vanished for ever!" he cried; "now shine kindly upon
me, thou pure, fair star, whose clear light smiles so peacefully."

His eyes closed; Nature claimed her rights after the wakeful night and
the excitement of the morning.

Late in the afternoon of the same day, some of the guests whom we met
formerly at Countess Mensdorff's, were assembled in a large and elegant
drawing-room of a beautiful old house in the Herrengasse, in Vienna.

The small fire burning in the marble fire-place cast glowing
reflections on the polished parquet floor. A hanging lustre, with three
branches, shed an agreeable light over the room, and here and there
sparkled upon the gold frames on the walls containing the family
portraits. Opposite the fire-place stood a large table, upon which
was a beautiful bronze lamp with a large blue glass shade, and the
high-backed chairs and sofas were covered with dark blue silk.

The mistress of the house, Countess Frankenstein, sat on a sofa near
the table. She was an elderly lady of that type of the Austrian
aristocracy which so strongly recalls the old French _noblesse_ of the
_ancien régime_, but possesses also the Austrian kindliness and
Austrian national feeling, a combination which makes the higher circles
of society in Vienna so peculiarly attractive.

The lady's partially grey hair was carefully arranged; a high dress of
rich dark silk fell around her in heavy folds, and beautifully-set old
diamonds gleamed in her brooch, her ear-rings and bracelet.

Beside her sat the Countess Clam Gallas.

On a low chair at her mother's side sat the young countess, in a
beautiful toilette, which showed she was going out later in the
evening.

Count Clam stood before her, leaning on the back of a chair.

They spoke of the great question of the day, and the whole party were
much excited by the ever-increasing certainty of the war about to break
out.

"I was with Mensdorff this morning," said Count Clam Gallas; "he told
me he could count the days before the declaration of war. After we, as
was only right, summoned the confederation to decide upon the fate of
the Duchies, General von Manteuffel marched into Holstein."

"But that is war!" cried Countess Frankenstein; "and what has happened?
What has Gablenz done?"

"Gablenz is here already," replied the count, "and his troops are
returning; we are in too small numbers there, and too much scattered,
to do anything. We are daily expecting orders to join the army in
Bohemia. Count Karolyi will be recalled from Berlin, and in Frankfort
the decree will be published for the mobilization of the whole of the
Army of the Confederation against Prussia."

"At last then," cried Countess Clam Gallas, "upstart Prussia will
receive due punishment, and all the evil the Hohenzollerns have done to
our Imperial House will be avenged."

"But how about Hanover?" asked Countess Frankenstein. "Is not Gablenz
to remain there with his troops?"

"Hanover has not yet decided," said the count.

"Incredible!" cried Countess Frankenstein and Countess Clam Gallas in
one breath.

"Has then Count Platen forgotten all his friendship for Austria?"

The young countess sighed.

"What is it, countess?" asked Count Clam Gallas; "our ladies must not
sigh when we mount horse, and draw the sword for the honour of old
Austria."

"I am thinking of the poor things whose blood must flow," said the
young countess, and she looked up as if she saw a picture of some scene
of horror.

The door was thrown open, and Lieutenant Field Marshal Baron Reischach
announced.

The Baron entered, smiling and cheerful as ever. He saluted the ladies
in his knightly style, with the familiarity of an old acquaintance.

"You have grown, Countess Clara," said he jestingly; "this child really
looks over our heads."

He seated himself, and held out his hand to Count Clam Gallas.

"You favoured being," he said, "you will soon be in the field!"

"I expect orders hourly."

"We old cripples must stay at home," said Reischach, sadly, and a look
of grave melancholy passed over his jovial countenance, but soon
vanished again. "I saw Benedek before he started for Bohemia," he then
said.

"Has he gone already?" asked Countess Clam Gallas.

"He has started," said the Baron, "and he is now on the road that leads
to the Capitol or to the Tarpeian rock. He expressed that in a
different way, certainly, but not less excellently."

"Tell us how he expressed it," cried Countess Clam Gallas; "it was no
doubt one of those strong speeches which no one but himself would ever
think of."

"'In six weeks,' said he thoughtfully, 'I shall either be on a
pedestal, or not even a dog will snarl at me!'"

They all laughed aloud.

"Excellent!" cried Countess Clam Gallas; "and does he believe in the
'pedestal?'"

"Not very much," replied the baron; "he does not trust the spirit and
the order of the army, and he does not trust himself."

"He may judge of himself as he will," cried Count Clam Gallas
vehemently; "but the army he has no right to mistrust. The army is
excellent, and its order exemplary; though truly, if General Benedek
continues to treat the officers, and especially the noble officers, as
he has commenced, and always to take the part of the common soldiers
and the sub-officers, order will not last long."

And the count with an angry movement pushed away the chair on which he
had leant, and paced up and down the room.

"It is certainly not my place," after a few moments, he said somewhat
more calmly, "to call in question his majesty's choice of commanding
officers, but I cannot feel great confidence in this Benedek and his
method. The feelings that dwell in the hearts of the old Austrian
nobility he cannot understand, and his so-called liberal principles
destroy discipline. It may be very well in an army like the Prussian,
where every one is a soldier--I understand nothing about that; but for
us it will not answer; still less will it answer to attempt novelties
which will place the army in opposition to their officers on the eve of
a great war."

The count had spoken with much warmth. No one replied, and there was a
momentary silence. Baron von Reischach interrupted it by exclaiming--

"But do you know, ladies, the last great excitement in Vienna?"

"No," replied Countess Clam Gallas, "what is it? a fresh success of
Wolter's, or a new eccentricity of Gallmeyer's?"

"Something much better than either," replied the baron, "a very piquant
duel."

"A duel? and between whom? do we any of us know them?" asked Countess
Frankenstein.

"It was between our little Uhlan von Stielow," said Baron Reischach,
"and that Italian Count Rivero whom you will remember well; he was here
some time back with the Nuncio."

"How very extraordinary!" exclaimed Countess Frankenstein; "has Count
Rivero been here long?"

"He came yesterday," replied Herr von Reischach.

"And in twenty-four hours a rencontre took place with Herr von
Stielow?" asked Countess Clam Gallas.

"It appears," said the baron, "that a lady is in the case. You have
surely heard of the beautiful Madame Balzer?"

The young Countess Frankenstein stood up and walked to the darkest part
of the drawing-room to a flower-table. There she bent over the flowers.

"I have heard the name of this lady in connexion with Herr von
Stielow," said Countess Clam Gallas.

"The new rights and the old came in collision," remarked the baron.

"And has any thing serious happened?" asked Count Clam Gallas.

"Not that I heard," replied von Reischach, "but I fear for our friend
Stielow; Count Rivero is well known as an excellent shot. But where is
our young countess?" he said, breaking off suddenly and turning his
head towards the other end of the drawing-room.

She was still bending over the flowers. Her mother gave her a quick
anxious look. She came slowly back to the light, with a freshly
gathered rose in her hand. Her face was very pale and her lips tightly
closed.

"I have plucked a rose," she said, in a voice that trembled slightly,
"to complete my toilette."

She fastened the rose into her dress, and took her place again
mechanically.

"Ah! I forgot the Countess Wilezek's soirée," cried Countess Clam
Gallas rising, "you will wish to prepare, and I must go home first."

"Allow me to accompany you," said Baron von Reischach, and they all
took leave.

The mother and daughter were alone. There was a silence.

"Mamma," said Countess Clara at last, "I do not feel well, and I would
rather stay at home."

Her mother gave her a sympathising look.

"My child," she said, "remember, I pray, what will be said if you do
not appear to-night, especially as you have already been seen."

The young lady supported her head with her hand; a sob echoed through
the silence of the room, and her slender figure trembled, tears fell on
the rose in her bosom.

A servant threw open the door, exclaiming, "Baron von Stielow."

Countess Frankenstein looked amazed, her daughter rose quickly; a deep
blush glowed on her face, she sank back in her chair, and her eyes
still swimming in tears were fixed on the door. The footman took the
silence of the countess for consent, as it was her custom to receive at
that hour, and disappeared.

Lieutenant von Stielow entered.

He was as cheerful as ever; no trace of the emotions of the morning
appeared on his face, only his former expression of good-humoured
carelessness had gone; a grave, an almost solemn earnestness was seen
in his whole bearing, his eyes shone with a calm brilliance. His
unusual earnestness made him look more handsome than before.

He walked towards the ladies. Countess Clara cast down her eyes and
played with her handkerchief. Her mother received the young officer
with perfect calmness.

"We have not seen you for some time, Herr von Stielow," she said;
"where have you been disporting yourself?"

"Our duty is more strict than it was, countess," said von Stielow, "and
leaves us but little time--war seems decided upon, so we ought to get a
little accustomed to some of its inconveniences."

"Herr von Reischach has just been here, and he spoke of you," said the
countess.

"What did he say?" cried von Stielow anxiously; "he told, I fear, some
malicious history?"

And his eyes sought the young countess, who continued to look down, and
who made no movement.

"He caused us to fear that something had happened to you," said the
countess, glancing at him from head to foot, "but I see he was
mistaken."

Herr von Stielow smiled, but it was not the merry laugh he would have
given a short time before at the lucky termination of a duel; it was a
serious happy smile.

"Herr von Reischach takes too great an interest in me," he said, "and
the fears he expressed on my behalf are groundless."

Countess Frankenstein looked round quickly at her daughter.

"Are you going this evening to Countess Wilezek's?" she asked.

"I have never been introduced to her," replied the young officer in a
tone of regret.

"At least you will accompany us there, will you not?" said the countess
rising; "I have a slight alteration to make in my toilette; my daughter
is quite ready and will entertain you until I return."

Herr von Stielow rose and said, joy beaming from his eyes:

"I am quite at your commands, countess."

Countess Frankenstein left the room without heeding the appealing looks
of her daughter. The two young people were left alone. They were
silent. At last Stielow approached the young lady's chair:--

"Countess Clara!" he said in a low voice.

The young countess raised her eyes and looked at him with surprise,
while an expression of pain appeared on her lips. The light fell on her
face as she lifted her head, and he saw that her eyelids were slightly
red.

"Good heavens!" he cried, "you have been weeping?"

"No," said the young lady firmly, "I have a headache. I have begged
mamma to leave me at home this evening."

"Countess Clara," he said, in the same earnest, gentle voice, "I wish
to give you an answer to a question--an explanation," he stammered, "of
a conversation we had at Countess Mensdorff's. I have never since
spoken to you alone."

She interrupted him.

"This is scarcely a time to answer questions," she said, with a half
scornful, half melancholy smile, "which I have already forgotten."

"But I have not forgotten them, and I must give an answer."

She made a movement of refusal. Without heeding it, he asked:--

"Do you believe my word when I give it you as a nobleman?"

She raised her eyes to his face, and said, "Yes."

"I thank you for your trust in me, Countess Clara," he said. "I give
you my word of honour I am free--free as the air and light, from every
chain."

An expression of joyful surprise passed over her face.

"I do not understand you," she said in a low voice.

"Yes, Countess Clara, you understand me," he cried vehemently, "though
I have not told the whole truth. I am free from a fetter which was
unworthy; but I seek a chain to bind me for ever to my happiness--a
chain that I can wear without a blush."

She was extremely agitated. She looked at him for a moment before she
again cast down her eyes, and in that look he thought he read an answer
to his hopes, for, with a happy smile, he came a step nearer to her.

"I do not understand all this," she stammered; "explain to me."

"I cannot explain," he interrupted, "to a strange lady, only to her who
gives me the right to consecrate my life to her, and to have no secret
from her."

"Good Heavens! Herr von Stielow," she cried, still more embarrassed, "I
ask you seriously to explain."

"Then you give me the right to explain to you?"

"I did not say so," she cried, and rose.

She walked towards the door by which her mother had left the room. He
hastened to her, and seized her hand.

"Give me an answer, Clara," he cried.

She stood still, with drooping head.

"Clara," he cried again, in a low, earnest tone, "you wear a rose on
your breast. In olden days, ladies gave to the knight whose love and
service they accepted for ever, a gift, to be a sacred talisman in
battle, and to be with them in death. We, too, are on the eve of bloody
days. Clara, will you give me that rose?"

"The rose is a symbol of purity and truth," she said gravely.

"It is the symbol, then, of her who dwells in my heart, and who will
dwell there for ever," he cried, and added, in an imploring tone,
"Clara, I am worthy of the rose!"

She fixed her eyes on his, and gazed at him for several moments. Then
she raised her hand slowly, unfastened the rose from her dress, and
held it towards him, blushing and trembling, as she cast down her eyes.

He walked passionately towards her, seized the rose, and covered the
hand that held it with kisses.

"Clara," he said, firmly and gravely, "this flower will fade, but the
happiness you have given me will bloom in my heart as long as it
continues to beat. Heaven, I thank thee!" he cried, "I have found my
star!"

He drew her gently towards him.

Without speaking a word, she leant her beautiful head on his breast,
and wept gently.

Countess Frankenstein entered. At the rustle of her dress, her daughter
hastened to her, and threw herself into her arms. Herr von Stielow
approached the old lady.

"Countess," he said, "I can only repeat to you what I said to your
daughter in my great happiness. I have found my star. May it not light
the heaven of my life for ever?"

The countess showed surprise, mixed with a certain amount of
satisfaction.

"I leave the answer to my daughter," said she; "and will abide by her
decision."

"And what do you say, Countess Clara?" he asked.

She held out her hand.

"Then may God bless you!" said the countess, as she gently put her
daughter from her, and held out her hand in her turn to the young man,
who kissed it respectfully.

"Now," cried the countess, "we must go. We shall see you to-morrow,
Herr von Stielow. To-day you will only afford us your protection to
Countess Wilezek's."

"Oh, mamma," cried Countess Clara, "can we not stay at home to-day?"

"No, my child," said her mother, "people would make remarks, and you
know I like everything to be done in the correct manner. It is the
foundation of all true and lasting happiness."

"Well, then," cried Herr von Stielow, "adieu until to-morrow; my
newly-risen star will light up the night until the dawn!"

His betrothed gave him a smile. There was a half troubled, half roguish
question in her look.

He raised the rose he held in his hand, pressed it to his lips, and hid
it beneath his uniform upon his breast.

The countess rang. A servant brought the ladies' mantles. Herr von
Stielow accompanied them in their carriage to the palace of Countess
Wilezek, in Wallnerstrasse. After he had taken leave of them, he walked
dreamily through the evening streets of the capital.

Clear merry voices rang through the open windows of the Café Daun. The
numerous officers of every branch of the service congregated there
rejoiced at the prospect of war, and many cheerful voices rang out into
the night, destined soon to be mute for ever.

Von Stielow hesitated for a moment before the entrance of the Café
Daun, but the noisy mirth of his comrades did not suit his present
mood.

He walked on. He thought over all that had occurred, and rejoiced at
the quarrel which had brought him freedom.

He pursued his way along the Graben, by the rothe Thurmstrasse, and,
sunk in sweet dreams, he followed the banks of the Danube. He was near
the Aspern bridge. A man in a dark cloak came up to him.

"God bless me! Herr von Stielow," he cried, accosting the young
officer, "you were going along as if you had become a philosopher, and
were seeking the stone of wisdom."

"Good evening, dear Knaak," replied the lieutenant, holding out his
hand to the well-known and favourite comic actor of the Karl Theatre,
"what brings you here? Is the theatre over already?"

"I do not act to-night," replied Knaak, "and I am just going to the
Hôtel de l'Europe, where all our people are to be. Come too, and laugh
with us a little."

Herr von Stielow thought for a moment. He felt a repugnance to going
home; he was too excited for serious conversation; how could he better
pass the evening hours than with these cheerful people, who, in their
merry thoughtlessness and happy natures, form an eternal world of youth
in the midst of serious life.

He placed his arm within the actor's, and said:--

"Well, dear Knaak, I will come with you, to see if these warlike times
affect the humour of the Karl Theatre."

"My dear sir," replied Knaak, "all the Krupp cannons added to all the
needle guns in the world, could not disturb us,--that is to say," he
added, gravely, "if we were all together. I, for my own part, am often
sad enough when alone: for I am a North German by birth, and all my
early recollections lie north; but now I am in heart an Austrian, and
the war which is before us makes me very wretched."

"It must be so with many of us," replied von Stielow; "my home, too,
lies in the north. It is a melancholy war,--although, as a soldier, I
cannot but rejoice that this sword, which has so long been dragged over
the pavement, is at last to be used in earnest."

A slight sigh did not quite harmonize with this warlike zeal; perhaps
he thought of the newly risen star of his life, and feared it soon
might set in bloody clouds.

They had reached the large Hôtel de l'Europe, which, with the Crown
Prince Hôtel, occupies the whole length of the Asperngasse. They went
into the spacious restaurant through the large doorway, and having
passed through it, they came to a closed door, through which they heard
cheerful voices and merry laughter.

Knaak opened the door, and with von Stielow entered a somewhat small
square room, adorned with hunting pieces and pastoral scenes, where a
motley company were assembled around a table on which stood a cold
supper, already showing in some of the principal dishes large gaps,
proving the assaults that had been made upon it. On the table stood a
large bowl filled with fragrant punch; and silver wine coolers filled
with ice showed the white heads of champagne bottles peeping from them.

In the midst of the company sat the whimsical queen of the Karl
Theatre, the spoilt and sometimes naughty favourite of the public,
Josephine Gallmeyer.

Beside her sat her especial friend old Grois, the last remaining actor
of the times of Nestroy--a strongly made man with coarse features, with
which he was however capable of rendering every shade of expression,
and a voice full of comic modulation.

On the other side of the table sat alone and thoughtful the young actor
Matras, with his handsome intelligent face, which can represent on the
stage of to-day the true old Viennese fun; and near him, in earnest
conversation, sat Mademoiselle Schwöder, a dark-eyed young singer, and
Doctor Herzel, editor and critic, a man of middle height with a quick
intelligent face.

The entrance of Knaak and von Stielow was hailed with joy by the
Gallmeyer; she seized a champagne cork lying near her, threw it at
them, and cried:

"Thank God for two sensible men. Come here, Knaak, sit by me; and you,
Herr von Stielow, opposite, that I may look at your uniform,--I like
it. I could not have borne these weary folks much longer. Matras sits
there and says nothing, and the Schwöder and the Doctor are like a pair
of folded gloves, and then there is old Grois,"--she shook the old
actor roughly by the shoulder,--"he has given a moral lecture. You can
think how amusing that was."

She seized a bottle of champagne and poured out a large glass of the
pearling fluid for Knaak who sat beside her.

"There, drink it," she cried merrily, "and may it make you witty."

"My life!" she exclaimed, as she looked at von Stielow, who, following
her directions, had seated himself opposite; "My life! Herr von
Stielow, how handsome you are to-day; whatever has happened to you; you
look really splendid!"

"Take care, Herr von Stielow," said Knaak, "if Pepi falls in love with
you it is all up with you, 'tis a case of


                  "And seek I e'er
                  A knight t' ensnare
               Resistance nought avails him."


She tapped Knaak upon the mouth as she cried:

"All very well, but when people look as romantic as Stielow there, they
are of no use to me. I wager he has not a bit of room in his heart.
Besides," she added, with the greatest gravity, "I don't fall in love
so easily. I must see the baptismal registry first."

"What for?" asked von Stielow.

"She must know if he is of age and free to spend his money," said
Matras.

"Matras is always thinking of money, poor fellow! he has so little,"
she cried, "but no, that's not it. You see I made up my mind, my lover
and I should never have more than fifty years between us, and so the
older I get the younger must be my lover, to make me quite sure that he
has no more years than fall to his share. I have made up my mind, and I
shall always stick to it."

They all laughed.

"Then you will soon come to swaddling clothes," remarked old Grois
drily.

"Papa Grois," cried she, "don't make such bad jokes; I have enough of
them, from 'swaddling clothes' to 'experienced persons.'"

"And where is the Grobecker?" asked Knaak.

"She has quarrelled with her duke," said Doctor Herzel.

"What again, already?"

"She maintains he is making love to little Pepi, and she will not have
it."

"What a passion it is!" cried the Gallmeyer. "Soon there will only be
duchesses and princesses acting in the Karl Theatre. Well, for my part
I shall stick to Pepi Gallmeyer."

And she sang,


            "My mother is a washerwoman,
            And but a ballad girl am I,
            And when a sweetheart comes to woo,
            Away I to the washtub fly."


"Yes, it is true," said Grois; "you would be spoilt as a duchess. Do
you know what she did the other day? The Duke della Rotunda gave us a
great supper at his hotel. It was all quite princely, and footmen in
white stockings handed the most excellent dishes. Pepi did nothing but
gape; at last she said, 'My lord duke, where is the Schwemme? I can't
stand this, 'tis too fine for me.'"

"What is the Schwemme?" asked von Stielow.

"It is what they call the second class restaurants in Vienna; they have
them in every hotel here to accommodate traveller's servants."

"And they are a thousand times more amusing than that tiresome old
duke, with his silver candlesticks and stork-legged lacqueys," laughed
the Gallmeyer.

The door was opened hastily, and a beautiful young woman holding a
newspaper in her hand entered. It was Madame Friedrich-Materna, an
opera-singer, then engaged at the Karl Theatre.

"Have you heard it yet?" she cried, "war is declared, or as good as
declared; it is here in the 'Evening Post;' our ambassador is recalled
from Berlin, and the army is ordered to march into Bohemia."

"Then it is all up with us," cried the Gallmeyer, "all up with merry
Vienna; and," she added, glancing compassionately at von Stielow,
"alas! how many handsome young fellows will get shot."

Old Grois raised his head.

"We must have something patriotic in the theatre, something of the good
old kind; monkey tricks won't do, when a bloody tragedy is being played
outside."

"I must go to the editor's office," said Doctor Herzel, with some
importance. He rose and seized his hat.

A waiter entered.

"Is Baron von Stielow here?" he asked.

"What is it?" cried the young officer.

"Your servant with an orderly; they have been looking every where for
you."

"Duty," cried von Stielow, and rose--

"Farewell, my hosts. Your health, Fräulein Pepi."

He emptied a glass of punch and left the room. A cavalry soldier in a
cuirassier uniform handed him a sealed official paper.

The young officer opened it. His face expressed happy pride.

"On the staff of General Gablenz!" he cried joyfully.

"Where is the general?" he asked.

"In the Hôtel zur Stadt Frankfurt, Herr Lieutenant."

"All right; I come!"

And with a quick step he hurried along the shores of the Danube, not
dreamily, as he had come, but with head proudly raised, sparkling eyes,
smiling lips, and his sword clattering on the pavement.

Suddenly he walked more slowly. A cloud passed over his brow.

"I am to march out to this merry war at which every soldier's heart
beats higher, and at the side of a general, whom every Austrian rider
regards with pride and admiration, and yet--what a scarcely tasted
happiness I leave behind--shall I ever find it more?"

Slower and slower grew his steps, until at last he stood quite still;
and lost in thought he gazed into the Danube, where the bright lamps on
the bridge were reflected.

"The shining light up there," he murmured, "below cold, grey death!"

With a hasty movement he awoke from his reverie. "What is love," he
cried, "if it makes us sad and cowardly! No, my sweet lady, I will be
thy brave proud knight, and thy talisman shall bring me honour."

He drew the rose from his breast and pressed it to his lips. Then he
walked on with a quick merry step, and with laughing lips he hummed to
himself--


            "And had she not promised my life to be,
            No life would ever be won by me!"



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                           FRANCIS JOSEPH II.


The greatest activity prevailed in Vienna--in the vicinity of the
Hofburg.[5] Aides-de-camp and orderlies came and went backwards and
forwards to head-quarters, which were literally fringed with staff
officers.

Although it was still early, only about eight o'clock, groups of
inquisitive people stood here and there in the large court yard, and
looked at each coming or going officer with the greatest anxiety, as if
he must be the bearer of most important news.

Public feeling was highly excited. Every one knew that important events
lowered like a tempest in the air, and that any moment might bring the
dazzling flash, followed by the mighty thunder-clap, which would
disperse the sultry fog.

The good citizens of Vienna were in a warlike mood. The press had for a
long time increased their bitterness against Prussia, and on every side
were heard angry expressions against the Northern power, and confident
hopes of victory for the Austrian arms.

Had not Field-Marshal Benedek, the man of the soldiers--the man of the
people, just been appointed commander-in-chief of the great Northern
army? He would show what the Austrian army could do when taken out of
the hands of the "Junker,"[6] and placed in those of a real working
soldier.

Though these hopes were loudly expressed, no very joyful looks were to
be seen on the faces of the people. It was the language of the lips
rather than the heart; for deep in the breasts of the lively
gesticulating speakers lurked many a doubt, which gave the lie to the
words they uttered. It was a new foe whom they were to oppose--a foe
untried since the Seven Years' War, and from that time traditionally
feared--a foe, of whose wonderful military organization they had heard
and read things that seemed almost fabulous.

But these doubts, however much they might be felt, were not openly
expressed, they only served to increase the general oppression
that weighed down the spirits of the people, and gave to merry,
light-hearted Vienna a character of unusual earnestness.

Suddenly the conversation in the different groups was hushed, and all
eyes turned towards the entrance gate of the Hofburg. Lieutenant
Field-Marshal von Gablenz appeared, the general who from his brilliant
valour and knightly bearing was the darling of the Viennese.

He walked firmly and gracefully into the courtyard, dressed in a grey
close-fitting general's uniform, his breast adorned with numerous
orders, the Cross of Maria Theresa around his neck, and a plumed hat
upon the noble head, with its well-formed expressive features.

He was accompanied by Colonel von Bourguignon, the chief of his staff,
two aides-de-camp, and by Lieutenant von Stielow, in the brilliant
Uhlan uniform, rejoicing at the distinction of being so near to the
celebrated general.

The crowd greeted von Gablenz as one whom they expected to fulfil their
loudly spoken hopes, to give the lie to their hidden fears.

The general replied to their enthusiasm with a military salute, in a
friendly but dignified way; he was aware of his popularity, he did not
seek it, but accepted it as something which naturally belonged to him.

He passed through the courtyard with his companions, entered by the
large portal, and ascended the steps which lead to the emperor's
apartments.

The door of the ante-room was opened for him by the door-keeper with a
low inclination. Deep silence reigned in the lofty spacious rooms,
furnished with dark tables, high silken chairs, and heavy curtains
hanging over enormous windows.

At the door which leads to the emperor's cabinet stood a life-guardsman
in military position. The equerry on duty leant against a window-frame
and looked down into the court-yard. He was a handsome young man, with
short dark hair and moustache, and wore the simple dark-green uniform
of the emperor's equerries, with the badge of a major; he advanced as
the general entered, and saluted him.

Baron von Gablenz returned the greeting, and then especially saluted
the life-guardsman, (each one of these holds the rank of captain, their
own captain being Field-Marshal Count Wratislaw); he then held out his
hand to the equerry.

"Well, dear Prince Liechtenstein, what have you all been doing in
Vienna since I saw you last?"

"The clock of duty here pursues its everlasting round," returned the
young prince: "we are not so fortunate as your excellency; we make no
noise in the world, and are obliged to content ourselves with hearing
of your valiant actions. You go to pluck fresh laurels----"

"Stop, my dear prince," interrupted the general; "we must not talk of
laurels until they are won. But," he continued, "is his imperial
majesty at leisure? I wish to be announced at once, and to return
immediately to the army."

"Count Mensdorff has just gone in," returned the prince, "but he will
be certain not to stay long, and as soon as he leaves I will announce
you."

The general and Colonel von Bourguignon stepped into a window recess,
whilst Prince Liechtenstein conversed with the aides-de-camp and Herr
von Stielow.

Whilst this went on in the ante-room, the Emperor Francis Joseph stood
before a large table covered with papers, books, and maps, in his
well-lighted and simply furnished cabinet. He wore a comfortable loose
grey overcoat after the Austrian military fashion. The expression of
his face was very grave, and his hand rested lightly on the table,
whilst he listened with deep interest to the statements of Count
Mensdorff, who stood near him holding reports and despatches.

"That Prince Solms has not succeeded in effecting an alliance with King
George of Hanover is most unfortunate," said the emperor: "we shall be
unable to threaten the Prussians from that side, and we must do all we
can to meet the whole of the enemy's forces in Bohemia, or let us hope
in Saxony, for the decisive battle. Do you think an alliance between
Hanover and Prussia is to be feared?"

"Certainly not, your majesty," returned Mensdorff; "the king will
decline an alliance with Prussia, as with us. His Hanoverian majesty
holds strictly to his neutrality, and will engage himself on neither
side. I fear the king is placing himself in an isolated situation,
which in his position, surrounded as he is by Prussian power, will
prove most dangerous to his safety; yes, even to his crown."

"To his crown?" asked the emperor, raising his head.

"Your majesty," replied Mensdorff, "when the first cannon has been
fired, Prussia will be utterly regardless of all national laws; and
Hanover has long been the object of Prussian desires."

"So long as the sword of Austria is not shattered in my hand by the
pitiless storm of war," cried the emperor proudly, "no German prince
shall lose his crown."

Mensdorff was silent. The emperor paced the room hastily, and then
stood again before his minister. "You do not believe in our success?"
he said, with a penetrating look at the count.

"Your majesty, I wear the uniform of an Austrian general, and I stand
before my emperor on the eve of a mighty war, when all the banners of
the Imperial States will be unrolled. How would it beseem me to doubt
the success of the Austrian arms?"

The emperor tapped his foot on the ground. "That is no answer," said
he, "I question not the general, but the minister."

"I would," returned Mensdorff, "that I stood as a general before your
majesty, or rather before your enemies; then my heart would be
lighter;" and he added, almost gloomily, "then I should have greater
hopes of victory, at least I could give my life to obtain it. As a
minister," he continued after a momentary pause, "I have already given
your majesty my opinion, and I can only again express my most earnest
wish--that it will please you to take from me this weighty
responsibility, and permit me to draw the sword."

The emperor made no answer to the count's last request.

"But my dear Mensdorff," he said, "I know your Austrian heart; does it
not beat higher at the thought of again raising in Germany the ancient
power of the house of Hapsburg, and of breaking the might of that
dangerous rival who would root out Austria and my royal house from
Germany, the old inheritance of my fathers? Shall I give up this
opportunity, which perhaps may never again occur?"

"Your majesty cannot bear in your heart deeper love to Austria, nor
greater pride in your noble house, than I," replied Count Mensdorff
warmly; "and I would give the last drop of my blood to see you again
enthroned from Rome to Frankfort, surrounded by the princes of the
empire, as lord and leader of Germany; but----"

"But?" cried the emperor with kindling eyes. "Do you believe the object
is to be attained without throwing the sword into the balance? That man
in Berlin, himself, says, 'Blood and the Sword must regenerate
Germany.' Now let the sword decide, and may the blood be upon him."

"I cannot," said Count Mensdorff, in a melancholy voice, "consider this
opportunity as favourable; to open two theatres of war at once, is play
which neither the present resources of Austria nor my hopes for her
future justify; especially when one enemy is so powerful, and so
untiringly energetic, that we shall need all our strength to withstand
him."

"Energetic?" said the emperor softly: "at Olmütz the strong man quietly
gave way."

"Olmütz will not be repeated; the Emperor Nicholas is dead, and between
Alexander and us lies Sebastopol!"

The emperor was silent.

"May I humbly suggest to your majesty's attention," said Count
Mensdorff, after a moment's pause, during which he looked through his
papers, "that the Duc de Gramont presses for an answer on the subject
of the French Treaty, to be concluded on condition that we give up
Venetia."

"Can the answer no longer be postponed?" asked the emperor.

"No, your majesty; the ambassador declares that an undecided answer
will be regarded as a definite refusal."

"What would you do?"

Count Mensdorff spoke slowly and calmly. "If your imperial majesty has
decided, as indeed you have, to undertake at the present moment a
mighty war for the re-establishment of the Austrian power in Germany,
that object is great enough to set aside every other; it is noble and
costly enough to demand a sacrifice. The house of Hapsburg was powerful
in Europe _without_ Venice, it has not obtained power with that
province; on the contrary, many embarrassments, troubles, and
difficulties. The war in Germany, and about Germany, would have greater
chance of success if the enemy in the south were removed, our own army
there set free, whilst our alliance with France would hinder Prussia
from concentrating her army against us. The enemy would be occupied on
two sides, whilst we should be able to throw our whole force on one
point, and our present unfavourable position would be turned completely
to our advantage. Under such a constellation a second Olmütz would be
possible, or, if the sword decided, success would be far more certain.
Your majesty," concluded Count Mensdorff, calmly meeting the emperor's
searching, anxious gaze, "I would yield Venetia."

The emperor bit his lips in silence.

"Must I buy," he cried at last, "must I buy the position of my house in
Germany,--must I buy the rights of my ancestors? And from whom? from
this King of Italy, who has banished the princes of my race, who
threatens the Church, and is even ready to attack the holy patrimony
itself. No! no! Put yourself in my place, Count Mensdorff; you will own
I cannot do it."

"Forgive me, your majesty," said the count, "but everything must be
bought; every treaty is a purchase, and the more valuable the object
obtained, the better the bargain. Austria's Italian position, and
earlier policy, the correctness of which is doubtful, were given up
with Lombardy. Venice cannot avail us much, and would be a hindrance to
a possible alliance with Italy."

"You think of an alliance with Italy as possible?" cried the emperor
with astonishment.

"Why not?" said Count Mensdorff, "if Italy has the whole of what is
Italian, she has no further enmity with Austria, and would far rather
be a close friend to her, than to France, with whom sooner or later she
must struggle for the first place amongst the nations of Latin race."

"And the banished archdukes, and his Holiness the Head of the Church?"
asked the emperor. "I cannot do it," he continued, gazing before him:
"what would my uncle think, who is preparing to make Italy feel the
sharpness of the Austrian sword--what would my whole family, what would
history?--what would they say of me in Rome? When Italy is overcome,"
he said, after a moment's thought, "when we have attained our former
eminence in Germany, then we can negotiate about Venice; if then,
through this sacrifice, the safety of the Holy Father and the patrimony
of St. Peter can be guaranteed----"

"If your majesty is victorious in Germany, we shall need no
negotiations with Italy," said Count Mensdorff; "but----"

A knock at the door was heard, and the equerry on duty, Prince
Liechtenstein, entered.

"A despatch for your imperial majesty from the Field-Marshal;" and he
withdrew.

The emperor's eyes sparkled, and his hand trembled slightly as he tore
off the cover of the telegram.

"Perhaps an engagement," he murmured.

His eyes flew with the greatest anxiety over the lines. He turned
deadly pale, and with his eyes still fixed on the paper he held in his
hand, he sank upon the plain wooden chair before his writing-table. A
short silence ensued, during which the emperor gasped for breath.

Count Mensdorff watched his imperial master with the greatest anxiety,
but did not venture to interrupt the painful reflections in which he
was plunged by the intelligence he had just received. At last the
emperor roused himself.

"A despatch from Benedek!" he cried.

"And what does the Field-Marshal announce?" asked Count Mensdorff.

The emperor passed his hand over his brow. "He begs me to make peace at
any price. The army is not in a condition to fight, as he will explain
hereafter."

"Your majesty cannot believe that the Field-Marshal and I have
conspired. If he does not believe the army equal to the war which is
before us--he, the man trusted by public opinion"--Count Mensdorff said
this with an almost imperceptible smile,--"then there must be a strong
foundation for my belief."

The emperor sprang to his feet and hastily rang the golden bell which
stood upon his writing-table. The gentleman-in-waiting entered.

"Prince Liechtenstein!" cried the emperor.

A moment afterwards the equerry on duty stood before him.

"Beg Count Crenneville to come immediately. Who is in the ante-room?"

"General Baron Gablenz, with the chief of his staff and aides-de-camp,"
replied Prince Liechtenstein.

"Very good," said the emperor; "let them come in at once."

The prince immediately summoned the general and his companions. Baron
Gablenz advanced towards the emperor.

"I beg your majesty, before my departure for the army, to permit me to
express my humble thanks for the command you have bestowed upon me of
the 10th corps, and for your gracious expressions of confidence in me."

The emperor replied, "This confidence, my dear general, is no favour,
you have deserved it, and you will justify it by the fresh laurels
which you will bind around the banners of Austria."

Baron Gablenz presented Colonel Bourguignon, his aides-de-camp, and
Lieutenant von Stielow. The emperor said a few words to each in his
usually gracious and engaging way. To Herr von Stielow he said--

"You are from Mecklenburg?"

"At your command, your majesty."

"Yours will perhaps be a divided heart; for I fear your Fatherland will
be compelled to stand on the side of our enemy."

"Your majesty," replied the young officer with emotion, "so long as I
wear this uniform, my Fatherland is where your royal banners wave. My
heart is Austrian." He placed his hand on his breast, and pressed
closer to his heart the rose he had received the evening before.

The emperor smiled, and placed his hand on the young man's shoulder.

"I rejoice that the general has chosen you, and I hope to hear of you."

Prince Liechtenstein opened the door with the words, "General Count
Crenneville."

The emperor's adjutant-general entered. He wore undress uniform. His
sharply-cut features of the French type, his short black moustache, and
bright dark eyes, belied the fifty years which the general bore.

"Your imperial majesty sent for me," he said.

"I thank you, gentlemen," said the emperor, turning to Baron Gablenz's
staff. "I hope the campaign will give you opportunities of performing
fresh services to me and to the Fatherland. I beg you to remain, Baron
Gablenz."

Colonel von Bourguignon, the aides-de-camp, and Herr von Stielow
withdrew.

The emperor seized the dispatch, and said, "I have just received this
telegram, on which I desire your opinion. The field-marshal," he
continued, his voice trembling a little, "begs me to make peace, as the
army is in no condition to fight."

"Impossible!" exclaimed Count Crenneville.

"What do you say, Baron Gablenz?" said the emperor to the general, who
had remained silent.

He hesitated a moment before replying, whilst the emperor's eyes seemed
to hang upon his lips.

"Your majesty, the field-marshal must have most cogent reasons for his
request; usually he fears no danger, and dashing boldness, rather than
cautious prudence, is his characteristic."

"Your majesty's brave and brilliant army unfit to fight!" cried Count
Crenneville; "how can the field-marshal justify such ideas?"

"He promises to justify them," said the emperor.

Count Crenneville shrugged his shoulders in silence, whilst Baron
Gablenz asked, "_Can_ your majesty still make peace?"

"If I place Austria for ever in the second rank in Germany, or rather
if I permit her to be thrust out from Germany--yes; if I give Prussia a
double revenge for Olmütz--yes! otherwise I cannot."

Count Crenneville looked anxiously at the general, who stood lost in
thought. "Your majesty," he said at last, in a quiet, impressive voice,
"no one can rate the power of our enemy higher than I. I have been with
Prussia in the field, and I know her material and moral power. Both are
immense; her arms are excellent, and the needle-gun is a frightful
weapon. If we alone were opposed to Prussia, I should go to the war
with a heavy heart. I am reassured by our German Confederation."

"The army of the confederacy," said Count Mensdorff.

"It is not the military contingent alone that I throw into the
balance," continued Baron Gablenz, "but the fact that these separate
armies will absorb the Prussian troops, and compel the enemy to a
complicated campaign. Had I been able to remain in Hanover, this
advantage would have been still greater. However, even without that
combination Prussia must fight with very divided forces, whilst we
shall be able to concentrate our army. This, your majesty, is my
comfort; in this rests my hope of success, however severe may be the
conflict. This is my opinion as a general. As to the condition of the
army and its fitness for a battle, I cannot speak until I have seen it,
and know the reasons for the field-marshal's judgment. On the political
situation I need not hazard my ideas, neither would your majesty
probably care to possess them; this only would I say, if Austria's
honour is engaged I would refuse to yield; a lost battle even is less
hurtful than to retreat without having drawn the sword."

The general ceased speaking, and for a few moments silence prevailed in
the cabinet.

"Gentlemen," said the emperor, "the questions before me are of so
difficult a nature, that they require careful investigation and calm
reflection. In an hour I will decide; and I will give to you, Count
Crenneville, the answer to the field-marshal, and at the same time you,
Count Mensdorff, shall receive a reply to the question you have brought
before me."

The two gentlemen bowed.

"Shall the motion be made immediately to the Confederation for the
mobilization of the armies of the un-Prussianized States, as your
majesty has desired?" inquired Count Mensdorff.

"Certainly," cried the emperor, "it is necessary that the German States
should own to their colours, and that the armies of the Confederation
should be placed in the field. I am of the opinion of Baron Gablenz
that on this our safety greatly depends."

With a friendly nod he dismissed the gentlemen; then approaching
General von Gablenz he took his hand, and said, "God be with you! may
He bless your sword, and give me fresh cause to be grateful to you."

Gablenz bent over the emperor's hand, and said with emotion, "My blood,
my life, belong to you and Austria!"

The emperor remained alone. Several times he hastily paced his cabinet;
then he seated himself at his writing-table, and turned over some
papers quickly, without looking at their contents.

"What a frightful position!" he exclaimed; "every feeling of my heart
urges me to act against this German calamity, which like a wasting
sickness, like a gnawing worm, eats into the heart of Austria, and
devours her power and her greatness. My hereditary blood urges me to
pick up the glove, half scornfully, half threateningly thrown down so
long ago by the dangerous, deadly enemy of my race. The voice of the
German people calls me--and my minister counsels retreat, my general
hesitates at the moment of decision! Can the thought be true which like
a black mountain has oppressed my heart in my dark hours? Am I
predestined to bring misfortune on my beloved, beautiful Austria, the
glorious inheritance of my great ancestors? Will my name be linked in
history with the setting of the Hapsburg star, the fall of the empire?"

He gazed into space with troubled eyes.

"Oh! that thou couldst stand beside me, thou great Spirit, with thy
strong noble heart, with thy clear intellect, and unconquerable will,
to guide the rudder of the Austrian empire: thou whose calm proud
strength shattered the power of the hellish giant who had dismembered
the world! oh, that I had a Metternich! What would he counsel, that
mighty mind, whom none understood, whom none can understand, because
between his inner life and the world the proud words of Horace stand
inscribed: 'Odi profanum vulgus et arceo!'"

He suddenly seized his bell. "Let States-Chancellor Klindworth come
immediately," he commanded, as the gentleman-in-waiting entered; "seek
him in the office of state." The gentleman-in-waiting withdrew.

"He alone," said the emperor, "yet survives from the times of Austria's
greatness, when the threads of all European policy were gathered
together in our offices of state, when Metternich's ear was in every
cabinet, and his hand linked together the acts of every government. He,
it is true, was only the tool of the great statesman, not the confidant
of his thoughts--he was not Metternich, no, not Metternich, but he
laboured with him in working the wonderful machine--and his quick
penetrating mind seized the spirit of the whole, at least in some
degree. When he speaks to me, I seem to see that old, rich,
many-coloured period, and to know, as if by inspiration, what
Metternich would do if he still were the friend and adviser of the
house of Hapsburg. I have the will, the power to work,--the courage to
fight. Why is wisdom so hard?"

The emperor leant his head on his hand, and sat in deep thought. The
gentleman-in-waiting opened the door leading to the inner apartments,
and announced, "States-Chancellor Klindworth awaits your majesty's
commands." The emperor raised his head and made a sign that he should
enter at once.

Through the opened door advanced this extraordinary man, who began his
remarkable career as a schoolmaster in the neighbourhood of Hildesheim;
he then for a short time played a public part as state-chancellor at
the court of Duke Charles of Brunswick, and after the tragic fall of
that prince became one of the most skilful and zealous of Metternich's
agents. He was involved in all the most important political
transactions, and had had relations with every sovereign and minister
in Europe; yet he so skilfully enveloped himself in obscurity, that
only those most initiated in political circles had ever seen him, or
spoken to him.

Klindworth was now a man of about seventy years of age, broad
shouldered, and strongly built. His head, which was so pressed down
between his shoulders that it seemed to lurk there in concealment, was
covered with grey hair, fast turning white, and his face was of such
extraordinary ugliness, that it attracted and riveted attention more
than the highest order of beauty. His small eyes glittered quick and
piercing beneath thick grey eyebrows, and with their keen glances,
which they never directed straight at any other eyes, seized on
everything worthy of remark within their range of sight.

His wide mouth, with its thin bloodless lips, was firmly closed, and
quite concealed in the middle by his long thick nose, which spread out
to an enormous breadth towards the lower part. He wore a long brown
overcoat closely buttoned, and a white neck-cloth, and his manner was
completely that of a worthy old tradesman who had retired from
business. No one would have imagined him to be a most dexterous and
far-travelled political agent; the art so much practised in his
political life, never to appear, but always to remain in the darkest
background, he seemed to exercise in his appearance; it would have been
impossible better to have represented the image of a modest unimportant
person.

He entered, bowed deeply, and approached within two or three steps of
the emperor; he then stood still with a most respectful bearing, and
without uttering a word. His quick eyes examined the monarch, and were
instantly sunk again to the ground.

"I have sent for you, dear Klindworth," said Francis Joseph, with a
slight bend of the head, "because I am desirous of hearing your views
on my present position. You know how much I like to hear how things
mirror themselves in your mind, which has lived through the experiences
of a past great time."

"Your imperial majesty is too gracious," returned Herr Klindworth, in a
low, but distinct and penetrating voice. "The rich treasures of
experience obtained in a long political life are always at the command
of my gracious monarch; as my great master Prince Metternich
said--'The past is the best corrective and the truest barometer for the
present.' The faults of the past are seen with all their results and
consequences, and from them we may learn to avoid the blunders into
which present events are leading us."

"Quite right," said the emperor, "quite right, only in the past, in
_your_ past, few blunders were committed; but what do you consider
would be the most dangerous error which could now be made?"

Without hesitation, Klindworth replied, raising his eyes from the
ground for a moment, and fixing them on the emperor:--

"Indecision, your majesty!"

The emperor looked at him with embarrassment.

"And you fear this error may be committed?" he asked.

"I fear it _has already been committed_," returned Klindworth, quietly.

"By whom?"

"Wherefore has your majesty chosen me for this high honour?" asked
Klindworth, instead of replying to the question. "Your majesty shall
hear my plain humble opinion, though its weight be but as a grain of
sand in the balance. You have _yourself_ not decided," and he assumed a
more humble and modest manner than before.

The emperor smiled. "You know how to read the thoughts of others;
nothing is safe from your key. But granting that I have not decided,
this is no fault; the time for decision has only just arrived."

"Does your imperial majesty command me to speak without any reserve?"
asked Klindworth.

"Assuredly," said the emperor, adding with some haughtiness of manner,
"I certainly did not send for you to indulge in idle conversation."

The states-chancellor clasped his hands over his breast, and tapped the
back of his left hand lightly with the fingers of his right. Then he
spoke very slowly, and with long pauses, during which he watched the
impression made by his words through his half-closed eyelids:

"I cannot, according to my humble views, share your imperial majesty's
opinion that the moment for decision has only just come."

The emperor gazed at him with surprise.

"According to your views, when was that moment?" he asked.

"It was," returned Klindworth, "before Prussia and Italy had concluded
a treaty; before Italy was armed; and before Prussia had completed her
preparations. Your majesty wished to decide the great German quarrel;
your majesty wished to set up the imperial throne in Frankfort after
Count Rechberg had, somewhat prematurely, roasted the _b[oe]uf
historique_."

The emperor frowned, but without altering his tone Klindworth
continued,--

"Your majesty unveiled your designs too soon, and therefore the best
moment was lost; a blow should fall heavily, and the opponent be
unprepared. A long exchange of despatches reminds me of the Trojan
heroes, who made long speeches and related their genealogy before
hurling their spears. A dispute, an ultimatum, and your majesty's army
in Saxony at once! so should I have conceived the affair. Now the Saxon
army approaches Bohemia; it is impossible to fight except in Bohemia,
that is to say, the burden of war is brought into our own territory.
That, your imperial majesty, I call indecision; we feel its evil
consequences already, and they will increase every day."

"Do you not think," said the emperor, thoughtfully, "that Prussia
dreads war, and will give way rather than appeal to arms?"

"No, your majesty, that will not happen; Count Bismarck is incapable of
such a course."

"But the king," said the emperor, "he is against the war. They speak of
a difference with Bismarck quite recently."

"I do not believe it, your majesty," said Klindworth, "though I own my
personal judgment fails me where the King of Prussia is concerned. I
knew Frederick William IV.," he continued, "I knew the Emperor
Nicholas, and I know the Emperor Napoleon. Of the deceased monarchs I
could, of the Emperor Napoleon I can, foretell (through the knowledge
of human nature I possess) their probable course of action, but as to
King William," and a slight tone of injury and dissatisfaction was
heard in his voice, "I never could get any nearer to what he would do.
I have only the ground of conjecture to go upon where he is concerned."

"And what do you conjecture?" asked Francis Joseph.

"I conjecture that the king will not give way, but that he will fight.
He is no longer young, therefore he dreads war, with its misery and
distress: he is a Hohenzollern, and all Hohenzollerns have a certain
traditional deference for the house of Hapsburg, therefore he
especially dreads a war with Austria. But he is a man, a character, and
a soldier, therefore he will rather wage war than yield, and make his
military organization, which he has perfected after such a severe
struggle, the laughing-stock of the world. King William will fight your
majesty; threats will not alarm him, therefore to threaten was to
blunder, and indecision bears its evil fruit."

"Since, however, the fault of indecision is committed," asked the
emperor, "how can we make it good? No statesman can always avoid an
error, the great art is to amend it. What can help us now?"

"Quicker decision, and quickest action!" returned Klindworth.

"But you do not know," said the emperor, hesitatingly, "Count
Mensdorff----"

"I know all that," returned Klindworth, smiling; "Count Mensdorff is
ill, and to sick folks decision is hard."

"How would Metternich, the man of prudence, and of happy combinations,
have decided?" asked the emperor, softly, speaking half to himself,
half to his companion.

"Metternich would probably never have been in this position, but if he
now sat in the state council your majesty's troops would be in Dresden
and Hanover."

"But Benedek----" said the emperor.

"Benedek, your majesty, finds himself for the first time in a position
of great responsibility, without having yet acted; this depresses him."

"But he says the army is unfit to fight," said the emperor, most
unwillingly.

"It will certainly never improve by lying still in Bohemia; if your
majesty fights with it, it will become fit to fight," returned
Klindworth, positively.

The emperor paced up and down the room; the states-chancellor stood
perfectly still, but his grey eyes watched every movement of the
emperor, who stopped suddenly before him, and asked,--

"Are you aware of the French proposal?"

"An alliance, provided you yield Venetia," said Klindworth.

"What do you think of it?"

"I think it revolts every feeling of your majesty's heart--and with
justice."

"It is not a question of inclination, or disinclination, but of
policy," said the emperor.

"Policy is entirely against such an alliance," said Klindworth.

"Why? Count Mensdorff gave me reasons in its favour, which I must own
made a powerful impression upon me."

Klindworth's eyes sparkled, and he raised his bent figure somewhat,
whilst the movement of his fingers grew quicker, and his voice became
more animated, and louder than before.

"All political reasons, your majesty, speak against this alliance, and
on these grounds: perhaps, I grant it, opposed to this coalition,
Prussia may give way--_perhaps_, but how far? Will your majesty obtain
what you desire? No! the quarrel is but patched up, and under such
circumstances that Prussia must win. I do not even believe that they
will yield in Berlin. I believe that they will fight, though opposed to
the French alliance--and then what occurs? If your majesty conquers,
the reward of victory will not be yours. Do you believe the Emperor
Napoleon will permit the sole supremacy of Austria over a united
Germany? To obtain the fruits of victory you would be forced to
commence a fresh war against your former ally, who would join hands
with your conquered rival. The benefit of an alliance with France is
also doubtful, since France is not in a position for any military
undertaking."

"Is that certain?" asked the emperor, with surprise.

"Your majesty is aware that I am careful in making distinct assertions,
and that I possess means of information which may always be relied on.
At this moment France cannot place 100,000 men in the field."

The emperor was silent.

"If, however, the benefits of this alliance are doubtful and insecure,"
said Klindworth, "two great and certain evils must result from it."

The emperor looked at him expectantly.

"In the first place, your majesty, the position of the house of
Hapsburg and of Austria in Germany would be deeply compromised by a
French alliance. Should your majesty obtain success, half success at
the best, public opinion would always regard Prussia as a national
martyr, sacrificed to the hereditary enemy of the German nation. This
would give Prussia great additional strength, and it would be a fair
ground upon which to renew the struggle under more favourable
circumstances."

"Opinion in Germany is on my side," said the emperor.

"Partly," returned Klindworth, "but it is not on the side of France.
Your majesty, I do not belong to those politicians who are always
praising up a beloved nationality--for Austria it is highly
dangerous--and I belong to the time when the balance of power was
maintained by a skilful combination of great and small states; when a
bundle of wands cleverly bound together was considered stronger than a
clumsy cudgel; yet it is dangerous to slap national feeling in the
face, especially now, and henceforth, as it has been raised to
fever-heat by 'the great German union,' and similar demagogical
watchwords, to which governments always fall dupes. All the South
Germans and Bavarians, who are now so full of zeal that they speak,
write, and act against Prussia, would, I believe, straightway go over
to the enemy's camp, if they heard of an alliance with France. I know
what the 'furor Teutonicus' is, your majesty: we used to repress it;
now everything is done to kindle it, and if a French alliance is
concluded at the present moment, Germany will belong to Prussia."

The emperor listened attentively; his own views appeared to coincide
with those of his states-chancellor, and a slight smile played round
his lips. This did not escape the quick eyes of Herr Klindworth.

"Besides," he continued, "I consider this alliance prejudicial in the
highest degree, on account of the sacrifice which must purchase it."

"Do you consider the possession of Venice so important?" asked the
emperor with interest.

"The possession of Venice, in itself, I do not regard as important,"
said Klindworth, "but a great principle is involved, which I hold to be
of the highest importance. If of your own free will you barter Venice
for a treaty, your majesty solemnly recognizes all that has been done
in Italy against the house of Hapsburg, against legitimacy, and against
the church; and not this alone, but also what is about to be done
against those pillars on which the strength and power of Austria rest,
I mean the robbery of the Patrimony of St. Peter, and the secularizing
of the Holy Roman See. It would be the abdication of Austria."

"My own feeling tells me the same," exclaimed the emperor. "But do you
believe that if I conquer, I shall be able to check the course of
events in Italy; that I shall be able to win back what has been lost?"

"I do believe it," replied Klindworth, firmly.

The emperor was startled by this positive answer.

"If I were the victor in Germany, would Germany make a pilgrimage to
Rome?" asked he. "I doubt it."

"That would not be needful," returned Klindworth; "we have often heard
'Italia farà da sè,' well, let us leave the Italians to act:" and he
rubbed his hands together with a low laugh.

"What can Italy do?" said the emperor urgently, "do you know anything?"

"It is a little _mon métier_ to know everything," returned Klindworth.
"Your majesty must permit me to make a few short remarks. Italy fell
under the house of Savoy and the demagogues, because Austria was beaten
at Solferino."

"Not by Italy!" cried the emperor.

"Not by Italy, it is true," continued Klindworth; "but it was beaten,
and the revolution was all powerful, the defenders of right lost heart,
and above all were disunited. Since that time much has occurred, much
has been learned from the foe; a strong, invisible bond now unites all
those who serve and are willing to fight for the right, and the
apostolic blessing rests upon this bond. What the Carbonari did for the
revolution, the Carbonari of right will again effect: but as the former
were assisted by victory from without, so do the latter wait until the
sword of Austria shall have effected the first breach in the fortress
of crime and wrong. Let there be one Austrian victory over the troops
of this crowned revolution, and Italy will be in flames, and the
crusade against Cavour's work will begin--and conquer."

The emperor listened with the greatest excitement: he stepped close up
to Klindworth, who maintained his calm demeanour.

"Do you speak from dreams of your own imagination," cried Francis
Joseph, "or from facts?"

"From facts, your majesty, which I can prove."

"When? where?" cried the emperor.

"In five minutes; here, in your majesty's cabinet."

"Then bring your proofs."

"I must then beg your majesty to admit a person, who, foreseeing to
what the present conversation would lead, I took the liberty of
bringing with me, and who waits below."

The emperor looked amazed.

"Who is this person?" he asked.

"The Count di Rivero, your majesty."

The emperor seemed to search through his memory for the name.

"Who is he?" said he, after a pause; "ah! I remember: was not a Roman
Count Rivero introduced at court, some years ago, by the Nuncio?"

"You are right, your majesty," said Klindworth, "he is a Roman, and the
Nuncio was his sponsor. But with the Count Rivero, known in the
brilliant salons of the court, I have nothing to do. My Count Rivero is
an unwearied champion of Right and of the Church, preparing in quiet
obscurity the great insurrection which will destroy the work of
Wrong--a mighty leader of all those elements, which, bound together by
unseen threads, are preparing for the common struggle."

"How does he prove his identity?" asked the emperor, in a voice in
which curiosity struggled with distrust. Klindworth drew from his
pocket a sealed letter, and handed it to the emperor:

"In case your majesty should incline to see him, he has entrusted me
with this."

The emperor seized the letter.

"From the Farnese Palace, from my sister-in-law," he cried, breaking
open the seal, and reading the short contents.

"Bring the count in at once," he then said.

Bowing deeply Klindworth withdrew.

"How fortunate that I sent for this man! what new views he opens out to
me!" cried the emperor. "Is it possible that the former greatness of my
house will again arise on every side?"

He walked thoughtfully to the window, and looked up at the sky, slowly
following with his eyes the movements of the clouds.

After a short time Herr Klindworth was announced, and at a sign from
the emperor, again admitted. He was followed by Count Rivero, whose
manner was as perfect and as calm as when he entered Madame Balzer's
boudoir, and as when he stood opposite Herr von Stielow's pistol.

His dress was black, of faultless simplicity and perfect cut. With the
firm light step, and complete self-possession, which proved him
acquainted with courts, he advanced towards the emperor, and, bowing
deeply, waited, with his eyes calmly fixed on the monarch, for him to
speak.

The emperor looked searchingly at him, and said:

"I remember you, count, at court in former years."

"It is very gracious of your majesty to recollect me," said the count,
in his soft, melodious voice.

"You come from Rome?"

"From the Farnese Palace, your majesty."

"And what brings you here?"

"The wish to offer your majesty my services in the great struggle now
before Austria."

"My sister-in-law of Naples commends you to me as a man worthy of my
fullest confidence."

"I believe I have deserved her confidence, and I hope to earn that of
your majesty," returned the count, bowing quietly, and speaking without
any presumption.

"And how do you think you can be of use to me?" asked the emperor.

The count returned his scrutinizing gaze openly and proudly, saying:

"I offer your majesty the support of a great and invisible power, the
Holy League of Right and of Religion!"

"Explain to me what this League is, and what it can do."

"I will tell your majesty how it arose; you will then understand what
it is, and what it can do. After those great battles in which the
Austrian armies in Italy were crushed, the flood of revolution, urged
on by the ambitious house of Savoy, spread all over Italy, placing
firmly on the head of Victor Emanuel the crown created by red
republicanism; whilst all who had in their hearts a love of right and
religion, and a desire to fight for Holy Church, were surprised and
dispersed--incapable of united and energetic resistance. The work of
wickedness was accomplished in hot haste, and even the Emperor
Napoleon, who had thought out a very different Italy, could not check
the evil spirits he had himself unchained. After fever came exhaustion.
Even in the Vatican there was no safety. But exhaustion was followed by
reaction. In Rome, in the palace of King Francis, that single-minded
but in his simplicity truly great and royal hero (who, with the cannon
of Gaëta, had made his protest against sinful Wrong resound through
Europe), the men first assembled, who said, 'Wrong conquered because a
few wicked men willed it so, and worked together with united strength;
why then should Right not again arise, for God is on our side, if men
of courage and decision combine in the common work, assembling weaker
spirits and filling them with zeal and activity?' This proposal was
followed by decision, and decision by action. King Francis drew up the
plan and the way to carry it out; and your majesty's heroic royal
sister-in-law fanned the pure flame of good and noble resolutions into
a bright blaze of burning enthusiasm. Throughout Italy committees were
formed, and men and women of well-known opinions joined the League,
whose numbers could soon be counted by thousands. Men devoted to the
king work at all the European courts; the talented, accomplished, and
prudent Canofari remains in Paris, Count Citto travels through Europe;
we are well informed of all that takes place; Golotti organizes Naples
and Sicily. The influence which the members of the League have over the
masses is great; arms and ammunition lie in places of safety, and we
stand at the head of a power, to which we have but to apply the
electric spark, and Italy will be in flames, from the Alps to the
further point of Sicily. Does your majesty desire further information
upon the extent, the organization, and the power of the League?"

"Not at this moment," said the emperor, with some excitement; "at a
future time I shall beg for these particulars, as they interest me
greatly. In what relation does the Holy See stand to your cause?" he
then asked.

"The Holy Father, your imperial majesty, is the high priest of the
church," replied Count Rivero. "His weapons are spiritual, and he can
take no direct part in a work carried on by secular means; but this
work can only be well-pleasing to him, and the apostolic blessing must
rest on those who labour to restore both spiritual and temporal right.
All faithful priests support the League in every way permitted by their
holy office."

"And how does this League intend to act; what does it hope to obtain?"
asked the emperor.

"Your majesty," returned the count, "we await the breaking out of the
great war for the re-establishment of Austria's former power and
greatness. Whatever may be the result on the northern side, success is
certain for Austria in Italy. We can undertake nothing alone, for we
are unable to oppose well-organized armies. As soon as these armies are
engaged, and held fast by the Austrian forces, we shall give the
signal; and behind the crumbling armies of Victor Emanuel, Italy will
arise; the free troops of Right and of the Church will appear
everywhere, to cast out the Sardinian rule, and to bring back to their
inheritance their lawful princes. Your majesty only desires to rule
Lombardy, and that will again belong to you."

"And Napoleon?" asked the emperor.

"I have reason to think he will not dislike to see the Sardinian
government overthrown by Italy; he trembles at his own work--besides
his intervention will come too late."

"And you believe," said the emperor, "that Italy herself will restore
Lombardy to my house?"

"Yes, your majesty," replied the count, "under conditions."

"Ah! conditions!" exclaimed the emperor.

"Your majesty," said the count, "all we who take part in this great
work are Italians, and we desire to see Italy free and happy. We wish
to regard the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom in the north of our peninsula
as blood of our blood, and flesh of our flesh; we are therefore willing
to restore Lombardy into the hands of your majesty and to the house of
Hapsburg, but not to Austria."

"How will you make the distinction?" asked the emperor, with a shade of
annoyance.

"I believe," replied the count, "this distinction is the greatest proof
we could give of the reverence in which we hold your imperial majesty.
It would not become me," he continued, "nor am I called upon, to give
your majesty any views upon the government of those states which form
the Austrian empire; I must, however, remark, that according to my
perceptions--and I think I have history on my side--throughout the
whole of Austria there is but one common bond of union, the emperor and
the army."

The emperor bowed a somewhat reluctant assent.

"The truth of this, so far as Italy is concerned, is incontestable,"
continued the count. "No one in Lombardy and Venice, nor indeed,
throughout the whole country, has the smallest objection to the rule of
the house of Hapsburg; but what hurt the national feeling, what
alienated the well disposed, was the German rule, which we were made to
feel in your majesty's Italian states: the rule was a foreign one, and
it felt to the people like a foreign occupation. If your majesty will
permit your Italian subjects to be Italian, all repugnance will
vanish."

The emperor was silent, appearing not entirely to understand.

"Allow me, your majesty," said the count, "to disclose to you the
picture, which stands in dazzling clearness before my mental gaze. When
my poor country fell under the hellish power which now oppresses it, I
thought out for it a united organization, somewhat similar to the great
confederation which unites Germany. In the south the kingdom of the two
Sicilies, in the heart the patrimony of St. Peter, and in the north, up
to its natural boundaries, rescued Sardinia, the smaller dukedoms and
the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom. At the head of this confederation, for
the developing of institutions for trade and commerce and for the
welfare and cultivation of these states, bound together by a common
spirit of nationality, stands the Holy Father, the head of Christendom,
your imperial majesty occupying the place of his powerful earthly
protector; and if the arms of Austria conquer in Germany, as I pray
they may, we shall behold the Roman emperor, from Sicily to the
northern sea, the honoured and beloved protector of right, and the
umpire of Europe."

The count bowed, and was silent. He had latterly spoken with more
excitement, and his sparkling eyes seemed to see, in dazzling
completeness, the picture he had just sketched out for the emperor.

Francis Joseph had listened with kindling eyes; and Klindworth had
stolen quick glances, now at the emperor now at the count, whilst he
stood perfectly still without appearing to-take any interest in the
conversation.

"What you have disclosed to me, my dear Count Rivero, interests me in
the highest degree," said the emperor, "and I rejoice that your
communications have been made at the present moment. Your plans
coincide with the wishes I must always bear in my heart, as the heir of
my ancestors and the head of my house."

"Your majesty graciously consents," asked the count, "to accept our
services, and to grant us your protection?"

"I do," said the emperor.

The count hesitated a moment, then fixed his clear eyes on the emperor.

"And the home government of your majesty's Italian states?"

"I pledge my word," said the emperor.

The count bowed.

"And you, my dear count, what _rôle_ shall you play in the great
drama?"

"I shall remain here for the present to watch the course of events, in
order to give the signal at the right moment. I am at your majesty's
disposal."

"Your information has been of great service to me," said the emperor,
"and," turning to Klindworth, "you have perhaps saved me from a
dangerous error. I believe, my dear states-chancellor, that indecision
is over. And now," he cried, with animation, "let us set to work with
all our might. I feel courage and strength, and I trust the old proverb
may again prove true: 'Austria est imperatura orbi universo!'"

"'Ad majorem Dei gloriam!'" added the count in a low voice.

The emperor bent his head, and called out to the count just as,
retiring with Klindworth, he had reached the door:

"Auf Wiedersehen!"[7]

He then seated himself at his writing-table and hastily wrote
two notes, sealing them with his ring; then summoning the
gentleman-in-waiting, he desired him to call his equerry.

Prince Liechtenstein entered.

"My dear prince," said the emperor cheerfully, "let these two notes be
given at once to Crenneville and Mensdorff."

The prince took the notes, and left the room in silence.

"Now," cried the emperor, as he stood up and raised his sparkling eyes,
"indecision is past. God protect Austria!"



                              CHAPTER IX.

                                HELENA.


The sun shone cheerfully one afternoon upon the quiet Pfarrhaus at
Blechow. The roses bloomed gaily in the box-edged beds of the
well-cultivated garden, where the masses of luxuriant white blossom
were beginning to turn to fruit.

The doors of the large entrance-hall stood wide open, and its floor was
covered with sand, scattered over with short fir branches.

In the principal dwelling-room of the Pfarrhaus, where the simple
arrangements proved the excellent taste which prevailed, and where the
snowy window-curtains bore witness to the cleanliness and order of the
household, there sat, around the coffee-table covered with a cloth of
dazzling whiteness, the Pastor Berger, his daughter, and the candidate,
Behrmann.

Helena Berger was busily preparing the brown beverage of the Levant,
the fragrant aroma of which filled the room, in a pretty white china
apparatus; and no lady, in a drawing-room of the highest fashion, could
have performed all the complicated little arrangements with greater
natural grace.

Pastor Berger sat opposite to her, in his large, comfortable arm-chair,
dressed as usual in clerical black, which according to the good old
custom he never laid aside for less professional clothes, even in his
own home. The only indulgence he allowed himself was the small black
velvet cap which he wore on his head, considering it the sign of
household comfort.

The young candidate sat between them; he too was dressed in black, with
a white neck-tie, but the cut of his clothes was different, and
although the colouring was the same, the general effect of his dress
was quite unlike his uncle's.

The pastor leant back comfortably in the depths of his arm-chair, his
hands folded one over the other, whilst he spoke, as was frequently the
case since his last visit to Hanover, of his interview with the king.

"There is," he said in a voice of emotion, "something glorious about
the Lord's Anointed. He can give happiness with a word, and how willing
is our own king to do so! He does not regard his subjects simply in the
light of tax-payers; to him they are fellow-creatures, with feelings
and with beating hearts, and wherever his royal heart meets with a
fellow man, he is ready with human sympathy to join in his sorrow or
his joy. How different it is in a Republic!" he continued; "there the
law reigns, the dead letter, a cold majority, a chance. And in a great
monarchy the sovereign stands on an unapproachable, solitary height;
but here, in our beautiful, fertile, quiet Hanover, we know our king
(though he from his eminence can take in everything with his clear
gaze,) feels for us each individually, with his human heart."

Helena had finished preparing the coffee, and she brought her father
his large cup, with the inscription, "dem lieben Vater," traced in
wreaths of roses.

The old gentleman took a small sip, and his countenance assumed an
expression of great satisfaction at the result of his daughter's skill.

"I must beg for a little water in my cup," said the candidate in a
quiet persuasive voice, "I cannot take strong coffee."

"Just like the present generation! how fond they are of water!" cried
the pastor testily: "coffee must be strong if it is to rejoice your
heart and to do you good. Water is certainly a good gift of God, but it
has its proper place; now they pour it even into noble wine; and this
is why we hear so many watery words. I hope, my dear Hermann, your
sermon next Sunday will not be diluted with water, for our peasants
here are accustomed to the strong unembellished Word, which, as our
great Reformer said, 'should resound to the alarm of the hypocrite, and
the joy of the righteous.'"

Helena had in the meantime prepared her father's large meerschaum pipe,
cutting up the rolled tobacco with which she filled it on a metal
plate, and bringing it to him with a lighted match.

"Of course you do not dream of smoking the time-honoured pipe?" said
the pastor to his nephew, looking with great content at his own
well-coloured bowl, the companion of several years, and watching the
first clouds of smoke as they rose in the air, "but there are some
excellent cigars, which the president brought from Hamburg."

"Thank you," said the candidate, declining, "I do not smoke at all."

"Not at all?" cried the astonished pastor; "really that surpasses the
water! Well," he continued rather severely, "every time has its own
customs, and I don't think they improve. Have you yet received your
appointment as adjunct?" he asked.

"No," replied the candidate, "they promised to send it after me as soon
as possible. I did not wish to wait for it, as I was desirous of at
once entering on the scene of my future labours, and also of being
admitted without delay into the family of my beloved relations."

His eyes sought the pastor's daughter, who had seated herself at a
little table in the window, where she occupied herself with some white
needlework.

"I did not think that the gentlemen of the Consistorial Council were
particularly pleased at his majesty's cabinet decree, appointing me
adjunct here, with a view to my ultimately succeeding to the pastor's
office."

"I can well believe it," returned his uncle; "authorities like to rule
without feeling a higher power, especially when those below must hear
of the interference. It disturbs the _nimbus_. Can they make any
objection to your qualification?" he enquired.

"Not the least," replied the candidate. "That were hardly possible," he
continued with a satisfied smile, "my testimonials are of the highest
order."

"Well then, these gentlemen had better calm themselves, and not
begrudge to his majesty the right of making a faithful old servant
happy, since no injustice is done, and no one is passed over. Would to
God that these heavy times were safely gone, and the storm-cloud of war
dispersed; how much blood it will cost, if the strife once begins!"

Helena let her work fall into her lap, and sat gazing through the open
window, across the blooming roses, at the smiling landscape beyond.

A hasty step approached the house, and a knock was heard at the
sitting-room door. "Come in," cried the pastor, and a young,
poorly-dressed girl entered.

"Well, Margaret, what brings you here?" asked the pastor in a friendly
voice.

"Oh! Herr Pastor," sobbed the little girl, whilst large tears ran down
her cheeks, "father is so very ill, and he says he is afraid he shall
die, and he wants so much to see you, Herr Pastor, to get a little
comfort, and oh, dear! what will become of us if he does die?"--loud
sobs stifled the poor child's voice.

The pastor stood up and laid his pipe down in his armchair.

"What is the matter with your father?" he asked.

"He got very hot, working, yesterday," replied the child, interrupted
by her tears, "and then he took cold, and it brought back his cough
last night so bad; and he is so ill, and he says he shall die!"

"Take comfort, my child," said the pastor, "it will not be so bad as
that. I will come and see what must be done." And opening a large oaken
chest, he took from it a case containing several small bottles, stuck
it in his pocket, and seized his clerical hat.

"One had need to be something of a doctor, here in the country," he
said to his nephew, "that the right means may be used, until further
help can be procured, when it is really necessary. I believe I have
saved a good many lives with my little medicine chest," he added, with
a happy smile.

"Poor papa!" said Helena, "your fresh pipe?"

"Do you not think the poor sick man will be more refreshed when he sees
me, than I should be by a few puffs of tobacco?" said her father
gravely.

"But, my dear uncle, can I not undertake this for you?" asked the
candidate. "I am so anxious to make myself acquainted at once with the
duties of my sacred office."

"No, my dear nephew," replied the pastor; "let us do all things in
order. You are not even appointed here yet; and then you must learn to
know your people before you can undertake these visits; the sight of a
stranger only excites a sick person. Wait quietly here--I will return
shortly." And he left the house with the child, who ceased crying when
she found the pastor was going to see her father.

The candidate walked to the window; his eyes first rested on Helena,
who sat bending over the work she had again taken up, then they strayed
through the window, beyond the rose beds, to the wood-crowned horizon.

"It is really pretty here," he said, "and in summer it is pleasant to
reside here."

"Oh yes, it is lovely," interrupted the young girl, in that tone of
complete conviction and natural enthusiasm with which young hearts
regard the place where they have passed a happy childhood, feeling
certain that it must be the most charming and delightful spot in the
world; "you will think it still more beautiful when you know all the
glorious country around us, and all our pretty, quiet walks, even the
monotonous fir woods have their charm, and their language"--and her
eyes sought the dark green forests enclosing the sunny landscape as in
a frame.

A slight smile, half compassionate, half ironical, played round the
lips of the candidate.

"I really wonder," he said, "how my uncle, with his well-stored mind,
so plainly appearing in his conversation, and still extolled by the
friends of his youth, should have been able to exist here all these
years, so far removed from all intellectual life, and from all
intercourse with the progress of the world. He is considered one of the
first pastors in the country, his duties, it is well known, have been
performed in an exemplary manner, and with his reputation for learning,
and the influence he possesses, he might long ago have held a seat in
the Consistory. To such a man, this would have been the starting-point
for a great, an important career! I cannot imagine how he has endured
life among these peasants!"

Helena looked with her great eyes at her cousin in amazement. His words
struck an element quite unknown to her life.

"How little you know my father," she said; "he loves his beautiful
quiet home, and the peaceful, happy scene of his work, far better than
dignities with their restraints and cares."

"But the higher and the more influential the position," said the
candidate, "the greater the scope for work, and the richer the blessing
that zealous labour may obtain."

"It may be so," returned the young girl, "but the fruit is not so
plainly seen, intercourse with the people is so much less intimate, and
my father has often told me that his highest pleasure is to pour
comfort and peace into a troubled soul, and his highest pride to bring
back an erring heart to God. But you intend to remain here yourself,
cousin," she added with a smile, "and to bury yourself in this
solitude?"

"I have to commence my career," he replied, "I must work to rise, and
youth is the time for toil; but as the aim of my life, I shall
certainly place a much higher object before me." His eye scanned the
far distance as if he were looking for some aim, very different to
anything which the quiet landscape around had to show.

"And you, Helena," he asked after a moment's pause, "have you never
felt the need of a higher intellectual life, the longing for a more
extensive world?"

"No," she replied simply; "such a world would only depress and alarm
me. When we were lately in Hanover it seemed as if all my blood rushed
back to my heart, I could scarcely understand what was said to me, and
I felt so dreadfully lonely. Here I know everything around me, the
people and the country; here life feels so rich and so warm, but in a
large town it felt cold and narrow. I should be very unhappy if my
father were going away from here; but there is no idea of such a
thing," she said in a tone of certainty.

The candidate sighed slightly as he gazed straight before him.

"But in winter," he said, "when you cannot be out of doors, and when
nature has no charms, you must be very dull and lonely."

"Oh, no!" she cried cheerfully, "never. We are never dull here, you
cannot think how pleasantly we pass the long winter evenings. My father
reads to me, and tells me about so many things, and I play and sing to
him. He is so happy after his day's work."

Again the candidate sighed.

"Besides," she continued, "we are not quite without society. There is
the family of our president von Wendenstein at the castle, and we make
up quite a large party. We are not so much out of the world as you
imagine. Last winter we very often danced at the castle."

"Danced!" exclaimed the candidate, as he folded his hands over his
breast.

"Yes," said Helena; "the company staying at Lüchow often came over, and
we had quite as much fun as they could have had in Hanover."

"But my uncle, did he not object to your participating in such
extremely worldly amusements?" asked the candidate.

"Not in the least," she replied; "why should he?"

The candidate seemed to have an answer ready, but to repress it; and,
after a short pause, he said in a gentle tone of superiority,--

"The opinion becomes more and more confirmed in all well-regulated
circles, that such amusements are quite inadmissible in a clergyman's
family."

"Indeed! what an excellent thing it is that we are quite out of the way
of those well-regulated circles," said Helena coldly, for she felt
displeased at her father's judgment being condemned, and her own
amusements disapproved.

The candidate was silent.

"Of what does the family at the castle consist?" he asked after a
pause; "I must go there and be introduced as soon as possible."

"Besides Herr von Wendenstein, his wife and daughters, there is the
Auditor von Bergfeld," replied Helena.

"Has he been here long?" asked the candidate quickly, casting a
searching look at his cousin.

"A year," she replied, with perfect indifference, "and he will soon
leave, for a young auditor is always employed here."

"But Herr von Wendenstein has sons?" he asked.

"They are no longer at home," she replied; "one has a government
appointment in Hanover, the other is an officer at Lüchow. Here comes
my father!" she exclaimed, and pointed out a pathway leading from the
high road, at the farther end of which the pastor had just appeared.

"I will make him a fresh cup of coffee. But good heavens!" she
exclaimed, whilst a deep blush spread all over her face.

The candidate followed the direction of her eyes, and saw a horseman
trotting quickly along the high road in the blue uniform of a dragoon.
He must have called out to the pastor, for he stood still; he then
turned round and walked back to the road, and held out his hand to the
officer, who had reined in his horse.

After a short conversation, the officer rode on, waving his hand to
Helena, whom he had seen at the window. She returned his greeting by
bending her head.

"Who is that?" asked the candidate.

"Lieutenant von Wendenstein," she replied, and left the window to light
the spirit-lamp upon the table, and to prepare afresh the coffee, which
her father had before been prevented from drinking.

The candidate watched all her movements with a scrutinizing look.

After a few minutes the pastor entered the room.

"Thank God," he said, "it was nothing dangerous. A severe cold, with a
good deal of fever; but it is a peculiarity amongst the people here,
who, from their simple lives and strong constitutions, know little of
sickness, that they believe every illness must prove fatal."

He exchanged his hat for his little cap, and seated himself in his
arm-chair, his face wearing an unusually grave expression.

"The lieutenant has just returned," he said.

"I saw him just now," remarked Helena, as she handed her father a fresh
cup of coffee. "What brings him at so unusual a time--generally he
comes only on Sundays?"

"Things look very bad," said the pastor. "War appears inevitable, and
for the present no more leave will be given; the lieutenant therefore
has ridden over this afternoon to bid them good-bye at home. He begged
that we would walk over there soon--he will leave early, as he must
return to-night."

Helena's hand trembled as she again prepared her father's pipe.

"My heart aches," he continued, "for our good friend von Wendenstein
and his gentle, loving wife. This fearful war may rob them of their son
in the very flower of his youth."

He took his pipe dreamily from his daughter's hand, whilst, bending
over him, she offered him a light. She then hastened to the door.

"Where are you going, my child?"

"Before we walk to the castle," she replied, with an unusual vibration
in her voice, "I must see about several things in the house." Without
looking round, she left the room.

The candidate gazed after her rather inquisitively; he then seated
himself by the pastor, and said, after folding his hands together,--

"My dear uncle, from the moment of entering your house, where I hope,
God willing, to be your faithful companion in your holy office, I wish
to take up my position on a foundation of truth; this should be the
rule of conduct for all, but especially for one who takes upon him the
life of a clergyman."

The pastor smoked his pipe, looking as if he scarcely understood what
this was to lead to.

"My mother has often told me how much she desired that I should be
united to you even more closely than by our present bond of
relationship, and how she hoped my coming here might be the guidance of
heaven, pointing out to me your daughter Helena as my true and
Christian wife."

The pastor smoked on in silence, but his expression showed that this
idea was neither new nor disagreeable to him.

"Often she has said," continued the candidate, "'How much I should
rejoice if I could see you the support of my brother's old age, and if
he could feel that in you he had a protector for his daughter when it
should please God to call him to Himself.' Certainly," he continued,
his eyes studying the expression of his uncle's face, "certainly the
outward cares of life will not be hers."

"No," cried the old gentleman cheerfully, as he blew an enormous cloud
from his pipe, "no, thank God! as far as that goes, I can depart in
peace when my Master in heaven calls me. The small fortune I inherited
from my uncle has greatly increased, for I have scarcely ever needed to
spend more than the half of my income as pastor, and unless God should
take away what He has given, when He calls me home my daughter need
have no trouble as far as money is concerned."

"But," continued the candidate, an almost imperceptible smile of
satisfaction playing around his thin lips, "'but she will still need a
protecting arm, and if you could afford her this, perhaps in the very
home where she has passed her childhood, how happy it would make me.'
This is what my mother has often said to me."

"Yes, yes, my good sister," said the pastor, with an affectionate
smile,--"fate separated us completely, not perhaps as things are now,
for the borders of Brunswick may be reached in a day, but in our
calling travelling is difficult!--her true heart has always kept its
affection for me."

The candidate proceeded:

"My mother's wish pleased me much, but I set it aside as an open
question, for according to my ideas a marriage should only take place
from mutual inclination, arising from sympathy between two hearts, and
therefore it was needful we should know one another. But since I have
been here, and during the few days I passed in your society in Hanover,
my mother's wish has become my own. I find in Helena all those
qualities which I hold most necessary to enable her to fulfil the
duties of the Christian wife of a clergyman, and to render the life of
her husband happy, and therefore (that everything may be clear and true
between us) I ask you, my dear uncle, if you will permit me to
endeavour to gain your daughter's affections, and if after a more
intimate acquaintance I should succeed, whether you will be willing to
trust her to me for life?"

The old gentleman took the pipe from his mouth, and held out his hand
to his nephew.

"You have acted well and honestly," he said, "in speaking to me thus,
uprightly and honourably, and I will answer you in the same upright and
honourable manner. What your mother," he continued, "thought and said,
passed also through my mind, and I own that when I obtained your
nomination here, I thought it would make me happy if you became
mutually attached; then when I felt my strength failing me I could
resign, and still see my dear daughter ruling the loved home where she
grew up, and which her gentle, affectionate mother first made so dear
to me."

The old man was silent for a few moments, and tears stood in his eyes.
The candidate's features expressed extreme satisfaction.

"With my whole heart, my dear nephew," resumed the pastor, "I give you
leave to woo my Helena, and if you obtain her love I will joyfully give
my blessing to your union, both as a father and as a priest. But do not
be hasty--give her time--she is of a timid disposition, and shrinks in
alarm from everything that is new. Learn really to know one another;
you will have plenty of time."

The candidate pressed his uncle's hand.

"I thank you most heartily," he said, "for your permission, rest
assured I will not try to take her heart by storm; no sudden blazing
fire beseems a Christian marriage, our hearts should feel a pure and
quiet flame."

At this moment Helena returned; she wore a light-coloured dress, and a
straw hat, ornamented with some small flowers. There was a rosy tint
upon her cheeks, and her eyes shone with enthusiasm, but as if through
a veil of tears, yet her lips smiled.

She looked extremely beautiful; she nodded affectionately to her father
as she entered the room, but she cast down her eyes when she saw the
look with which the candidate surveyed her whole appearance.

"I am ready, papa," she said.

"Quite right my child; then we can go."

He stood up, and laid aside his cap.

"You must accompany us," he said to his nephew; "I will introduce you
to our president."

"Should I not first call at the castle?" asked the candidate.

"You will do so now with me," replied the pastor; "we are not formal
people here,--I answer for it you will always be welcomed by our
friends."

The candidate put on his glossy, well-brushed black hat, and they all
three left the parsonage.

In the old castle at Blechow, the president's family was assembled in
the large garden drawing-room. Madame von Wendenstein sat on the large
sofa, in her snow-white point-lace cap and flowing dark silk dress, and
her daughter was preparing the tea-table at an earlier hour than usual.

The lieutenant had drawn a low arm-chair close to his mother, and was
endeavouring to amuse her with lively conversation, and she sometimes
replied to his remarks with a melancholy smile, though she could not
prevent the tears from falling upon her white hands, as she
mechanically continued her needle-work.

The president walked up and down the room in silence, pausing sometimes
at the open door to gaze beyond the terrace at the landscape bathed in
the warm light of the summer evening.

"Don't damp the boy's spirits," he said, standing before his wife, and
speaking in a voice of forced harshness; "a soldier should always set
out willingly and joyfully to a war, when a war comes, for that is his
business, and he ought to rejoice at the opportunity of following his
calling, and doing his duty in earnest. Besides which, nothing is yet
certain," he added, partly to console his wife, partly to allay his own
anxiety; "though they must be ready for anything that may occur, the
tempest may still pass over."

"I will not certainly take from him his cheerful pleasure in doing his
duty," said Madame von Wendenstein in a gentle voice, "but I cannot
help being sad in this dark and heavy hour. We shall sit here at home
alone with our thoughts and our cares, whilst he will hurry about in
the open air, with the constant variety of change. He will soon recover
his spirits. Is your linen all in order?" she said, turning to her son,
as if she wished to diminish her sorrow by material cares for the child
who was soon to encounter such dangers.

"My linen is in the most excellent order, mother," replied the
lieutenant cheerfully. "But if we really march, I shall not be able to
take much with me,--our baggage must be small. Where is the pastor?" he
exclaimed? "he promised me to spend the last few hours here.
_Apropos_," he added, "have they visitors at the parsonage? I saw a
gentleman in the dress of a clergyman, standing by Helena at the
window."

"It is the nephew who is appointed adjunct here," said the president,
"and to whom the pastor will in time resign. I am very glad that the
king graciously granted our good Berger's request, especially as I
believe the Consistory would not have appointed him. Perhaps, too, he
may be a _parti_ for our pretty Helena."

The lieutenant cast a quick glance at his father, and then stood up and
looked silently out over the terrace.

A whispering was heard in the ante-room, and an old servant entered,
and said, "Fritz Deyke wishes to speak to the lieutenant."

The young man turned round quickly, and called out, "Come in! come in!
my good Fritz. What brings you here, my lad?" asked he kindly, as he
walked towards the door, where young Deyke stood in a stiff attitude,
holding his cap in his hand.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but I want to ask you a favour."

"Out with it then!" cried the lieutenant gaily, "it is granted
beforehand."

"I hear in the village," said the young peasant, "that war is about to
break out, and that the king himself will take the field. Then I must
go too; and I came to beg you, sir, as you have known me from a child,
to take me with you as a servant, that we might go to the wars
together."

"Stop, my dear fellow," cried the officer, "we have not got so far as
that, we are not to march yet, perhaps not at all; at present there is
no increase of troops, for the army remains on the strength it has in
time of peace, so with the best will in the world I cannot take you.
But," he continued, "if it really begins, I promise to take you, not as
my servant, I have already a very quiet, respectable man; and," he
added laughingly, "my old friend Deyke's son is in too good a position
to be a servant."

"Not to be _your_ servant, sir," said Fritz, with such pride in his
voice that it was evident he thought himself quite above being servant
to anyone else.

"Be easy about it," said the lieutenant, "you shall certainly come with
me; at the right time I will take care to get you into my troop, then
we shall always be able to talk of when we were in the dragoons
together."

"You promise it, and that I shall keep near you?" asked the young
peasant.

"I promise," said the lieutenant, "my hand upon it!"

He gave his hand to his former playmate with great heartiness; the
latter seized it and shook it warmly, saying,--

"Then God grant, sir, we may not be parted long!"

Whilst the young peasant took leave of the officer, the servant had
silently opened the door, and the pastor, accompanied by his daughter
and his nephew, had entered.

The pastor introduced the candidate to Herr von Wendenstein, who shook
hands with him and led him to his wife, by whom he was welcomed with a
few friendly words.

Helena laid aside her hat and assisted Miss von Wendenstein in the
final arrangements of the tea-table. The lieutenant joined the young
ladies.

"Now, Miss Helena," he said, "I am quite in earnest, you really must
give me your good wishes, for, perhaps, I shall soon have need of them.
Will you not," he cried warmly, as he looked into her eyes, "will you
not sometimes think of me, if we actually march, and send your good
wishes after me?"

She looked at him for a moment, and then cast down her eyes, as she
said in a voice that trembled slightly,--

"Certainly, I will think of you, and I will pray to God to take care of
you."

He looked at her with emotion: the words were so simple, and so
natural, and yet they touched for the first time something in his
heart, which seemed to tell him that if he really did march as he so
greatly desired to this merry war, he must leave much that he loved
behind him.

"I remember very well," he said, after a moment's silence, "the dark
cloud we saw the evening before my father's birthday, and how it was
driven farther and farther from the light of the moon. I think of it
now, that I shall not be here for a long while, perhaps, indeed, this
is the last time I shall ever be at home. You see, Miss Helena," he
continued, lightly and jestingly, as if he wished to conceal his
feelings, "I learn from you--I have got on,--I remember your beautiful
thoughts; another step, and I may have ideas of my own."

She answered neither his earnest words nor his jest, but looked up at
him in silence.

"Tea is ready, dear mamma," said Miss von Wendenstein, as she gave a
last scrutinizing glance at the large round table, which, contrary to
custom, was brought into the drawing-room, and bore an improvised
supper.

Madame von Wendenstein rose, and approached the table with the pastor,
her husband and the candidate followed.

"You will sit by me, will you not?" half whispered the lieutenant to
Helena, "for the sake of old times."

She did not reply, but silently took the chair next to him.

The candidate gave the young people a glance of disapproval, as he
seated himself beside the young lady of the house.

The cheerful spirits that usually prevailed in the old castle at
Blechow were to-day quite wanting. The conversation was forced. No one
said what he thought, and no one thought what he said. The jokes, which
the president sometimes attempted with an effort, fell flat, like spent
rockets; and many quiet tears fell into Madame von Wendenstein's plate.
The lieutenant drew out his watch.

"Time is up," he said, "will you excuse me, mother? John, my horse."

They all rose.

"Yet one request," said the lieutenant, "sing me one song before I
leave, Miss Helena. You know how much I like to hear you sing, and
to-day I must carry away the happiest recollection of my dear home."

A slight shiver seemed to run through the young girl's slender frame.
She made a movement with her hand as if to refuse.

"I beg it," he said in a low voice.

The president opened the piano, and Helena soon sat before it, led
thither by Miss von Wendenstein. The lieutenant leaned against the door
opening into the garden, through which there still came the clear
twilight that lasts so far into the nights of June.

Helena placed her hands upon the notes and gazed straight before her.

Then she struck a few chords, and as if compelled by some unknown
impulse she began to sing Mendelssohn's beautiful melody,


            "Es ist bestimmt in Gottes Rath,
            Dass man vom Liebsten, was man hat,
                Muss scheiden."


Her lovely pure voice had great richness of tone, and filled the room
as with a magnetic stream. The lieutenant stepped outside into the
shadow of the evening twilight, and Madame von Wendenstein rested her
head in her hands, whilst her sobs became audible.

The voice of the singer grew richer and more expressive, though her
face showed only blank indifference, and as she reached the conclusion
a firm conviction, a holy faith rang through her song:


            "Wenn Menschen auseinander gehn,
            So sagen sie: Auf Wiedersehn!"


There was a deep silence as she ended, so great was the impression made
by the song.

The lieutenant came back from the terrace, looking very grave. He gave
one long affectionate look at the young girl, who had risen from her
seat and was standing near the piano, her eyes cast down, and with the
same calm expressionless look on her face; then he went up to his
mother and kissed her hand.

The old lady stood up, took his head between her hands, and pressed a
warm kiss upon his brow. She whispered softly, "God protect you, my
son;" then she gently thrust him from her, as if she wished the sorrow
of leave-taking to be ended.

The president pressed his son's hand, and said:

"Go, if God wills it so, and let your acts be worthy of your position
and your name! Now no more adieux," cried the old gentleman, looking
with concern at his wife, who had sunk back on the sofa, and covered
her face with her handkerchief. "To horse! we will accompany you
outside."

And he went out through the door of the entrance hall which had been
opened by a servant. The pastor and the candidate followed him.

The lieutenant turned back for a moment, and embraced his sister, then
he approached Helena:

"I thank you from my heart for your song," he said, and took her hand;
then half as if the last words still ran in his mind, half as if
speaking to her, he added:


            "Wenn Menschen auseinander gehn,
            So sagen sie: Auf Wiedersehn!"


"Auf Wiedersehn!" he repeated, raising her hand to his lips and
imprinting upon it a kiss.

He then hastened after his father.

A bright red colour flew into the young girl's cheeks, and her
expression grew animated and her eyes very bright, as they followed him
to the door. Then she sank down on the chair before the piano, and a
hot tear fell into her lap, unseen by Madame von Wendenstein, whose
face was still hidden in her handkerchief, unseen by her daughter, who
held her mother in a gentle embrace, and stroked her soft grey hair.

Fritz Deyke stood outside; he had not been able to deny himself the
pleasure of leading round the lieutenant's horse; Roland pawed the
ground impatiently.

The lieutenant took an affectionate leave of his father and the pastor,
and gave his hand to the candidate, who received it with a bow. Had it
not been for the darkness, the deadly hatred of the look he cast upon
the young officer must have been observed.

Then the young man sprang lightly into the saddle.

"God grant, sir, I may soon come too!" Fritz Deyke cried after him, as,
putting his horse to a gallop, he disappeared into the gathering night.



                               CHAPTER X.

                                BERLIN.


The streets of Berlin, though, bright with sunshine, looked empty at
eight o'clock on the morning of the 15th of June, 1866. Life in that
city does not begin so early; and at this hour only a few of the lower
orders hurried along under the lime trees, with here and there an
employé or a merchant hastening to his office.

A troubled expression appeared on the face of every passer-by;
acquaintances stopped and exchanged greetings and the news of the day,
but the news was of an unpleasant and evil nature; the Austrian
ambassador was recalled, and war was inevitable,--a war which no one
desired, and which was entirely ascribed to the ambition of the
minister, who, in order to retain office, was about to set Germany, nay
Europe, on fire.

So thought and spoke the good people of Berlin, for they were
accustomed to think and speak in the morning as Aunt Voss and Uncle
Spener had caused them to read the day before; and these two
long-established and highly privileged organs of public opinion daily
maintained, in articles whole columns in length, that the disturbance
in Germany was entirely owing to the restless ambition and criminal
rashness of this Herr von Bismarck; and all the Müllers, all the
Schultzes, all the Lehmanns, and all the Neumanns who had been brought
up in the royal capital, firmly believed that nothing was needed to
preserve the absolute peace of Europe under the parliamentary
government, than that Herr von Bismarck should be sent about his
business, either to Schönhausen, or to Kniephof, to cultivate his March
Ukrain turnips, or his Pomeranian cabbages.

But when some of the Landwehr marched past on their way to the railway
stations from whence they were to be sent off to join the different
army corps, a very discontented expression was seen on the faces of the
Berlin children, both old and young, as they stood about in knots at
the side of the streets and roundly abused that "junker Bismarck," who
brought such misery on families, and cost the country so much money.
This did not hinder the kind-hearted inhabitants of Berlin from
bestowing on "the sacrifice to Bismarck's policy," the "Blue Laddies"
of the Landwehr Guards, who were being sent to this horrid fraternal
war, many abundant tokens of their affection, in the shape of beer,
cigars, sausages, and spirits. And "the sacrifice" itself appeared by
no means discontented; for from its ranks resounded those merry old
Prussian soldier songs, which are handed down unwritten from generation
to generation, and transplanted from the bivouac to the home, where the
boys learn them when they play at soldiers, and sing them later on in
the bivouacs of the man[oe]uvres, or of the first war to which their
king and country send them.

In the evening, all the Schultzes, Müllers, Lehmanns, and Neumanns went
to their hereditary beer-shops, and sat round the table listening to
the news from the mouth of the oracle of their different circles; and
they heard how that very day a journalist had written, or a deputy had
spoken, inculcating the great lesson that all the uneasiness, all the
stagnation of trade, all the troubles of private families, were caused
by one man, who sacrificed the happiness of the subject to his own mad
notions and ambition; one man, who placed the crown and the country in
danger, Herr von Bismarck, the aristocratic despot!

No wonder then that all the people who were hurrying along in the early
morning looked on the world with dismal eyes, nor that when
acquaintances met and discussed the news, a curse, not loud but deep,
should be bestowed on that Bismarck who plunged the whole world, which
would have been so happy without him, into grief and woe.

Through the hurrying, busy people, and through the discontented groups
walked Bismarck himself, under the lime-trees, from the
Wilhelmsstrasse. He looked as calm and well satisfied in his white
cuirassier's uniform, with its pale yellow collar, plain stool helmet,
and major's epaulets, as if he were at the highest point of popularity.
No one greeted him, but he did not care, and he walked on with a quick
step, and military bearing; he reached the corner where
Friedrichsstrasse is divided by the lime-trees, opposite Kranzler's,
the well-known confectioner; there he went to a newspaper shop and
bought a morning number of Aunt Voss's newspaper, a few inquisitive
folks silently watching him with no friendly looks meanwhile, for every
one knew the head of the ministry.

He pursued his way, hastily skimming the newspaper, until he came to
the king's plain-looking square palace, opposite the colossal statue of
Frederick the Great, over which the royal standard, with its purple
ground and black eagles, waved in the morning wind.

The guard presented arms, and Bismarck entered the palace, and turned
to the left, on the raised ground floor, towards the king's apartments.
Here he found the equerry on duty. Major the Baron von Loën greeted
him, and began a conversation on indifferent subjects, until the hour
of audience arrived, which the king always observed with the most
conscientious punctuality.

In his large, simply-furnished work and reception room stood King
William himself, with his grey hair and youthful, powerfully built
figure. He had placed himself near the further window, from whence he
could look down on the Platz below, as he frequently did during an
audience, or while hearing a report, and through which the Berlin
public often saw him during the morning hours.

King William wore the black overcoat and white buttons of the first
regiment of foot guards; his fresh-coloured face with its strongly
marked, benevolent features, surrounded with white hair, and a
carefully kept white beard, was grave, almost melancholy, as he
listened to a man, who spoke to him upon the contents of various papers
in a large black portfolio.

This man, who was a head shorter than the king, was dressed in plain
black, with a white neck-handkerchief. His hair, which was quite white,
was brushed smoothly down on each side of his head, his face had a very
animated expression, and his keen, candid eyes, sparkling with good
humour and youthful fire, were fixed on the king.

It was the Privy Councillor Schneider, who was as well known as a
dramatic author, manager, and actor, as he was as a military writer; he
had been reader to Frederick William IV., and to William I., and for
many years a faithful servant to the royal family.

"You have spoken with the king?" asked the monarch.

"I have, your majesty," replied Schneider; "on my journey home from
Düsseldorf, where I had been to obtain some information for my
historical work, I was obliged to stop in Hanover, and as his majesty
King George has always shown me the most gracious marks of his favour,
as your majesty is aware, and as I feel for him the greatest sympathy
and respect, I drove to Herrenhausen, had myself announced, and
requested an audience. The king received me in his own apartments, and
his breakfast being just served, he graciously invited me to breakfast
with him. His majesty was most kind, and I experienced afresh the truly
magic charm of his manner."

"Yes," said King William, "my cousin George is of an amiable and noble
nature. I often wish we had remained nearer together. It would have
been better for Germany. He, alas! always feels enmity to Prussia."

"I cannot understand it," said Schneider; "personal aversion cannot
possibly be the cause, for I assure your majesty, the king delights in
recollections of his youth at Berlin, he feels a deep and filial
veneration for his late majesty Frederick William III., and he drew
from his wonderful memory numerous little traits and anecdotes of old
times, of Count Neale, and old Princess Wittgenstein----"

"For whom we princes felt such immense respect," said the king
laughing.

"And," continued Schneider, "I could see what pleasure the king felt in
these reminiscences, and how much he was interested by my own
recollections of the same times."

"And did you speak of the present political position?" asked the king.

"The conversation could not fail to touch upon that," said Schneider.
"I took the liberty of expressing my hopes that the king, from his
friendly remembrance of the Berlin court, would take your majesty's
side in the present sharp conflict, and that the old bond which united
Hanover and Prussia in the past, might be strengthened afresh."

"And what was his majesty's reply?" asked King William anxiously.

"The king spoke most candidly and openly," replied Schneider,
"displaying the chivalrous character I have always admired, when I have
had the honour of any intercourse with him. He assured me he had not
the smallest animosity against Prussia, though he is so often accused
of it; that he considered a German war would be the greatest of
misfortunes, and that from the laws of the Confederation, he should
consider it an impossibility, until it actually commenced. In such
wickedness and misery he would never take part."

"Why then did he not conclude a treaty of neutrality?" asked the king.

"But his Hanoverian majesty believes himself to be completely neutral,"
replied Schneider.

"Then I cannot understand it!" exclaimed King William; "Count Platen
always denied the conclusion which I so greatly desired."

"I know nothing, your majesty, of what Count Platen did, or did not do;
but of this I am certain, King George believes himself to be
maintaining the most complete neutrality."

"You do not believe he has concluded a treaty with Austria?" asked the
king.

"No, your majesty, I do not believe it, for the king said in the most
decided way, he would take no part whatever in this unholy war.
Nevertheless----"

"Nevertheless?" asked the king.

"Nevertheless his majesty said in the most clear and straightforward
manner," added Schneider, "that the Prussian endeavour to alter the
German Confederation of States into one Confederated State would never
obtain his consent, and that he should oppose with all his power any
such attempted reform of the Confederation, and should defend his own
sovereignty and the complete independence of his crown."

King William shook his head.

"I ventured to remark, that I was sure no one, your majesty least of
all, thought of interfering with the sovereignty of any prince, but
that a stronger military union was needful for Germany, and that the
most powerful state must be the leader of this offensive and defensive
alliance. I added that his majesty had been brought up as an English
prince, but that the policy of a small state like Hanover, could not be
conducted on the principles of a first-class power, with large fleets
and armies at command."

"Did not his majesty take that amiss?" asked King William.

"Not at all," returned Schneider, "he heard me with the greatest
kindness, and without interrupting me; he then said, without any heat,
but with the greatest firmness, 'My dear Schneider, my royal rights do
not depend on the extent of my territory. I hold my crown from God,
just as much as the ruler of the largest kingdom, in the world, and
never will I abate one tittle of my sovereign and absolute
independence, be the consequence what it may!' I remarked to his
majesty that it was not my business to interfere in any way with
politics, but that the decided declaration he had just made was of such
great importance at the present moment, that I felt it would be my duty
as a true servant to my king to communicate it to your majesty on my
return. King George fully agreed, and declared that his opinion on this
subject was no secret, and that he was ready to act up to it. He then
dismissed me in the most gracious and friendly manner."

"Then they are all against me!" cried King William after a moment's
reflection, and with a very sorrowful expression.

He gazed from the window, and his eyes rested for some time on the
statue of the Great Frederick.

"He too was alone!" he said softly, "and alone when greatest!"

His countenance became more cheerful, he glanced at his watch, then
smiled at his privy councillor, and said:

"Now, my dear Schneider, puff!" He made a little movement with his
mouth as if he were blowing something away and pointed to the door.

"I vanish, your majesty," cried Schneider, as with comic haste he
rushed to the door; there he stood still for a moment and said, "I wish
all your majesty's enemies could be as quickly dispersed by the breath
of your mouth."

The king remained alone.

"I stand then on the brink of decision!" said the king thoughtfully,
"and the fate of my house and of my kingdom lies at the point of the
sword. Who would have thought that I, called to the throne in my old
age, should yet have to undertake so great a war, and that I myself
should lead the newly organized army, the work of long thought and
zealous toil, which I believed I should bequeath to my son, as an
instrument, as a security for future power and greatness,--that I
myself should lead this army into the field, there to prove it on the
same battle fields where my great ancestor inscribed his name in such
glorious characters. And yet," he added with a dreamy look, "there
often came upon me a dark foreboding. When I stood before the altar at
Königsberg, there to be solemnly invested with the insignia of my royal
office, as I took the sword of state a feeling seized me, sudden and
unexpected, as a warning, or a promise from on high. I felt compelled
to use the sword against the enemies of my kingdom, who in a distant
assembly were conspiring against it, and from the depths of my heart a
vow arose to God, never to draw the sword without dire necessity, but
once drawn, to wield it in God's name, until the enemies of my people
lay beneath my feet! That foreboding is fulfilled," he whispered, "and
now let us go forward, and God be with us!"

The king folded his hands together and remained silent for a time, with
his head bent down.

Then he walked rapidly to his long writing-table, cheerful energy and
decision beaming from his face, and with a firm hand he rang his bell.

"The minister-president, Count Bismarck," he commanded, as the
gentleman-in-waiting appeared.

A few moments afterwards Bismarck entered the cabinet.

His quick penetrating grey eyes were fixed for a moment on the king.
Apparently he was satisfied with the expression upon his royal master's
features, for he said joyfully, as he drew some papers from his
uniform:

"Your majesty, the decision draws near! I hope the dismal fog will now
clear up, and disclose Prussia's brilliant armies, and that they for
the future will clear the road for us after all these blocks and
stoppages."

"What do you bring?" asked the king quietly. Count Bismarck hastily
turned over his papers. "Herr von Werther," he said, "announces his
departure from Vienna. He also informs us that Benedek is with the
army, and is dissatisfied with its condition."

"That I can well believe," said the king.

"Gablenz has also joined the army."

"I regret that this brave general is amongst our enemies!" remarked the
king; "he has fought with us, and may be dangerous."

"No general alone can be dangerous to us, your majesty, material is
wanting; besides they will not listen to his advice," said Bismarck
confidently. "At the same time," he added, "the mobilization of the
army of the Confederacy against Prussia was decreed in Frankfort
yesterday. By this measure war is virtually declared, and your majesty
must take immediate steps to forestall a danger which threatens our
operations on our own territory. Hanover and Hesse must be rendered
harmless."

"How was the measure taken in Frankfort?" asked the king; "have Hanover
and Hesse declared for Austria?"

"They have not taken up the Austrian demands," replied the minister,
"but they have consented to the mobilization. Always the same game of
see-saw!" he added, "but it will be very dangerous to us if these
states are not soon made unable to hurt us."

"They have not yet armed," said the king.

"After the decree of the Confederation they must arm; and besides, even
on a peace foundation, their armies might annoy us extremely," remarked
Count Bismarck. "I beg your majesty to proceed instantly with the
greatest vigour, and to command a march into Hanover and Hesse without
delay."

The king thought deeply.

"They refused to conclude the Treaty of Neutrality in Hanover and in
Cassel when we offered it," he said. "Now that the mobilization is
decreed, of course it is no longer the question. But they have always
preferred half measures, which seems to prove they would never venture
seriously and decidedly to declare against us. I will ask them once
more the clear and positive question, and give them the opportunity of
turning back on the dangerous road they are now taking."

"But, your majesty," exclaimed Count Bismarck, "time will be lost, and
time is precious!"

"Put your mind at ease, dear count," returned the king, "no time shall
be lost. The time of doubt and restlessness is past. The time for
action has come, for us there is no longer deliberation or a choice!"
Count Bismarck breathed freely again.

"But, pour l'acquit de ma conscience," said the king, "I will give one
last and serious warning to my royal cousins, for God knows it will be
hard to me to act against them. The ultimatum guaranteeing their
possessions, and offering them an alliance on the foundation of our
proposed reform of the Confederacy, is in the hands of the
ambassadors?" he asked.

"At your majesty's command," replied the minister.

"Then give a telegraphic order immediately that the ultimatum is to be
delivered, and that we will await an answer until this evening."

"The order shall go forthwith," said Count Bismarck, "but what if a
refusal, or as is more probable, an evasive answer is returned?" he
asked, with an anxious look at the king's face.

King William was silent for a moment, then he fixed his eyes with a
look of firm resolution on his minister, and answered:

"Then the ambassadors shall declare war!"

"God save the king!" cried Count Bismarck, with a loud voice, and a
look of the greatest satisfaction.

"Let the same be done in Dresden," said the king.

"In Dresden!" exclaimed Count Bismarck; "does your majesty believe that
Herr von Beust----?"

"I have nothing to do with Herr von Beust," replied the king with
dignity, "but I will once more offer King John my hand. If it be in
vain, the guilt of what follows will not rest with me."

"But," said Count Bismarck, "may I beg your majesty immediately to
command the military operations, which will be needful as soon as war
has been declared."

"I will summon Moltke, and give the requisite orders," said the king.

"May I call your majesty's attention to one point?" asked Count
Bismarck.

The king looked at him inquiringly.

"General von Manteuffel is coming with his troops from Holstein," said
Count Bismarck; "he has permission from Hanover to march through to
Minden. His advanced guard is before Harburg, and the vessels on the
Elbe are placed at his disposal. Harburg is without a garrison, but it
might easily be occupied from Stade, which has lately been strongly
garrisoned. It appears to me highly important, at the commencement of
hostilities, in case war is declared against Hanover, that we should
have Harburg in our own hands, as under adverse circumstances much time
might be lost there. I believe it would be very judicious if your
majesty were immediately to order Manteuffel to occupy Harburg. He has
a perfect right to do so, as he is permitted to be there on his march
by the Hanoverian Government. If the ultimatum is accepted by Hanover,
he marches quietly on; if it is rejected, he has an important point,
and the railway in his hands."

The king listened attentively,--he laughed as he nodded his head.

"You are right!" said he; "what a good thing it is to have a soldier
for one's minister. The orders shall be given."

"If your majesty will permit me, I will now go," said Count Bismarck,
"that the measures you have commanded may be promptly carried out."

He moved away as if about to withdraw.

"What news have we from Paris?" asked the king.

Count Bismarck walked back into the room. His expression was rather
gloomy.

"Benedetti is silent, your majesty, contrary to his usual custom; but
Count Goltz informs us they urge action in Paris, and he is given to
understand the emperor's inclination will cause him to side with
Austria, if we do not soon take some decided step. I have reason to
think," he added, "there is some separate treaty on foot about Venice,
and at the last moment we may find they have played us some trick, so I
have been informed by a reliable agent in Vienna; and Count Usedom
declares he is dissatisfied with the Italians, and that he meets with a
good deal that is of an equivocal nature. Nevertheless," continued the
minister, "I am not much disquieted by all these intrigues, they will
yield nothing in Vienna,--there they are still quite too much on the
high horse. However, I have sent instructions to Florence, desiring
them to be watchful and energetic, and to act in harmony with our
military operations."

"But what does the Emperor Napoleon want?" asked the king.

"Always to fish in troubled waters," replied Count Bismarck, with the
reckless candour peculiar to him; "but if he is now urging us to war, I
don't think the fishing will be lucky for him. I have questioned
Benedetti on the secret proceedings now going on between Paris and
Vienna. He declares he has been informed of nothing; but at least he
can let them know in Paris that _here_ we are not deaf of both ears."

"I have never thoroughly liked this Italian alliance," said the king,
"though I own its great usefulness. Oh! that it might have been
otherwise, and that, as in my youth, conjointly with Austria we might
have turned our arms in another direction."

The minister studied the king's face with anxious eyes.

"And if it had been otherwise," he cried, with animation, "your majesty
would never have been able to free Prussia, our glorious, rising
country, the creation of your great ancestor, from the chains with
which the envy and malice of the great European powers fettered her, by
the suggestion and guidance of Austria,--this Austria who never was
German, who used Germany only as a footstool for her ambition in
Europe, and who was always ready to sell, to betray, to divide it. No,
your majesty, I rejoice that we are forced to act, and that at last the
royal eagle may spread his wings freely in the air. 'Nec soli cedit' is
his motto, and he will fly to the sun, though the way be through
thunder-clouds. I see before me the great and brilliant future of
Prussia and of Germany, and I am proud and happy that it has been
granted to me to stand beside the king, who is the creator of this
future."

King William's clear gaze rested thoughtfully on the excited,
enthusiastic face of his minister. His own eyes had sparkled at the
words of the bold statesman who stood before him confident of victory,
but he raised his looks to heaven, and said quietly and simply--

"As God wills!"

Count Bismarck looked with emotion at his royal master as he stood
before him in such simple greatness, and an expression of astonishment
crossed his features, as the mighty sovereign, on the eve of a fearful
war, which must have so great an influence on the future, laid aside
all his hopes, all his ambition, all his misgivings, in these three
simple words.

"Has your majesty any further commands?" he asked, in a voice which
still showed traces of his former excitement.

"No," replied the king, "hasten to send off the despatches."

And with a friendly nod he dismissed the minister-president.

Count Bismarck left the king's cabinet and the palace, and walked back
quicker than he had come, to his own house in Wilhelmsstrasse, and he
heeded even less than before the angry looks cast at him as he walked
along under the lime trees. His face expressed proud satisfaction, and
his manner joyful confidence. The great war, which his feelings and his
convictions showed him to be unavoidable and necessary, was to begin,
and he believed in its happy termination with a firmness and security,
which excluded all doubt and hesitation.

On the ground floor of the minister's hotel, to which he was hastening
back on account of the many pressing affairs awaiting him, in a plain
office-like room, before a table piled with papers, sat Herr von
Keudell, the Minister of Legation. He was engaged in animated
conversation with a man of about six or seven and thirty, with fair
hair and moustache, whose open features of the North German type
possessed great mobility of expression, and whose clear grey eyes shone
with good nature, humour, and talent. This man, who was dressed with
the peculiar elegance only met with in large cities, sat leaning back
in a great arm-chair, which was placed near Herr von Keudell's writing
table. His manner was a mixture of the bourgeois and the dandy, and he
balanced his glossy hat on his knee, whilst with his hand he prevented
it from falling.

"You believe then, dear Beckmann," said Herr von Keudell, "it will be
possible to keep the Paris press in our favour during the war, and
eventually to prevent the voice of public opinion in France from
declaring for Austria?"

"Nothing easier," replied Herr Albert Beckmann, the clever and witty
editor of the newspaper the "Temps," who for the last twenty years had
lived in the journalist circles of Paris, and had acquired a perfect
knowledge of all the tastes and manners of the inhabitants of the great
capital of the world, without ever losing the peculiarities of his
German origin. "Nothing easier. Neffzer is devoted to you; he will
write you up from true conviction, otherwise we could not get him to do
it. The 'Siècle' is for you,--all liberal papers look on Prussia as
progress, on Austria as reaction, and they will greet any Prussian
success with joy,--they would all condemn an alliance of France with
Austria as the height of folly. To obtain the voices of these papers in
your favour is quite unnecessary; it will only be needful to give them
the right direction, by sending them all news, diplomatic and military,
quickly, and well arranged. With regard to that--je m'en charge!"

And he stroked his hand over the nap of his hat, twirled his small
light moustache, and leant back in his chair with a satisfied air.

"But the clerical papers, 'Le Monde,' 'L'Univers?'" asked Keudell.

"Ah! c'est plus difficile!" replied Herr Beckmann, "these gentlemen are
very Austrian, and hard to manage. In the 'Monde' the German
correspondent is a cousin of mine, Doctor Onno Klopp."

"Onno Klopp is your cousin?" asked Herr von Keudell.

"Il a cet avantage," said Beckmann; "and he writes under the name of
Hermann Schultze, but I must say he is very wearisome, and as he cannot
write in French all his articles have to be translated, which makes
them still more unpalatable to the public. Fortunately, it is enough
for these papers to take one side, to make all Paris take the other."

"But have they not great influence at court?"

"Pas du tout, not the smallest," replied Herr Beckmann, confidently;
"the emperor only attends to the independent papers, and never cares
what the ultramontane journals say. I can assure you one article in the
'Temps' or the 'Siècle' would have more influence on him than a whole
campaign in the 'Monde' or 'L'Univers.'"

"Do you not believe," suggested Keudell, "that the Austrian policy will
also work upon the press, and that they will do all they can to turn
public opinion in France in favour of Austria? They will not scruple as
to means. Prince Metternich----"

"Ah! bah!" cried Beckmann. "Prince Metternich will do nothing; he is
_trop grand seigneur_ to work on the press. He has the Chevalier
Debraux de Saldapenha at his side, who will write him an article in his
Mémorial Diplomatique, very fine, very diplomatic, very elevated, and
which no one will read. Enfin," he added, "true public opinion will be
for you. Ollivier too--Emile Ollivier, the Roman citizen, with a
longing in his heart for the portfolio," he said, with a laugh, "is
quite Prussian, and will do more with his conversation than any
newspaper."

"You think the portfolio has charms for Emile Ollivier?" asked Keudell,
with surprise.

"He will be minister one day," replied Herr Beckmann, confidently, "on
fera cette bêtise. For the present he is the man of the opposition, and
his voice is powerful. He is out and out the partizan of Prussian
supremacy in Germany; that suffices. There are still," he continued,
"the 'Revues hebdomadaires;' they have as much influence as the daily
papers, as they are read quietly and digested. But we are fortunate in
occupying the territory beforehand. I know all the editors, and I think
I can easily work upon them in your favour. You remember how favourably
my pamphlet, 'Le Traité de Gastein,' was received? I wrote it after I
had had the honour of talking to the minister-president at Wiesbaden."

"Certainly," said Keudell. "I was surprised at the support we received
from the French press; and we are still thankful to you for it."

"Pas de quoi," said Herr Beckmann, "I acted from conviction. I wished
Count Bismarck's ideas on a newly-constituted Germany to have a
favourable hearing in France, and I will still work for the same cause,
because I consider his plans just and right. _Apropos_, did you know
that Hansen is here?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Herr von Keudell.

"I bet he will stay some time," said Beckmann, with a quick side
glance, "to watch the situation. You can work through him. What you
impart to him will go to the right place, and will reach the press."

Keudell slightly bowed his head.

"Now," said Beckmann, "I think I had better go back as fast as I can to
Paris, and open the campaign."

He rose. A servant entered.

"His excellency awaits the Minister of Legation."

"I come," said Keudell. He gave Beckmann his hand, and said: "Let us
soon hear of your diligence. You will pass through Hanover just in time
to see the general flight."

"I am sorry Hanover is against you," said Beckmann. "It is my own
country, and though I left it so long ago, I have a natural and deep
regard for it. However, it will be all right when the great conflict is
once over; now Fate must have her way."

And he took leave of Herr von Keudell, who forthwith mounted the broad
staircase which led to the minister's room's.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                     THE LAST DAY AT HERRENHAUSEN.


King George of Hanover sat in the forenoon of the same 15th of June in
his cabinet at Herrenhausen. The fresh air blew through the open
windows, the flowers in the room gave out a pleasant perfume, and the
fountains splashed and sparkled before the king's windows in, his own
especial garden. Everything in the royal residence breathed rest and
profound peace, placed as it was quite out of the noise of the town in
delightful solitude.

Privy councillor Lex sat at the table near the king, occupied in
reading aloud to him the events which had just taken place.

The attendant had brought the king a cigar with some long wooden tongs,
and George V. leant comfortably back in his arm chair, slowly blowing a
thin blue cloud from the fragrant leaf of the havannah.

"The result of the votes at Frankfort yesterday is known, your
majesty," said Lex.

"Well?" said the king, enquiringly.

"The mobilization of the army of the Confederacy was decided upon by
nine votes against six."

"That is a majority in favour of Austria, which was hardly to be
desired," said the king. "We are placed by it in an embarrassing
situation; however the modification which the votes of Hanover and
Hesse will give the measure will deprive it of much of its point."

"I must humbly remark to your majesty that this modification, which
mobilizes the Prussian Army Corps with us, while sending back the
Austrian, has not been accepted by the majority of voices, and
according to my humble opinion it is of very small importance, for
matters have come to a point where no legal subtlety, but only powerful
deeds can influence the scale."

"But," said the king, "Count Platen believed our vote would cause more
moderate measures at Vienna and Berlin----"

"Prussia apparently did not share his views," said Lex, glancing at the
despatches before him, "for the Prussian ambassador left the assembly
of the Confederation as soon as the votes were declared. He stated that
his government considered itself freed from the Confederation, but that
it was willing to conclude a new Confederacy upon the basis of the
reform project, with individual governments."

"Has it come to this," cried the king, with concern, as he raised
himself upright in his chair; "then our German Confederation, the
bulwark of peace in Germany and Europe, has given way. What times are
ours! But," he added, after a moment's thought, "how can Prussia regard
herself as freed from the Confederation? it is contrary to every
fundamental law, and the whole of Germany must cling to it all the more
closely!"

"I fear the Confederation, which was strong and safe when supported by
Austria and Prussia, will have no life left in it when it is deprived
of Prussia," said Lex.

The king was silent.

"I am in great anxiety about the future," continued Lex, with a sigh.
"I should be infinitely happier if the treaty of neutrality was in your
majesty's hands."

"But, good God!" cried the king, "I have continually declared my
determination to remain neutral."

"But the treaty is not concluded," said Lex.

"The Prince of Hesse did not wish to be bound," said the king. "They
sent Wimpffen to him from Vienna and my brother Karl to me. You know,
the prince replied to me through Meding that he could not form any
definite resolution, or conclude any treaty, until the lamentable
rupture of the German Confederation was an actual fact. However, he is
as determined as I am, to remain neutral. If I were to be hasty in
concluding a treaty, from what Count Platen tells me it would alarm
them much in Frankfort, and wound them deeply in Vienna."

"I am decidedly of opinion your majesty should have concluded a treaty
of neutrality without caring for the alarm it might cause in Frankfort,
and if it is still possible, I advise you immediately to conclude such
a treaty, without heeding the dissuasions of Count Platen. It is better
to sit on one stool than between two."

"You are right!" cried the king, "the thing must come to an end, and
neutrality entirely expresses my intentions. Not even the lamentable
event in Frankfort can alter my convictions, and I should be acting in
direct opposition to them if I took part in any war between two members
of the German Confederation. I will summon Platen, and command him
immediately to continue the negotiations for the conclusion of the
treaty of neutrality."

"I am convinced," said Lex, with satisfaction, "that your majesty will
do well, and I shall be at rest, when the treaty is safely in our
Archives."

A gentleman in waiting entered.

"Count Platen urgently begs an immediate audience!"

"Let him come in!" cried the king, with surprise.

Lex's face became puckered with anxiety.

Count Platen entered. The indifferent, self-satisfied calm which his
face formerly wore had given place to an expression of thoughtful
anxiety.

Lex looked at him attentively and uneasily.

"What brings you here in such haste, Count Platen?" cried the king.

"A note," replied the minister, approaching the king's writing-table,
"has just been given to me by Prince Ysenburg, on which I am obliged
immediately to beg your majesty's gracious decision."

"Well!" said the king anxiously, "what do they want in Berlin? I was
just talking about our neutrality, and it appears to me that since the
Confederation, alas! is virtually burst asunder, the treaty commenced
by verbal negotiations should be at once concluded."

"Your majesty," said Count Platen, as he drew a folded paper from his
pocket, "it seems they now require much more in Berlin."

"More!" exclaimed the king, while an expression of surprise and pain
was seen on his contracted brows; "what can they require more?"

"They now demand an alliance on the foundation of the Prussian reform
project; in return, the sovereignty and possessions of your majesty are
to be guaranteed."

"But this is something quite new!" cried the king.

"Too late!" said Lex softly to himself, as he bent his head.

"This reform project," said the king with animation, "takes from me the
largest and most essential part of my sovereignty. I have once and for
all refused it, and I will never accept it. What sovereignty would be
left to guarantee, after I had yielded the most essential conditions of
sovereignty? Tell Prince Ysenburg----"

"Will your majesty," said Count Platen, "be pleased to listen to Prince
Ysenburg's note? The situation is grave--he will wait for your answer
until this evening, and if it is not satisfactory, viz. if your majesty
does not accept the alliance, Prussia will regard it as a declaration
of war from Hanover."

The king stood up.

"Have we come to that?" cried he; "but read!"

He covered his face with his hands, and leant back in his chair. Count
Platen unfolded the paper he held in his hand, and read the Prussian
ultimatum, dated the same day.

Whilst he read the king neither spoke nor moved. As Count Platen ended
he raised his head--his features expressing deep earnestness.

"What is your opinion?" he asked calmly.

"Your majesty," said Count Platen, in a somewhat hesitating and
uncertain voice, "I think matters have hardly gone as far as this note
would imply,--they wish to exercise severe pressure; and I believe if
we could only gain time----"

"But the reply must be given this evening!" interrupted Lex, with a
slight tone of impatience in his voice.

"Certainly," said Count Platen, "your majesty must give an answer, but
there is always a _moyen terme_ to be found; we may reply that your
majesty is willing to conclude a treaty with Prussia; we must avoid the
word alliance, but the conditions must first be discussed,--this will
give us several days; in the meantime events may happen. Count
Ingelheim hourly expects to hear that the Austrians have marched into
Saxony, and we can act according to these events."

"My opinion remains fixed!" said the king, with an expression of firm
determination on his proud features, and a movement full of dignity as
he threw back his head; "the projected reform, on the foundation of
which I am to conclude an alliance, curtails the independence and the
holiest rights of the crown, which I inherited from my ancestors, which
is guaranteed to me by the whole of Europe, and which I am pledged to
leave to my son in the same entire independence. Whilst this is my
conviction, I can give but one answer to the Prussian proposal, and
that answer is, No! But," he added, "I will have no prevarication,
no dilatory negotiations; I wish them clearly to understand me in
Berlin,--the neutrality I promised I will keep to, and I am ready
formally to conclude it; but to this proposal I will never consent!"

Lex was silent.

Count Platen folded Prince Ysenburg's note and unfolded it again,--he
seemed trying to find some modification to the king's decided reply.

George V. rose.

"The position," he said, "in which my family and my kingdom are placed
is so grave, and what now occurs is of such immense importance in
regard to the future, that I wish to hear the opinion of my assembled
ministers."

Count Platen gave a sigh of relief, and nodded approval with his head.

"Drive back to town at once, my dear count, and assemble the ministers
without delay."

"Your majesty's commands shall be obeyed," said the count hastily.

"We must," added the king, "take immediate measures for concentrating
the army, which is scattered over the country. I must prevent all
needless bloodshed in our own country, and I shall march with the army
into South Germany immediately, there to act in concert with my
confederates. Thus my kingdom will at least be spared the horrors of
war, though I cannot protect it from being occupied by the enemy."

"Your majesty will march yourself!" cried Count Platen.

"I will do my duty," interrupted the king with dignity; "when my
soldiers take the field, my place is amongst them. Send mounted
orderlies to my adjutant-general, to the chief of the general staff,
and to the commandant of the corps of engineers," he said to Lex; "and
you, my dear count, hasten and bring back the other ministers as
quickly as possible!"

Count Platen and Lex departed.

The king remained alone.

He sat motionless before his table, as if lost in thought. His head
sank down deeper and deeper, and occasionally a heavy sigh came from
his labouring breast; then he put back his head, and raised his
sightless eyes to heaven in silent enquiry.

Both the folding doors were suddenly thrown open, and the groom of the
chambers exclaimed:

"Her majesty the queen!"

George V. roused himself, and stood up.

The queen hastily entered the cabinet, and walked up to her husband,
who stretched out his hands towards her, and kissed her on the
forehead.

Queen Marie was about forty-five years of age, her figure was tall, and
still possessed its youthful elasticity, and her movements were
extremely graceful. Her face, surrounded by abundant light brown hair,
no longer had the fresh rosy colouring and childish features which
appeared in her large half-length portrait, taken at the time of her
marriage when Crown Princess, which was hanging over the king's writing
table; but her pure, expressive, and intelligent face was still
beautiful, and her dark grey eyes sparkled with goodness and animation.
But now those eyes were full of care and uneasiness, and there was
painful excitement in her voice as she said, looking up at her husband:

"I saw from my window Count Platen come and go hastily, and in this
time of anxiety and difficulty I always fear some evil tidings. Is it
anything important?" she asked in her strangely beautiful and flexible
voice, whilst she looked anxiously at the grave, almost solemn
countenance of the king.

George V. replied:

"It would be foolish to say it is nothing; you would soon discover the
truth, and a queen will know how to face great perils."

He laid his hand gently on her head.

"Yes, it is important," he said; "this evening we shall be at war with
Prussia."

"Oh! my God!" cried the queen, shuddering, "how is that possible? you
had determined to remain neutral!"

"They offer me conditions which I cannot accept, without injuring the
honour and dignity of my crown. I must refuse--and then war is
declared!" said the king in a gentle voice, as if he wished to make the
hard tidings easier to bear.

"Horrible!" exclaimed the queen. "Is no escape possible, can I not
perhaps mediate?" she cried, as if seized by a sudden inspiration.
"Queen Augusta will recoil as I do from such a fratricidal war."

"Yes, it is indeed a fratricidal war," said the king, "for in many a
family, whilst one brother fights for me, another will be in the
Prussian service; but nothing can be done, believe me it is so. I am
sure the only thing I can do now is to prevent, as far as possible,
bloodshed in my own country. Count Platen believes he can still
negotiate."

"Oh! that he had not negotiated so long," cried the queen impetuously,
"then we should not have been in this dreadful position, no help on
either side; at least we should not have been without Gablenz and his
troops. Believe me, my own dear husband," she cried affectionately,
"Platen's ridiculous indecision has plunged us all into misfortune."

The king listened with a gloomy look.

"Nothing can be altered now," he said, "the situation must be struggled
with as it now is. This night I shall join the army with Ernest; I
shall assemble it in the south of the kingdom, that we may reach the
southern troops as soon as possible."

"And we--where shall we go?" cried the queen anxiously.

The king took her head between his two hands, and impressed a kiss upon
her brow, then he said, with extreme mildness and gentleness, but with
equal determination:

"You and the princesses must remain here."

"Here?" cried the queen, taking a step backwards in her extreme
surprise, whilst she gazed with frightened eyes upon her
husband--"here? during the enemy's occupation! Impossible, you cannot
intend it."

"I do intend it," said the king, "and you, my angel-queen, will be of
my opinion when you think over it quietly, of that I am convinced."

The queen looked at him inquiringly, but slightly shook her head.

"I desire," continued the king, "to spare my country all the horrors of
war, and to preserve my army from being overpowered in a useless
struggle, therefore I must lead them to join the South German army, and
thus take a part in the great conflict. From the foreign occupation,
with its humiliations, its pain, and its sorrows, I cannot shield my
subjects and the families of my country. They must see the soldiers of
the enemy in their homes, they must admit them to their houses, whilst
their own sons oppose them in the field. As I, with my son, share the
fate of the army, so must you, the queen, with our daughters, share the
fate of the country; that is our royal duty; no family in Hanover must
say that the family of the king acted differently to what was required
of the subjects; we are united to our country by bonds which have
endured a thousand years, we are flesh of its flesh, and blood of its
blood; could you permit it to be said, 'the queen sat still in safety,
whilst heavy times oppressed her country?'"

He stretched out his hand to feel for his wife, whilst his head turned
towards the side on which he heard the slight rustling of her dress.

The queen had folded her hands together; her eyes had been fixed on her
husband, and had gradually lost their expression of fear and anguish;
now they shone through tears upon the king.

As he ceased speaking she took his outstretched hand, put his arm
around her shoulders, and pressed close to him.

"You are right!" she cried, "Oh! as ever you are right! Your great,
noble heart always knows what is good and just. Yes, my king, my
husband, I will stay here, separated from you, but united through our
country, our love, our duty!"

"I knew that you would be of my opinion," said the king calmly and
affectionately. "My queen could not think and feel differently to
myself."

And they stood for some time in a silent embrace. The queen wept
quietly, and laid her head upon the king's broad breast, and with his
hand he gently stroked her luxuriant hair.

The flowers still gave out their perfume, the fountains plashed on, the
birds sang in the trees, and all nature breathed happy peace; and over
all the sunshine, over all the sweet spring scents and the singing,
hung unseen the heavy thunder-cloud and the forked flash which was to
destroy all this quiet happiness, all this royal splendour, for ever.

A knock was heard at the door.

The king gently put the queen from him.

"The ministers await your commands," said Lex, as he entered.

"Now," said the king gently to his wife, "leave me to arrange what is
needful with the ministers. We will see one another again."

"May God bless your councils," said the queen fervently.

"These are evil times, dear Lex," said the queen, affectionately, to
the privy councillor, who bowed low as she passed him; "would that they
were safely over!" And she slowly left the king's cabinet.

The ministers entered and seated themselves around the table.

Besides Count Platen, Bacmeister, and General von Brandis, the minister
of the household and supreme chamberlain, von Malortie, was present. He
was an old gentleman, with short grey hair and a small wrinkled face,
who, from his discontented expression, bent figure, tall black necktie,
and half buttoned-up frock-coat, looked more like an invalided
government clerk than the witty composer of a book considered as an
authority at every court, "The Lord Chamberlain as he should be."

There was besides the minister of equity, Leonhardt, the well-known
lawmaker, a plain, slight man, with thin hair and sharply-cut,
intelligent features, whose expressive, animated, and penetrating eyes
were concealed behind silver spectacles; the minister for education,
von Hodenburg, a fair man, who was still young, and who had formerly
been diplomatic resident at the Hague; and also the young minister of
finance, Dietrichs, who had been named as secretary by Count Platen--a
highly-aristocratic minister, and whom the king had appointed, saying,
"If he has ability, and if he works, he will some day be minister
himself."

All these gentlemen had entered the king's cabinet in deep and solemn
silence. When they had taken their places, George V. spoke:

"Gentlemen, the King of Prussia, through the ambassador at my court,
has proposed to conclude an alliance with me, now that the German
Confederation is at an end. You know what has taken place in Frankfort.
I do not consider the dissolution of the German Confederacy as lawfully
accomplished by the declaration of the Prussian ambassador, though,
alas! I must acknowledge that the German union is in fact broken. Since
the misfortune to Germany is unavoidable, of a war between Austria and
Prussia, I desire, as I repeat before you all, to enter into a treaty
of neutrality with the King of Prussia. But that is not what his
Majesty of Prussia requires of me. Count Platen, I beg you to read
aloud Prince Ysenburg's note."

Count Platen slowly read the Prussian ultimatum. When he had ended, the
king again spoke:

"I believe, gentlemen, that you are acquainted with the Prussian
project of reform on the foundation of which I should have to conclude
this alliance?"

The ministers simultaneously assented.

"I should resign," continued the king, "authority over, and the command
of, my army in time of war--the army of Minden, of the Peninsula, of
Garcia, Fernandez, of Waterloo--and this army would then be compelled
to march against the united German forces who have taken the side of
Austria. I ask you, my ministers, before God and your consciences, and
upon the oath you have taken to me and to your country. Can I accept
this proposition? Can I as the defender of the royal rights of my
family? Can I as the defender of my country? Can I according to the
constitution of the kingdom? Answer first, Count Platen, as minister of
foreign affairs."

Count Platen rubbed his hands gently together, rocked himself slightly
to and fro, and replied: "No, your majesty. It would perhaps----"

"And you, Herr von Malortie, as minister of my household?"

The chamberlain, who sat huddled up more than usual in his black
neckcloth and frock-coat, said in a low voice, "No, your majesty."

"And you, my minister of equity?"

Leonhardt answered shortly, in a clear, firm voice, "No!"

"The minister of the interior?"

"No, never!" replied Bacmeister.

The ministers of war, of education, and of finance gave the same
answer.

The king rose, the assembled ministers with him.

"I perceive with great pleasure, gentlemen," said George V., "that you
all give the same answer to the Prussian proposal which I, from regard
to the rights of my crown and of my country, immediately gave to Count
Platen when he first read me the ultimatum. It is a great comfort to me
to find myself at one with my assembled ministers on so important a
question; not, gentlemen, that I shun the responsibility, or wish to
lay it upon your shoulders"--the king raised his head proudly--"but
this unanimous answer from you all, I regard as a pledge that the
sufferings which my country may have to bear, from refusing the
Prussian proposition, are unavoidably and inevitably sent from God. If,
however, we are all of one mind that I cannot accept the alliance on
the basis proposed, we must all immediately take the measures our very
serious position requires. I shall lead the army into south Germany,
and I must, therefore, concentrate it at once in the south of the
kingdom. I must immediately arrange the details with my generals. The
queen and the princesses will remain here, and will share the fate of
the country!"

A murmur of applause was heard.

"Your majesty," said Bacmeister, "I must ask you to decide at once on a
relevant question."

"What is it?" asked the king.

"General von Manteuffel is at Harburg," said the minister, "and demands
railway carriages in which to transport the Prussian troops to Minden.
The railway directors want to know what they must do."

The king gnashed his teeth.

"When war is declared he will be in the centre of the country!" he
cried. "Order all the carriages to be sent here at once. We shall
require them for the transport of the troops."

"Further," continued the minister, "we must dissolve the States
Assembly under these circumstances. When Count Platen confided to me
our position, I drew up the order of dissolution."

"Produce it," cried the king.

The minister laid the order upon the table.

"The secretary-general is without," said he.

"Let him come in!"

Bacmeister hastened out, and returned with the secretary-general of the
ministry, in whose presence the king executed the order for the
dissolution of the States Assembly.

"And now, gentlemen," he exclaimed, "you will all go to work in your
different ways, to struggle against these evil times, and may the
triune, almighty, and just God grant that I may once more see you here
again, happily assembled around me. I beg Count Platen and General
Brandis to remain."

The other ministers bowed gravely and silently, and left the cabinet.

"You will now, Count Platen," said the king, "give Prince Ysenburg his
answer, as clear and decided an answer as you have all pronounced!"

"I will obey your commands, your majesty," said Count Platen. "You do
not, however, command a form which will entirely exclude all
possibility of future negotiations?"

"You still believe in negotiations?" exclaimed the king. "Let the reply
be friendly and courteous," he added; "let my desire for neutrality be
again expressed, but on the subject of the reform project let there be
no doubt."

"If it be your majesty's pleasure," said Count Platen, "I think Herr
von Meding should draw up our reply. He will be sure to use no harsh
expressions, and from his talent in the choice of words----"

"Let Meding draw up our reply by all means," interrupted the king, "but
I fear the best words will have no result. Send Meding to me with our
answer as soon as it is ready."

"I will obey your commands, your majesty," said Count Platen, as he
hastily withdrew.

"You, my dear general, must remain here," said the king, turning to the
minister of war, "in order to discuss with me, the adjutant-general,
and the chief of the staff the best means of concentrating the army."

"Are the generals here?" he inquired of Lex.

"They await your majesty's commands," he replied.

"Let them come in."

"I feel young again," said General von Brandis, "at the thought of
taking the field with your majesty and the army. My heart beats, as in
the time of the great Wellington!"

"Then Germany was united," said the king, with a deep sigh.

The generals sat in consultation at Herrenhausen, the aides-de-camp
galloped to and from the town, the telegraph conveyed orders to all the
commandants of troops in the kingdom, and the city of Hanover was in a
fever of excitement. Small crowds assembled in the usually quiet
streets, and the position of affairs was loudly discussed. Immense was
the excitement when one of the initiated imparted the great news--the
army is to march into South Germany, the king goes with it. For some
time past the feelings of the people had been extremely anti-Prussian,
the king had been openly blamed for allowing the Kalik brigade and
General Gablenz to go, every possible ovation had been given to the
Austrian troops, and now--when a war was inevitable, when the gravity
of the position was apparent to every one, the people felt overwhelmed
with disquiet and care. And that the king himself was to go, seemed
completely to stun the good Hanoverians.

They may take the line of opposition, they may blame and criticize what
had been done, and what had not been done,--but the capital without the
king,--the idea was horrible and beyond belief, and already voices were
raised bestowing blame. "The king leaves us alone; the enemy will have
no restraint, we shall be given up to pillage."

But then the reply was heard, "The queen remains here with the
princesses; they will protect the capital by their presence, a royal
lady must be respected," and this intelligence reassured many.

All sorts of notions were discussed, the most timid hastened to the
burgomaster and the burgher superintendents, to stir them up to take
some step to prevent the king from leaving the city; others urged the
concentration of the troops in the capital; others proposed the
destruction of the railways; in a word endless advice, political and
military, was given away in the streets, and each adviser thought his
plan the only one which could save the city and the country. In the
meantime the troops in garrison at Hanover marched to the station, and
were sent off by railway; other battalions and squadrons arrived, and
after a short delay were also dispatched, but everything was done so
quietly that the crowd standing about the railway station never
perceived the military proceedings.

In the large square before the station stood a group of citizens in
earnest conversation, whilst a small dark man with a pale face and
brilliant eyes endeavoured to calm them. They were large powerful men
of the old Saxon race, who may be relied upon to act, under
circumstances which they understand, but who lose all their courage and
presence of mind if they find themselves in an unusual and unexpected
position. The North German and Saxon character always requires time to
accustom itself to new and unforeseen events, before it can show all
its worth; everything new, sudden, and unusual, stuns it, and cripples
its powers.

So it was now; these strong powerful men, with their large
characteristic features, stood looking depressed and puzzled, an
expression of great discontent and displeasure upon their faces, and
their displeasure they were quite ready to pour out upon the
government, for they were accustomed to hold the government answerable
for everything, and to sulk with it, if the calm routine of their daily
life was disturbed.

"But do be reasonable," cried the small pale man, gesticulating
energetically; "you are no longer children, and you surely might have
foreseen that they would not go on for ever in Germany, speechifying
and resolving over their beer, but that in the end they would _do_
something. Besides, you know nothing as yet for certain."

"That is what is so wrong," interrupted a large corpulent man, with a
deep bass voice; "that is what is so wrong; we know nothing; we might
at least be informed of what is about to take place, then every citizen
might set his house in order, and provide for the future."

"But wait," cried the little man vehemently; "you have heard that the
generals are now at Herrenhausen with the king, and that the ministers
have only just returned. How can you be told of things until they are
decided upon? I suppose," he said, laughing scornfully, "the king
should call the whole town and the suburbs to his councils."

"Sonntag is right!" said a thin old man, in a plain burgher dress, and
speaking in the Saxon Low German, still commonly used by the middle and
lower classes in town and country. "Sonntag is right; we must wait and
see what will happen; the king will tell us all in good time; he
certainly will not leave us without saying what we are to do; he is the
son of Ernest Augustus," he said soothingly to the other burghers, who
evidently listened to him with much greater confidence than they had
bestowed on the small, pale, animated merchant, Sonntag.

"Look!" cried the latter suddenly; "there is Count Wedel's carriage at
the railway station!" and he pointed out an elegant open carriage which
had drawn up before the large entrance to the station, whilst the
beautiful horses pawed the ground; "let us wait for the count, he will
know what is going on."

He hastened to the carriage, the others following him.

In a short time the governor of the castle, Count Alfred Wedel, came
out of the station in undress uniform.

He saw with astonishment a crowd of citizens surrounding his carriage
as if they wished to block up the road.

"Come, what is going on here?" he asked kindly; "you here, Herr
Sonntag? and you too, old Conrad?" and he walked towards the old
weather-beaten man, who, with Sonntag, had left the crowd, and going
close up to him he offered him his hand.

"Count," said Conrad, the old court saddler, a veteran who had fought
in the great wars, and who had been an especial favourite with King
Ernest Augustus, who used often to talk to him, and who enjoyed his
extremely unceremonious answers, which usually contained a good deal of
national wit, "Count," and he pushed aside Herr Sonntag, who was
anxious to speak, with his strong hand, "we are all in much trouble and
uneasiness about what is going to happen. We do hear, now and then,
that war is about to break out, and the king is going to leave
us,--that makes all the citizens very uncomfortable about the fate of
the town, and we all want to know something for certain."

"Yes," cried the merchant Sonntag, who had freed himself from Conrad's
restraining hand, and who now stepped forward; "yes, count, all these
gentlemen are very anxious and uneasy, quite ready to lose all courage.
I have taken great pains to calm them, but in vain. I pray you, sir, to
tell them what is taking place, and what they ought to do."

An expression of anxiety was seen on all the faces as they turned to
the handsome, strongly made young man who before replying examined the
crowd for a moment with his clear calm gaze.

"What is taking place?" he then said in a loud firm voice; "that is
easily told, war stands before the gate, and the king takes the field
with the army."

"And leaves us here behind in an open town!" was murmured by the crowd.

A bright flush passed over the young count's brow, and an indignant
look flashed from his eyes as he heard the complaint.

"Does not the Hanoverian soldier march and leave his family at home?"
he cried. "The queen and the princesses remain here, and I stay with
her majesty."

"Ah!" resounded from the crowd, "if the queen stays here it is not so
bad a look-out for the city."

"Bad or good, the queen shares your fate, and the king his soldiers';
is that right or wrong? Answer," cried Count Wedel.

"Right," cried old Conrad in a loud voice, and "Yes! yes!" was faintly
echoed by the crowd.

"But," added Count Wedel, in a loud and grave voice, "you have asked me
what you are to do."

He advanced a step or two, until, he was quite surrounded by the
citizens, and he turned his flashing eyes from one to another.

"What!" he cried, "Hanoverian citizens do not know what they are to do
when their country is in danger, and their king and the army take the
field? Old Conrad can tell you better than I, what he saw in the old
times of which I have only heard the history. The army is on the peace
foundation," he continued with animation, "everything is wanting,
transport, stores, help of all kinds, the cannon have to be taken from
the arsenal to the railway station, and Hanoverian citizens stand still
to murmur and complain? Get horses and workers, and if the horses will
not hold out, we will draw them ourselves, for I will be amongst you as
soon as my duty permits. The army takes the field," he continued, "and
the commissariat must be organized; are the soldiers to starve? Form
committees to provide abundance of food and drink here at the railway
station from whence it can be sent off to the different magazines as
necessity may arise. And," he cried, "to-day or to-morrow the troops
may encounter the enemy, there will be plenty of sick and wounded, and
you must prevent your wives from complaining and lamenting. Let them
make bandages and scrape lint, it will be wanted; go to my wife, she
will advise you how to arrange everything. And further, how often have
you played at soldiers at your rifle clubs; now the troops are going,
shall the queen remain unguarded in Herrenhausen? Is there no citizen
who will keep guard over the queen when the king trusts her to his
capital? Now," he added slowly, "I have told you what you have to do,
and there is so much to be done, that really there is no time for
anyone to stand here to idle and grumble."

The citizens were silent; the little merchant Sonntag examined them
with looks of triumph.

Old Conrad scratched behind his ear.

"Donnerwetter!" he broke out at last; "the count speaks the truth, and
a shame it is that we old fellows should have to be told all that by a
young gentleman. But now come on," he cried in a loud voice, "let us
all set to work, let us separate, and assemble the citizens, here is
Sonntag who understands it, he shall make the committees, I am off to
the arsenal." He walked up to Count Wedel. "You are true Hanoverian
blood, count!" he said bluntly, "and you have spoken your mind plainly;
but you were quite right, and you shall see the citizens of Hanover on
the move--and you old fellow up there!" he cried, taking off his cap
and looking up at the bronze statue of King Ernest Augustus, standing
in the midst of the square, "you shall see how old Conrad and all the
Hanoverians will stand by your son!"

He offered his hand to the count, who shook it heartily.

All the citizens seemed changed as if by magic. The discontent and
restlessness had gone from their faces, and their looks expressed high
courage and firm determination. They all crowded round Count Wedel as
he got into his carriage and offered him their strong hard hands.

The horses started at a rapid pace and the carriage rolled away on the
road to Herrenhausen. An hour later the appearance of the town was
completely changed.

No longer whispering groups of idlers were seen standing in the
streets, everywhere there was intelligent, cheerful, energetic
industry, men of all classes, artisans and servants, dragged carriages
and hand-barrows laden with arms from the arsenal to the railway.
Others brought cartloads of provisions of every kind, some for the
consumption of the troops on their journey, some to be forwarded to the
different magazines. The women hurried about the streets with light
steps and busy looks, making collections and receiving promises of
help. The most influential ladies presented themselves at the door of
Count Wedel's new imposing-looking house. They were received by the
countess, and formed into one large committee.

Old Conrad was at the arsenal assisting in loading the arms, now
ordering, now rebuking the unskilful with a round oath, and everywhere,
on whatever side you turned, was the merchant Sonntag, paler than usual
from excitement, hot with talking so much, ordering, encouraging,
animating those around to unceasing and fruitful exertions.

Thus evening fell upon the city, and the sun set for the last time upon
the Guelphic king in the castle of his forefathers.

It was nine o'clock when the minister Meding drove rapidly along the
broad road, lighted on either side by gas lamps, to Herrenhausen, with
the answer to the Prussian ultimatum.

As he mounted the steps, it seemed as if the uneasiness and activity
which prevailed in the city had not spread to the palace. The porter
stood as usual before his lodge, the servants in their scarlet liveries
moved noiselessly through the large vestibules, but on every face
appeared deep anxiety.

In the courtyard were several waggons, with lighted lamps, and the
under servants were filling them with coffers. With anxious expectation
the attendants saw the well-known confidant of the king arrive at so
unusual an hour, but severe etiquette prevented a word of inquiry,
though the uneasy looks betrayed the fears to which each was a prey.

"Is the king in his cabinet?" inquired Meding.

"His majesty is with the queen."

Meding ascended the stairs to the floor above, which he had so often
seen crowded by the brilliant uniforms of officers, and the elegant
toilettes of ladies, and which now looked empty and lonely in the light
of the candelabra.

Before the door of the queen's apartments her groom of the chambers,
with snow-white hair, sat in a large armchair, and the king's groom of
the chambers stood beside him.

"Inform his majesty that I am here!" said Herr Meding.

The attendant hesitated a moment.

"Forgive me," he said, "for asking if war is really to break out, and
if we shall have the enemy here?"

"It is too true, my dear Mahlmann," said Herr Meding, in a sad voice,
"but announce me at once, no time must be lost."

"Oh! my God! what times!" cried the king's groom of the chambers, as he
entered the apartments, while the queen's grey-headed servant covered
his face with his hands.

Herr Meding following the king's attendant through the large ante-room
and was shown at once into the queen's drawing-room. Here all the royal
family were assembled round the tea-table.

The king wore a general's uniform, and sat beside the queen smiling and
cheerful; she commanded herself and repressed the tears she could
hardly refrain from shedding. Next the queen sat the Princess Marie, a
slender maiden of seventeen, with beautiful and noble features, and
large blue enthusiastic eyes; less accustomed to self-command than her
mother, she could not help weeping, and her handkerchief had frequently
to be applied to prevent her tears from falling. On the other side of
the king sat his eldest daughter, the Princess Frederika; fair, tall,
and slender, she greatly resembled her sister, but her face possessed
her father's noble expression, and although she was entirely without
haughtiness or self-esteem, her whole bearing, her every movement, bore
witness to her royal birth. She did not weep, her large clear blue eyes
looked proud and brave, sometimes the beautiful teeth bit the full
fresh lips, and in her heart she longed to accompany her father to the
field of battle, and dreaded remaining at home in solitary idleness,
waiting for tidings of the fate of the army and of her country.

Opposite to her sat, or rather lay back in his chair, the Crown Prince
Ernest Augustus, a large tall young man of one-and-twenty. His face had
not the smallest resemblance to his father's. A low retreating forehead
was almost concealed by his thick smooth brown hair. His nose deeply
indented at the bridge was almost flat to his face, and his large mouth
with its full rosy lips seemed to move with difficulty over his slowly
spoken words. Beautiful teeth and bright good-natured eyes, however,
gave a certain charm to the young prince's appearance.

The crown prince wore the uniform of the Guard Hussars, a blue coat
ornamented with silver braid, he bit the nails of his left hand, while
with his right he patted a little terrier, which appeared devoted to
him.

Such was the picture which met Meding's eyes as he entered the room.

With a sigh he looked at the royal family, and he then walked up to the
king.

"Good evening, my dear Meding," cried the king in his usual voice. "You
bring our answer to Prussia: I hope it is clear and decided?"

"I hope I shall have fulfilled your majesty's wishes," replied Herr
Meding as he bowed.

"Do you wish us to leave you?" asked the queen.

"No!" cried the king, "you are all as much interested in this matter as
I am. Meding will be so kind as to read us the draft. Seat yourself, my
dear Meding, and begin."

"Certainly, your majesty."

Herr Meding seated himself opposite to the king, opened his folded
paper, and read the draft.

The king leant back in his chair, and covered his face with his hands,
as was his custom when he wished to listen attentively.

The queen and Princess Marie wept quietly, Princess Frederika listened
to every word with earnest attention and flashing eyes. The crown
prince played with his terrier.

Meding read slowly and distinctly, pausing at every fresh point in the
draft.

It set forth in very quiet, measured terms, the reasons wherefore the
king could not accept an alliance with Prussia on the foundation of the
project of reform, repeated a decided promise of neutrality, and added
the king's determination never to fight with any German power, unless
his kingdom was invaded, and he found himself compelled to defend it.
It concluded with the hope that the friendly relations between Hanover
and Prussia might remain undisturbed.

The king listened to the end in silence. As Meding ceased he raised his
head.

"You have expressed my intentions admirably," he said, "I desire to add
nothing and to take nothing away. But ought not the words in which we
decline the Prussian proposals to be even more sharp and plain, lest
they should entertain the idea of my being brought round to join in
that reform-project? That would not be worthy conduct nor honourable to
Prussia."

"I believe, your majesty," replied Meding, "the answer leaves not the
smallest doubt on this point. The quiet and conciliatory tone
throughout your reply will, however, amply prove your majesty's great
desire to preserve peace if possible."

"Yes! certainly," cried the queen with animation.

"If it be possible," added the king, as he drew a deep breath.

"I beg you, my dear Meding, to read the draught again. Forgive me for
troubling you so much, but the matter is of sufficient importance to be
read twice."

"Oh! I beg your majesty----" exclaimed Herr Meding. He again read the
reply.

"It shall remain as it is," cried the king as he concluded: "I have
nothing to alter. What do you say?" he continued, turning to the queen,
"I beg you, and all of you, to give your opinion, for you are in the
highest degree interested."

"It must be so!" said the queen in a voice choked with tears.

"And you, Ernest?" said the king, turning to the crown prince, "have
you anything to suggest?"

"No!" said the crown prince with a sigh, as he lifted his little dog on
to his knees and stroked its head.

"And you two?" asked the king.

"No!" replied Princess Frederika, as she proudly raised her head, and
"No" sobbed her younger sister.

"Well, then, the thing is decided!" exclaimed the king quite
cheerfully. "I have commanded the concentration of the army in
Göttingen," he added, turning to Meding, "by my generals' advice, that
they may march thence to the south. I shall start at two o'clock. I beg
you, my dear Meding to drive to General Brandis and to Count Platen;
request them to be ready for the journey, and tell them to meet me at
the railway station at two tonight. I must ask you also to make your
preparations and to accompany me; I shall need you. You will have but
little time!" he added considerately.

"Oh! fully enough, your majesty," replied Meding.

"I believe," said the king to his son, "that you must yourself give the
orders necessary to prevent any of your equipments being forgotten. And
now, my dear Meding, give me the answer, that I may sign it."

Meding took a pen from the queen's writing-table, gave it to the king
and placed his hand upon the white margin of the paper.

In firm bold characters the king wrote his initials, "G. R."

"Add to it," he said, "the exact hour, that we may know hereafter when
I completed this decisive and important document."

Meding looked at his watch; it was twelve minutes past midnight. He
added the exact date below the king's signature.

"I must now beg your majesty's permission to go," he said, "for time
presses." He turned to the queen. "Allow me, your majesty, to offer my
truest sympathy, and my most sincere hopes, that you may pass safely
through the dark days before us. May God bless your majesty, and may He
guide events to a happy issue."

The queen bent her head and covered her face with her handkerchief.

"Auf Wiedersehn!" cried the king, and with a low bow Meding withdrew.

In the ante-room he met a young man dressed in the uniform of the Garde
du corps.

He was tall and slight, with merry, pleasing features and large clear
eyes, it was Prince George of Solms Braunfels, the king's nephew. He
held out his hand to Meding and cried:

"Well, is everything settled, and is war decided upon?"

"I am taking back the answer to the Prussian note!" said Meding
gravely, looking at the folded paper in his hand.

The prince looked serious too for a moment.

"Do you know," he then said, "what you remind me of? Of Davison, Queen
Elizabeth's secretary, carrying the death warrant!"

Meding gave a melancholy smile.

"Alas!" he said, "the sheet of paper in my hand is perhaps the death
warrant of many a brave heart now beating joyfully; thank God I am not
answerable for it, I have only to perform my duty, which I never felt
to be so painful as now. We shall meet in Göttingen, prince," he said,
taking leave with a hasty pressure of the hand, he then hurried down
the stairs and threw himself into his carriage.

Just at the brightly lighted, gilded iron gate of the outer court he
met a long row of carriages driving to the castle.

The magistrates and the principal burghers of the capital were coming
to take leave of the king. As the long file of carriages emerged from
the avenue, they looked so dark against the bright light that they
resembled a long black funeral, and shuddering involuntarily at this
idea Meding leant back in his carriage and drove towards Hanover.

In the meantime Count Platen sat in his cabinet. A small lamp shed its
light over the writing table covered, with letters and papers, before
which he sat, his head leaning on his hand.

"Is there really no escape?" he cried at last, as he rose and paced up
and down the room; "can we not recover the fine position we held?"

He looked thoughtfully from the window out into the warm starlight
night.

"The concentration of the army is good," he said, "it shows we are in
earnest, and not inclined to give way without resistance: that the king
should go, is also good--it makes negotiation easier. Well, I believe,"
he cried in a tone of relief, "they will bethink themselves in Berlin
after firing off this alarm gun, and will be satisfied if we accept
neutrality. But even if we are obliged--they cannot abandon us in
Vienna--and if Austria conquers!" A happy smile passed over his face,
and flattering pictures of the future seemed unrolled before his mind.

The timepiece on his writing-table struck twelve.

"Prince Ysenburg!" announced the groom of the chambers.

"Now, at this hour?" cried Count Platen, starting back. And he hastened
to meet the Prussian ambassador, who had entered the room, and advanced
slowly and gravely. "What good news do you bring at this late hour,
dear prince?" he asked.

"Whether I can bring good news, I know not!" replied the prince, a
small slight man, with regular features and a spare black moustache, as
he fixed his black eyes with a sad and enquiring look upon Count
Platen; "I must first beg for your answer to the note I delivered this
morning, the reply to which I was to wait for until this evening. You
see," he said drawing out his watch, "I have given my instructions the
widest possible extension; it is now twelve o'clock--the day is ended."

"My dear prince," said Count Platen, "I gave the note to the king
immediately, the reply is now with his majesty; I expect it back every
moment, and I do not doubt we shall easily come to an understanding."

The prince shook his head slightly.

"Though the answer is with his majesty, yet you must know, and I
_must_"--he laid a stress upon the word--"urgently beg you to impart
its purport. Is the proposition accepted, are you authorized to
conclude the proffered treaty?"

"You will allow," said Count Platen, "that such a deeply important
proposal as the reform of the confederation requires a discussion that
will occupy some time."

"I must press you, Count Platen," said the prince, "to give me a
distinct answer upon one point,--I am not authorized to commence a
discussion,--has the king accepted the treaty or not?"

"No," said Count Platen, with great hesitation, "but----"

"Then I declare war!" said Prince Ysenburg solemnly.

Count Platen stared blankly in his face.

"But my dear prince--" he cried.

"You must perceive," said Prince Ysenburg, "that after such a
declaration it is impossible for me to say anything more, except to
express my deep personal regret that our long years of intimacy, on
which I shall always look back with pleasure, should have so sad an
end. Farewell! remember me with the same friendship with which I shall
always think of you."

He held out his hand to Count Platen, who seized it mechanically, and
before the minister had recovered from his astonishment the ambassador
had left the room.

A short time afterwards, Meding arrived, and found him still under the
influence of this scene. He brought the minister the king's commands to
accompany him to Göttingen, and Count Platen imparted the declaration
of war.

"Did you ever doubt it?" asked Meding.

"I considered it impossible!" said Count Platen; "and I yet hope we may
be able to do something in Göttingen."

"There is nothing to be done, except to march as fast as we can for
South Germany!" said the privy councillor.

He left the minister, to prepare for his journey, and hastened to seek
General Brandis.

Herr Beckmann had come to Hanover with the courier from Berlin, and he
discovered to his great discontent that he could not set out again upon
his already retarded journey, until various trains containing troops
had been despatched from the railway station.

It was two in the morning.

He walked disconsolately up and down the platform, wrapped himself
shiveringly in his large travelling cloak, smoked his cigar, and looked
at the busy proceedings in the railway station.

There was a train with a steaming engine close to the platform; it
consisted of only a few carriages, but in the centre there was a large
saloon carriage richly gilt, and surmounted by a crown.

"What is that?" asked Herr Beckmann as a busy porter hurried past.

"The king is going to Göttingen," he replied, and hastened on.

Herr Beckmann walked up to the saloon carriage and examined it.

"It is true," he said, "the king must really be starting; but," he
added, "it does not look like a flight, the soldiers, at all events,
seem to have no mind to fly."

Notwithstanding the late hour the platform grew more and more crowded
with people, who waited quietly near the royal train.

Then the large doors of the royal waiting-room opened, and Count
Platen, a number of generals, Lex, and Herr Meding appeared. They all
seemed grave and silent.

The wheels of other carriages were heard.

There was a movement amongst the gentlemen in the waiting-room, and the
crowd on the platform pressed towards the open door.

The king entered, dressed in a general's uniform, leaning on the arm of
the crown prince, who wore a hussar's uniform. They were followed by
lieutenant-colonels von Heimbruch and von Kohlrausch, and by Major
Wedel.

The king gravely greeted those who had assembled to take leave of him,
he conversed with several of the gentlemen and shook hands with them.

The general director of the railway came up and said that the train was
ready.

The king and the crown prince walked across the platform and entered
the railway carriage.

Every head was uncovered, and a sorrowful murmur passed through the
assembled crowd.

The king was followed by the gentlemen of his suite. The crowd
thickened around the carriage.

Then George V. appeared at the middle window, bowed, and said in his
clear voice:

"I say farewell to the citizens of my capital, because I must accompany
my army to resist unjust demands. My queen and the princesses I confide
to your protection; they will share your fate. God be with you, and
with our just cause!"

"God save the king!" cried the crowd; "auf Wiedersehn! auf Wiedersehn.
God bless your majesty!" Handkerchiefs waved, and hats rose higher and
higher.

Herr Beckmann stood in the outer row. Tears shone in his eyes, he
raised his hat in the air and his voice joined in the general cry with
which the citizens of Hanover took leave of their king.

The train moved slowly, the engine puffed, the wheels rolled faster,
and there was one general cry: "Auf Wiedersehn!" The carriage rushed
on, the king had left the capital.

The generals and court officials slowly departed, the crowd slowly and
silently dispersed, and Herr Beckmann paced thoughtfully up and down
the platform.

"Tiens, tiens," said he to himself, "voilà le revers de la médaille.
What will not this war destroy? how deeply will it cut into human life,
both high and low! Great events lie in the lap of the future: yes, but
tears also--did not my eyes grow wet when the king took leave of his
people. Well! what must happen, will happen, an individual can neither
add nor take away. Fate seizes on us all!"

"The train is starting for Cologne," said a porter coming up to him.

"At last!" cried Herr Beckmann with a sigh of relief; and the
whistling, puffing engine soon bore him away.



                              CHAPTER XII.

                          CAMPAIGNING BEGINS.


King George V. arrived in Göttingen early in the morning of the 16th of
June, to the no small amazement of the inhabitants, who had scarcely
comprehended the grave position of the country the evening before, and
arose the next day to discover that war had broken out, that the king
was installed in the Crown Hotel, and the army concentrating in hot
haste in and around Göttingen.

The old city of Georgia Augusta had scarcely ever before seen such
varied active life within its walls.

Fresh troops perpetually poured in through the gates of the town, or
from the railway station; some taking up their quarters in the city,
some in the surrounding villages.

All the soldiers were adorned with fresh sprigs of oak, the proud
cavalry regiments rode gallantly on, batteries of artillery rolled
noisily over the pavement, and merry songs resounded from every
regiment of the war-inspired troops.

In front of the Crown Hotel the greatest activity prevailed. Orderlies
of the red hussars of the Guard were halted, waiting to convey orders;
aides-de-camp went and came, servants hurried busily to and fro, groups
of citizens stood whispering together, and looking curiously at the
middle window of the first floor, where was the king's apartment.

But a fresh regiment streamed in, and shortly before it reached the
hotel struck up the air of "God save the king;" the window was opened,
and the king appeared in a general's uniform and military cap, grave
and quiet; he affectionately greeted the troops who came at his summons
to follow him to the field, and their banners were lowered to their
royal leader. The old Hanoverian Hurrah! burst out so loudly and
joyfully that it made the windows clatter, and the king's heart beat
higher, for he could hear that the shout came from the hearts of
soldiers who were ready cheerfully to pour out their blood in his
defence.

About nine o'clock the Senate of the University appeared, headed by the
pro-rector, the famous professor of state law, Zachariä; the black
robes adorned with the colours of the different faculties, and the
almost priestly appearance of the professors of wisdom, who came to
greet their king in the midst of the tumult of war, lent a new charm to
the animated changing picture, as they mingled with the brilliant
uniforms of the soldiers.

The king had received the professors, had worked with the
adjutant-generals, and with General Gebser, whom he had appointed
commander-in-chief of the army, and he now sat alone in his room.

His face was pale and weary from the distress and excitement of the
last few days, and from a sleepless night, but indomitable courage and
firm determination shone in his eyes.

The groom of the chambers opened the door and announced the crown
prince.

The king held out his hand affectionately to his son, who kissed it
reverently.

"Have you slept?" asked the king.

"But little," replied the prince, whose features, impressed by the
moving noisy life around him, were more animated than usual; "I have
been talking with many of the officers of the troops who have just
arrived."

"There is a glorious spirit in the army, is there not?" cried the king
with joyful enthusiasm; "it makes me too happy to be surrounded by such
troops."

"Yes," replied the prince with hesitation, "the spirit is excellent;
but----"

"But what?" asked the king, surprised and hurt, "have you observed
anything that does not accord with this spirit?"

"The spirit is perfectly excellent, my father," replied the prince
slowly, pausing as he spoke as if he could not find the right words;
"but--but there is no proper confidence in their leaders!"

"No confidence in their leaders!" cried the king energetically, as he
stood up; "at the beginning of a campaign that were bad indeed!"

He was silent for a moment.

"Are you quite sure?" he asked. "Who told you so?"

"Several officers of the general staff," replied the prince, "the
aides-de-camp, and they begged me to tell you."

"So!" said the king. "And in whom have they no confidence?--did they
mention any names?"

"They do not think," replied the prince, "that General Gebser has
energy enough to command in the field, and his name is not popular
amongst the soldiers, and General Tschirschnitz is too old to bear the
fatigues of war, and too much accustomed to office life----"

With a hasty movement the king passed his hand over the table before
him and rang the bell that stood upon it.

"The equerry on duty!" exclaimed the king to the attendant who came at
the summons.

Immediately afterwards Count Wedel, the brother of the commander of the
castle, entered.

"Your majesty sent for me?"

"My dear Wedel," said the king, "the crown prince has just told me, as
was his duty, that the officers and the troops have no confidence in
General Gebser, whom I have appointed to the command of the army, and
that they also have not the confidence needful in the adjutant-general.
The moment is grave. Tell me, as my equerry and my officer, on your
oath and your duty, what you know on the subject."

Count Wedel, a handsome powerfully made man, with short black hair and
a black beard, fixed his large dark eyes upon the king, and said firmly
in a clear voice:

"What his royal highness has told your majesty is, so far as I have had
the opportunity of judging of the general opinion, perfectly true!"

The king sat still for a moment in deep thought.

"And you have heard it from good and clever officers?" he asked.

"From the officers of the general staff," replied Count Wedel, "and
from several other officers with whom I have conversed."

"And whom would the army trust as their leader?" asked the king.

"General von Arentschildt!" replied Count Wedel without a moment's
hesitation.

"I thank you," replied the king gravely; "beg General von Brandis and
Count Platen to come to me."

"At your command, your majesty."

And Count Wedel left the room.

"This is bad, very bad!" said the king sorrowfully, "for an army that
has no confidence in its leaders is already half beaten; but it is well
I learnt it whilst there is still time."

The crown prince had stepped to the window and was looking at the
various groups in the street below.

The two ministers entered, General von Brandis calm and cheerful as
ever, Count Platen pale and excited.

"Gentlemen," said the king, "I hear that the adjutant-general, and the
general I have chosen to command the army, do not possess the
confidence of the troops."

He was silent.

"Alas! it is so, your majesty; I have heard it on all sides," said
Count Platen.

"And you, General Brandis?"

"Your majesty," said the general in his calm voice, "I have heard many
such expressions here, I cannot deny, but if every expression uttered
in a time of excitement were attended to, the command would be
continually changed. The chief thing seems to me that we should be well
commanded, and get on quickly."

"I do not think much of what is said here and there," said the king,
"but this appears to me serious, and truly I would not send my army
into the field without confidence in its leaders."

"Certainly, your majesty, the matter is serious," said Count Platen.
"It is most painful to me," he continued, "to express my opinion on
military affairs, as they by no means belong to my department, and as
your majesty knows I am never in any degree influenced by the opinions
I hear casually----"

General Brandis smiled slightly.

"But here," added Count Platen, "is evidently an occasion on which the
general opinion must be right."

"Have you, too, heard General von Arentschildt named?"

"He is named universally, your majesty," replied Count Platen.

General Brandis was silent.

"I know so little of Arentschildt," said the king, thoughtfully; "what
do you think of him, General Brandis?"

"Arentschildt is a clever general, and an honourable man," said the
minister of war.

"Do you think he is the man to command the army?" asked the king.

"Your majesty, the proof of a general is his success. I am an old
soldier, and I can only judge of a soldier in the field."

The king leant his head on his hand and sat for some time in silence.

At last he raised himself.

"My country and the whole future of my family are at stake," he said
seriously. "I must sacrifice my personal wishes and opinions, where
such great interests are concerned. I could never forgive myself if
success were imperilled through my own fault; no time must be lost, the
decision must be made at once. My poor brave Tschirschnitz," he said in
a low voice, shaking his head; "it will be a heavy blow to him. Whom do
they feel confidence in as adjutant-general?" he inquired.

"They speak of Colonel Dammers," said the crown prince, who had left
the window and again approached the king.

"Colonel Dammers?" asked the king.

"A clever and energetic officer," said General Brandis, "a man of quick
and ready action."

"I have conversed with him," said Count Platen, "he is a remarkably
intelligent man. I unfolded to him the policy we have lately pursued,
he fully recognized its propriety. I believe----"

"Is the colonel here?" asked the king.

"He was in the house just now," said the crown prince.

The king rang.

"Beg General Gebser and the adjutant-general to come to me," he said,
sighing.

The two gentlemen entered the room.

General Gebser was of a tall and graceful figure, his boldly-cut
features had a free open expression, and his hair and moustache were
slightly grey. General von Tschirschnitz held a paper in his hand.

"My dear General Gebser, and you my adjutant-general," said the king
with emotion, "I have something most serious to say to you. I have to
demand from you a fresh proof of your patriotism and of your devotion
to me and to my family."

General Gebser looked firmly at the king; old General von Tschirschnitz
lifted his astonished gaze from the paper he held in his hand to his
royal master, as if he marvelled what further proof of devotion could
be expected from him.

"In an hour such as this," continued the king, "plain and
straightforward speaking is necessary. I hear that the army does not
confirm the choice I made, General Gebser, when I nominated you as its
commander, and that another name is more popular than your own amongst
the soldiers. Also," he added, "I hear that fears are expressed lest
you, my dear adjutant-general, should be disabled by increasing years
from undergoing the fatigue which, will doubtless be needful during a
difficult and exhausting campaign. Should your health fail there would
be an interruption in your duties, which could not but be dangerous and
disastrous to an army on the march. Gentlemen," he said in a low tone,
bowing his head as if he wished with his sightless eyes to discover the
impression caused by his words; "you know that I am ready to sacrifice
my life, and every personal wish to my country. I know that you have
the same feelings, and that from your true hearts I may ask the same
sacrifice. I, your king, acknowledging and prizing your services and
your talents, I beg you to make this sacrifice."

The king was silent, a deep sigh broke from his heart.

General Gebser raised his head proudly, and a smile came to his lips.
Pale, but without hesitation, he advanced towards the king, and said in
a firm voice:

"It was my duty, at my royal master's command to lead the army against
his enemies, and to draw my sword in defence of my country. It is
equally my duty, if your majesty has found one more worthy, to resign
the command. I thank you for the confidence you felt in me."

"Which has never been shaken for a moment," interrupted the king.

"And I hope," added the general, "that he who succeeds me will serve
your majesty and the country with the same zeal and devotion. I know it
will be so," he continued, "for he is a Hanoverian officer."

The king held out his hand to him in silence, and without glancing at
the crown prince, or the ministers, with a firm step the general left
the room.

General von Tschirschnitz gnawed his white moustache in great emotion.
A tear shone in his eye.

"Your majesty," he said slowly, "this is not the time and place to
examine into the reasons of those who are so careful to protect my old
age from the fatigues of war. I have nothing to do but to request your
majesty to allow me to resign the post of adjutant-general. Your
majesty knows I have already requested permission to retire, in time of
peace,--that I must do so now, when the army is marching to meet the
enemy, is a deep grief to the heart of an old soldier. Perhaps the
recollection of this," and he pointed to the Waterloo medal upon his
breast, "might have enabled me in spite of my age to bear the fatigues
of war; but it is a law of nature that the old should give way to the
young. I beg your majesty to preserve a gracious remembrance of your
old adjutant-general."

The old gentleman's rough soldier voice failed him.

The king went quickly up to him, and spread out his arms.

"We will not say adieu, my dear Tschirschnitz," he cried; "I hope we
shall meet happily and soon, when this sad war is over, and that you
will give me your valued counsels for many years."

And he pressed the general to his heart.

"Accept the nomination of general of the infantry as a proof of my
gratitude and affection," he said in a low voice.

The general bowed in silence.

"Your majesty will permit me," he then said, "to return to Hanover? An
old invalid can do nothing against the enemy," he added bitterly.

"Go, my dear general," said the king; "the queen needs the advice of
true servants."

The crown prince came forward.

"I beg you to greet my mother from me," he said affectionately.

"Farewell, your royal highness," replied the general; "you see an old
servant of your father, and of your grandfather, depart. So do the old
times vanish: may the future bring new men, but guard the old truth."

And the general also left the room.

The king drew a deep breath.

"So," he cried, "the worst is over. Now for the new appointments, and
God grant the choice may be happy. General Brandis, will you prepare
the papers?" he said, turning to the minister of war, "and see that
General Arentschildt comes to me immediately to receive the command;
and also Colonel Dammers, that he may at once commence the duties of
adjutant-general."

Gravely and silently the general withdrew.

Count Platen approached the king, and said,--

"Count Ingelheim had just arrived when your majesty sent for me. He
requests an audience."

"Let him come," cried the king with satisfaction.

Count Platen went out, and soon returned, accompanied by the ambassador
of the Emperor Francis-Joseph.

Count Ingelheim was a tall, slender man of fifty-eight years of age,
with short, light hair, which was changing to grey. His amiable and
pleasing face was pale, and without beard or moustache. He wore black,
with the star of the Order of Guelph and the Maltese cross.

"I am rejoiced, my dear count, to see you here," cried the king
cheerfully. "You have not, then, shunned the tumult of war?"

"Your majesty," replied the count, "my imperial master commanded me not
to leave you, and especially to accompany the army--a command in
accordance with my most earnest wishes, for besides being the fortunate
witness of the heroic deeds of the brave Hanoverian army, the cause
here is the same as in the Austrian camp--the cause of justice and of
Austrian independence. I beg your majesty's permission to remain at
head-quarters."

"With the greatest pleasure, my dear count, I offer you the hospitality
of my head-quarters," cried the king. "You will, perhaps," he added,
smiling, "during your military campaign, have to excuse the dinners we
shall offer you, but _à la guerre comme à la guerre_. We are going to
encounter great events," he continued gravely.

"They will doubtless bring great glory and enduring happiness to your
majesty," said Count Ingelheim.

"Do you think we shall be able to reach South Germany?" asked the king.

"I am sure of it," replied the count, "according to all the information
I have received. And I have just had a note from Count Paar who is in
Cassel. The road is free, and the few Prussian troops who may be there
will be unable to arrest the march of your majesty's army."

"I would the next few days were over," said the king gloomily; "the
cares of the march weigh heavily upon me, and I cannot bear to think
that we may be surrounded by superior forces."

"Your brave army would fight its way through if needful," cried the
count. "I cannot doubt it, for I saw them on my journey here; but above
all, let your majesty remember you do not stand alone; the decisive
action must take place on a Saxon battle-field, and when the emperor
has fought there and won, your majesty will return in triumph to your
capital."

The king was silent.

"The great thing would be," he said, after a pause, "to reach Bavaria.
If we succeed in this, the army is saved, and will be free to take a
part in the great struggle on the fate of Germany. We must know exactly
where the Bavarian army is."

"According to what I heard yesterday, the Bavarian outposts are near
Eisenach and Gotha," said Count Ingelheim.

"Well, then, the union would not be difficult. But would it not be well
to let the Bavarian head-quarters know where we are, and our line of
march, that they may direct their operations accordingly?"

"Doubtless, your majesty," said Count Platen, "as soon as the new
commander and the general staff have completely decided on our march."

"It seems to me," said the king, "that in our present circumstances we
should follow the simple plan of taking the easiest and shortest line
of march."

"I do not know," replied Count Platen; "to me it appears there are many
different views and opinions to be considered, which may be difficult
to reconcile."

"Difficult to reconcile! I do not understand why," exclaimed the king;
"but," he continued, half to himself, in a melancholy voice, "I must
leave that to my generals. Pray take care, Count Platen, that
trustworthy and intelligent persons are sent on by the roads leading to
the south, with instructions to discover if the enemy's troops are
there, and in what numbers."

"At your command, your majesty."

"Are there any news from Hesse?" asked the king.

"Yes, your majesty, up to yesterday," said Count Ingelheim. "The prince
had determined to remain in Cassel. The army is under the command of
General Lothberg, and is concentrated at Fulda."

"We must join it there," cried the king. "United to the army of Hesse,
we should form a force capable of serious resistance, and we should not
easily be brought to a halt."

The groom of the chambers announced the minister of war.

"General Arentschildt and Colonel Dammers await your majesty's
commands," said General Brandis; "and here are the necessary papers,"
he added.

"Ask the gentlemen to come in," cried the king. "My dear count, we
shall meet at dinner, if I may make the request, in campaigning
costume."

He held out his hand to the Austrian ambassador.

"Count Platen, I commit Count Ingelheim to your care, trusting he may
find all the comforts our headquarters afford."

The two gentlemen withdrew. At the door they met the officers.

General von Arentschildt was not tall, but remarkably thin, with
sharply-marked, somewhat withered features, and an enormous grey
moustache, hanging completely over the mouth. He entered the room
first, and was closely followed by Colonel Dammers, a man who was still
young, extremely fair, with a red fresh colour, and quick energetic
movements. His clear grey eyes took in everything with a sharp firm
glance, and were then fixed expectantly upon the king.

They were followed by General Brandis.

"Gentlemen," said George V. gravely, and with a certain degree of proud
reserve, "my minister of war has imparted to you why I have sent for
you at this moment, so full of danger to myself and the country. I am
persuaded that the confidence in you, so universally expressed, and of
which I give so signal a proof, will be completely justified. I beg you
to commence your duties without delay; and I request you, General von
Arentschildt, to give us your opinion upon our further march as soon as
possible."

"Your majesty," exclaimed the general, striking his hand vehemently
upon his breast,--"Your majesty, I am highly honoured by your
confidence, and I will do everything an old soldier can do, to justify
it. I beg your majesty----"

"What?" asked the king.

"To give me Colonel Cordemann as chief of the general staff."

The king was silent for a moment.

"A new chief of the general staff too," he said, half speaking to
himself. "It is right," he continued, "for you to have a chief of the
staff of your own choosing. Colonel Dammers, will you prepare what is
needful? and will you, General Brandis, inform General von Sichart in
the most considerate manner----"

"The general has sought me already, requesting me to bid your majesty
adieu for him," replied General Brandis.

"Brave man!" cried the king. "But I will see him shortly, and take
leave of him personally. And now, gentlemen, to work. Ernest, I beg you
to send me the privy councillor."

The crown prince and the officers left the room.

With a deep sigh the king leant back in his chair. He listened
thoughtfully to the sounds of voices and footsteps which rose from the
street below, mingled with military signals, the trampling of horses,
and the trumpet calls, and he whispered to himself:

"Nec aspera terrent!"

The newly-organized general staff was installed in the aula of the
university, and worked unceasingly at the mobilization of the army, and
the preparations for its march.

Whilst the whole town was thus feverishly restless and active, a
carriage drove quickly to the railway station.

In it sat old General von Tschirschnitz with folded arms, gazing
gloomily before him.

"This, then, is the end of a long service commenced on the
battle-fields of 1813, and continued through many a year of war and
peace,--and now to be sent off when before the enemy,--and why? because
certain young officers, ambitious climbers, wish to have the road open,
and seize the opportunity of freeing themselves from the firm strict
rule of old Tschirschnitz."

He took up his sword, and laid it on the opposite side of the carriage.

"Lie there," he said gloomily, "thou worthy old sword; thou art too
stiff and too straight for the present generation,--they write a great
deal, also they run to and fro continually,--they make plans, they
proclaim orders and counter-orders, but they don't trouble themselves
about the soldiers; they will not march, and they will only fight when
they are obliged. But," he said with a deep breath, "the army will
fight, the troops will rush at the enemy if they meet, in spite of
instructions and theories--of that I am sure."

He had arrived at the railway, and as he was stepping, sabre in hand,
into an empty train, about to return to Hanover for more troops, the
Cambridge dragoon regiment drew up with clattering of arms in the court
of the station under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Kielmansegge,
who was at their head on a snorting spirited horse, and who was about
to lead his regiment through the town to the villages of Harste and
Gladebeck lying before Göttingen.

The old general looked from his coupé affectionately at the flashing
arms of the gallant horsemen.

Then he leant back with a melancholy smile, the engine whistled, and
the train rushed towards Hanover.

At the same moment the trumpet sounded, the strains of the regimental
band rose in the air, the horses threw up their heads, their riders
settled themselves in the saddle, the ranks closed up, and the glorious
regiment rode through the city of Georgia Augusta.

In front of the fourth squadron, on a curveting horse, rode a tall
handsome man, the Rittmeister von Einem,[8] and beside his troop rode
Lieutenant von Wendenstein, looking fresh, and dazzling in full
uniform. His eyes shone brightly, and it was evident that only duty
constrained him to keep his place in the line, and restrain his
spirited horse; he would rather have rushed in a wild gallop straight
at the enemy. Yet a low sad strain rang in his heart when he thought of
the old house in Blechow,--of the last evening amongst his family, and
of the song which had so strangely affected him,--yet still this strain
mingled harmoniously with the warlike fanfare of the trumpets, with the
neighing of horses, and the clashing of arms,--his eyes flashed in the
sunshine, and his lips smiled as he whispered the hopeful words, "Auf
Wiedersehn!"

The regiment rode past the Crown Hotel; the squadrons greeted the king
at the window with an echoing hurrah, then they rode out by the further
gate to the villages, where the peasants gave them a hearty welcome,
for the Hanoverian cavalry is always popular with the Hanoverian
peasantry; how much the more now, when the brave horsemen were riding
out with their king?

The fourth squadron remained in the village of Gladebeck on outpost
duty.

The horses were foddered and provided with straw, according to the
rules of the service and the heart of the cavalry soldier, whose first
care is always for his horse.

A cheerful fire burned in the street of the village, which stands at
the foot of a hill overlooking a broad plain of meadows and orchards.
Below, the lights from the village windows gleamed through the clear
night, and in the distance echoing voices were heard, with signals, and
trampling horse-hoofs. The dark sky glittered with stars, and the soft
night-wind blew refreshingly over the fields after the heat of the day.

Upon the hill a single vedette stood motionless, a carbineer named
Schenkel.

Before the fire, upon a heap of clean well-piled straw, lay two young
officers, Lieutenants von Wendenstein and Stolzenberg. The water in a
campaigning kettle bubbled and steamed; brandy, lemons and great lumps
of sugar were abundant, and Lieutenant von Stolzenberg, a handsome,
pleasing-looking young man, prepared in two silver beakers the fragrant
invigorating drink which inspired Schiller in his immortal song. Ham,
bread, and sausages lay around, proving that the peasants of Gladebeck
had treated their guests to all that their store-chambers could afford.

Stolzenberg mixed the beverage, tasted it, and passed the cup to his
comrade after he had stirred it with a piece of wood.

"Do you believe in presentiments, Wendenstein?" he asked.

"I really scarcely know," replied that young gentleman, raising himself
from the comfortable position in which he lay gazing up at the sky, to
take the cup and drink a hearty draught,--"I really scarcely know, I
have never thought about it; but," he added, laughing, as he placed the
cup conveniently before him on the ground, "I should like to believe,
for if a presentiment is a certain indescribable feeling that
penetrates us and gives us a peep into the magic mirror of the future,
my future must be bright and clear; everything smiles upon me so
merrily that I could gallop for miles to-night for the simple pleasure
of the thing. You see, Stolzenberg," said he, drawing a cigar from his
pocket and carefully cutting the end with a small knife, "it is such a
pleasure to escape from that weary garrison-life, and to go into the
field to a real actual war; such a night as this, old fellow, in
bivouac under the open sky, is the most delightful thing a soldier can
wish for. Give me a light for my cigar."

Herr von Stolzenberg gave him a glowing piece of wood, from which with
the skill of a connoisseur in the art of smoking he kindled his cigar,
the fine aroma of which soon rose in the air.

"Well, and what do your presentiments say, Stolzenberg?" he asked; "or
rather, have you had a presentiment?"

Stolzenberg poked the fire with an oak stick and gazed thoughtfully
into the blaze.

"Yes," he said gravely.

"Well," cried Wendenstein, "you say so in the tone of the marble guest;
speak out and tell me all about it. Drink first and take a good
draught, you know some philosopher has said presentiments come from the
stomach, and for the stomach nothing is better than to be comforted in
moderation with a good drink."

Herr von Stolzenberg took kindly to his friend's didactic advice, and
then said, again gazing gravely at the fire,--

"Do you know I feel shy of speaking about it? It is really
nothing--neither has a spirit appeared to me, nor have I had a dream,
nor is there anything I can really describe. When I was leaving my room
quite ready to mount my horse, suddenly an icy coldness passed like an
electric spark through all my veins, and a voice seemed to say, 'You
will never return.' The impression was so vivid and powerful that I
stood still for a moment as if spell-bound. But suddenly the feeling
was gone, as if it had never been."

"This is madness!" said Wendenstein leaning his head on his hand and
gazing up at the stars; "I remain firm in my opinion that your stomach
is out of sorts, and what more natural, after the early rising and
fatigue of the day? You must double your dose of punch!"

"And once again," said Stolzenberg thoughtfully, without heeding his
friend's jest, "I had the same feeling. As we passed the Crown in
Göttingen and the king greeted us from the window, and all our lads
hurrahed madly, just as I raised my sword to salute--in that very
moment the icy coldness seized me, and again a voice cried: 'You will
never return. The king will never return!'" He spoke in a low troubled
voice.

"Man, you are raving!" cried Wendenstein, sitting up with a great jerk.
"Have as many presentiments about yourself as you please, but leave the
king out of the game. Pray oblige me by telling no one else of your
hallucinations!"

Stolzenberg gazed straight before him.

"If it is to be so," he said in a low voice, "in God's name it is well;
if we come to blows many a brave soldier will fall, and it is our lot;
a quick honourable death is all a man can wish, only no long suffering,
nor to return a cripple."

"I will answer you no more," said von Wendenstein, "such thoughts are
too dismal for a first night in the field. But," he continued sitting
up and looking into his friend's face, "I will confide something to
you."

And half jesting, half smiling at some happy remembrance, he said,--

"I think I am in love."

"You?" cried von Stolzenberg, laughing, "it would not be for the first
time; but the moment is ill-chosen."

"Why?"

"Because a good cavalry soldier when he goes into the field should
leave no regrets behind him. Forwards! is the word, and a lover makes a
bad soldier."

"I do not understand that," said von Wendenstein; "on the contrary, in
battle, how happy it would make a man to feel a heart is beating for
him, and following him with thoughts and good wishes, and if he
distinguishes himself the brave soldier will feel greater pride, and
then when he returns, oh! that must be delicious!"

"When he returns," said Stolzenberg gloomily. "But," he continued in a
cheerful voice, "who is your new flame?"

The eyes which von Wendenstein had been directing towards the stars
were turned upon his friend with a look of surprise, and he said in a
somewhat hurt voice, as he threw himself back in the straw:

"New flame? what an expression! certainly I shall not tell her name!"

"Then you are really in earnest," returned von Stolzenberg. "And now I
must prescribe an extra glass of punch; for I retain my opinion that
love is a sickness, especially at the beginning of a campaign."

Wendenstein did not reply, but continued attentively to watch the
course of the stars, which at the same moment were shining down on the
old house at Blechow, upon the old trees and the well-known pastures
and fir-woods, and upon the Pfarrhaus with its beds of roses, and he
hummed to himself:


                  "Wenn Menschen auseinander gehn,
                  So sagen sie: Auf Wiedersehn!"


"Halt! who goes there?" cried the sentry on the hill, and presented his
carbine.

Both the young officers sprang to their feet. A carriage and two extra
post-horses, coming rapidly along the road, drew up at the challenge of
the sentry.

In a moment the officers were at the carriage door. Some dragoons
appeared a little way off.

"Whom have we here?" asked Herr von Stolzenberg, looking into the
carriage, in which sat a figure wrapped in a cloak. "You cannot pass
the outposts."

A young man with a fresh open countenance threw back his cloak and
leaned over the door to greet the officers.

"Everything is quite in order, gentlemen," he said, laughing. "I am
Duve of the Chancery, and I am sent by Count Platen and General
Arentschildt with a despatch from Count Ingelheim to Baron Kübeck at
Frankfort; I am also to seek the Hessian army and to bring back
intelligence which may enable you to join it. Here are my despatches,
and here is the order for passing the outposts."

Lieutenant von Stolzenberg stepped with the pass to the light of the
fire, read it, and returned it to Herr Duve.

"It is quite right," he then said. "I wish you a pleasant journey and
good success; send us the Hessians soon, and if possible the Bavarians
also."

"I will do what I can," returned the messenger.

"Stolzenberg," cried von Wendenstein, "bring a glass of punch. Here,
sir," he said, "take this away in your stomach, it will do you good in
the night; who knows when you will meet with it again?"

"To your good watch," said Herr Duve, as he emptied the proffered
beaker.

The horses started, the carriage rolled on, and the officers returned
to their fire.

After a short time the sentry again challenged; steps were heard on the
other side of the hill, the pass-word was given, and the officers, who
had hastily sprung to their feet, met Rittmeister von Einem.

The lieutenants saluted, and von Stolzenberg said: "Nothing fresh, a
messenger has passed with despatches and a correct pass."

"All right, gentlemen," said the Rittmeister, "all is in perfect order.
And now," he continued, laughingly, "let us lay aside duty; and give me
a glass of your drink, and something to eat, for I have had so much to
do to-day with the horses and men that I have not had time to find
anything for myself."

The young officers hastened to get him such supper as their simple but
plentiful provisions afforded, and to brew him as good and fragrant a
glass of punch as he could have met with in the most comfortable
dining-room.

"Yes," said von Einem, as, stretched at his ease on the straw, he
lighted his cigar, "it is all very comfortable to begin with; but, by
and by, when we have no more punch to drink, and no more cigars to
smoke!"

"So much the better," cried von Wendenstein cheerfully; "our pluck will
then be put to the test. But, Herr Rittmeister, shall we march soon? A
messenger has just passed to the Hessian army. I suppose that to unite
we must march. The Hessians will not come back here."

"If we shall march," said the Rittmeister, sighing, "I know nothing
about it; but it does not look like it. The general staff sits and
works, and writes, and rewrites; but when we shall march, I do not
know."

"I am very sorry about General von Tschirschnitz," said Herr von
Stolzenberg. "He was a strict old gentleman, and woe betide anyone who
tried to play tricks with him. But he was of the good old stamp; why
has he been sent off?"

"Count Kielmansegge, who was with me a quarter of an hour ago," said
the Rittmeister, "tells me the army no longer feels any confidence in
his capabilities."

"Well, I have heard for some time past that he was breaking," remarked
Wendenstein; "but one could not perceive it, if one had anything to do
with him. What is Colonel Dammers like--the new adjutant-general?"

"I know him but very little. I believe he is an energetic man. But we
have nothing to do with all these things. The cavalry should hold to
the old rule--to go in at the enemy and beat him or fall!" And he took
a good draught from his glass.

"God grant that the new brooms may sweep clean, and that we may soon go
forwards."

He stood up.

"Good night, and a good watch, gentlemen; we shall meet to-morrow, and
I hope we shall march!"

The officers saluted, and the Rittmeister slowly walked back to the
village through the dark night. The two lieutenants determined to sleep
an hour each alternately through the night, whilst the other watched.
So midnight passed, and all was silence at the outposts, whilst new
troops poured into Göttingen, reserves and recruits streaming in from
every part of the country; for all the young men desired to be enrolled
in the army.

The new general staff worked all night long; much was debated and
written in the great aula of Georgia Augusta, and at last it was
decided that the army must remain four days longer in Göttingen, in
order to prepare for the march.

Four days is a long time when events may be counted by hours.



                               FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1:

           "Was du dein Augenblick verloren,
             Bringt keine Ewigkeit zurück."]

[Footnote 2: _Droste_.]

[Footnote 3:

           "Wer nun den lieben Gott läszt walten,
            Und hoffet auf Ihn allezeit,
           Den wird Er wunderbar erhalten,
            In aller Noth und Fährlichkeit."]

[Footnote 4:

            "Da sah'n wir von Weiten,
            Unsern König schon reiten;
            Er rief nach seinem Brigadier,
            'Lustige Hannoveraner seien wir.'"]

[Footnote 5: The royal castle.]

[Footnote 6: The nobility.]

[Footnote 7: We shall meet again.]

[Footnote 8: In German armies the Rittmeister holds the rank of a
major.]



                             END OF VOL. I.



                           *   *   *   *   *

          CHISWICK PRESS:--PRINTED BY WHITTINGHAM AND WILKINS,
                      TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.





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