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Old Fritz and the New Era By L. Muhlbach Characters: 11826

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

Wilhelmine Enke was still living at her villa at Charlottenburg. She was, as formerly, the "unmarried" daughter of the hautboy-player, the favorite and friend of the crown prince; the same as two years previous, when he presented her before the Bavarian campaign, with this house and There was no change in her outward circumstances; her life passed regularly and calmly. The once fresh and beautiful cheek had lost somewhat of its youthful, roseate hue, and the smile of the ruby lips was less haughty, and the warmth of those brilliant eyes was subdued. This was the only perceptible difference wrought by the little vexations and troubles incident to her position. She had found some bitter drops in the golden goblet which the prince in his love pressed to her lips-drops which were uncongenial to lips accustomed to the sweets of life.

To-day she had awaited him at dinner, and had just received a very friendly but laconic letter, excusing himself until the following morning. This was an unpalatable drop. Wilhlemine paced back and forth the solitary, gloomy path, at the foot of the garden, re-reading this letter, and examining every word to search out its hidden meaning.

"They have brought this about," she murmured, tearing the letter into little pieces, which lighted upon the shrubbery like butterflies. "Yes, it is their work. They have sought by all possible means to draw him into their power, and away from me. And they will succeed, as there are two of them, and the princess sustains them; and I am alone, unsupported. I am entirely alone-alone!"

"If you are alone, then, it is surely your own fault," said an earnest, solemn voice, and at the same instant a tall form approached from the shrubbery which bordered the side of the garden.

"Cagliostro!" shrieked Wilhelmine, shrinking terrified away. "Oh, mercy upon me, it is Cagliostro!"

"Why are you so frightened, my daughter?" he asked, gently. "Why do you withdraw from me, and cast down your eyes?"

"I thought you were in Courland," she stammered, confused.

"And whilst you thought me afar, you forgot your sacred oath and holy duty," he replied, in a harsh, severe tone. "Oh my daughter, the Invisibles weep and lament bitterly over you."

"I am curious to see these tears," said Wilhelmine, who had now recovered her self-composure. "Do you think, Herr Magus, any of them could be found in the eyes of Colonel Bischofswerder and his intimate friend Woellner? Do you pretend that they also weep over me?"

"They do not belong to the Invisibles, but the Visibles. But their souls are true and faithful, and would have to mourn over the unhappy one who could forget her vows."

"Then allow me to say that I abjure these tears, and laugh at the idea that these hypocrites and necromancers weep over me."

"My daughter, what words are these, and how strangely altered you are! I have come from the far north, and but just alighted from the travelling-carriage. I came at once to see you, and hoped to be greeted joyfully with a kiss of love, and what do I hear instead? Harsh words filled with scorn and mockery, and disobedience against the Invisible Fathers, to whom you have sworn fidelity and submission!"

"You have forced me to it!" she cried, impetuously. "In my own house you came upon me and compelled me to take part in your mystic assembly."

"If one loves humanity, he must insist upon its accepting happiness," said Cagliostro, solemnly. "We recognized in you one of the elect, one of the great souls which are worthy to see the light, and sun themselves in the rays of knowledge. Therefore we accepted you among the spirits of the alliance, and-"

"And made great promises, of which not one has been fulfilled. Where is the title of countess, the influence, position, honor, and dignity, which you prophesied to me?"

"Where are the deeds you promised to perform, the witnesses of your fidelity and devotion?" he thunderingly demanded. "You have dared to rebel against the holy alliance! Your short-sighted spirit presumes to mock those eyes which perceive that you are straying away! Beware-Wilhemine, beware! I came to-day to warn you, when I return it will be to punish you. Turn, oh turn while there is yet time! Submit your will to the Fathers, as you have sworn to do! The promised reward will not fail, and Wilhelmine Enke will become a countess, a princess, and the most distinguished and powerful will bow before her. The Fathers demand of you repentance, and renunciation of the worst enemies of the Rosicrucians. Members, and even chiefs and pioneers of the Illuminati and Freemasons are welcomed at your house."

"Why should they not be?" asked she, smiling. "They are happy, cheerful spirits, void of mysteries, and do not torture people with mysticisms. They have but one aim, a great and glorious one, to free the mind from superstition and hypocrisy. They encounter with open countenance the false devotees who would force men into spiritual servitude, that they may become the slaves of their will. You call them 'Illuminati,' while they have undertaken to illuminate the minds with the beams of knowledge which the Rosicrucians obscure in a mystical fog."

"Unhappy one, do you dare to say that to me?" cried Cagliostro, menacingly.

"Yes," she responded, keeping her large, brown eyes firmly fixed upon Cagliostro's angry face. "That I dare to repeat to you, and I would also remark that we are not in the mystical assembly of the Rosicrucians, and your familiar 'Du' is out of place. I belong to the Illuminati, and mingle with the freethinkers. They have not, indeed, promised me titles, honors, or dignities, but they have amused me, have driven ennui from the house, and instead of mysticisms, brought me poesy, and instead of the invisible holy church, the Greek temple. It is possible my life may not be a godly one, but it is as happy as the gods, and that i

s something in this tedious world."

"I regard you with astonishment," said Cagliostro, "for I recognize in your countenance that the devil has won you over to his power, and in you he speaks with the bold insolence of the sinful. Subdue, unhappy child, your rash speech, that the Fathers may not hear of it, and crush you in their wrath."

"I do not fear their thunderbolts, permit me to tell you. We are in Prussia; the great king watches over all his subjects; neither the Romish Church nor the Rosicrucians can obscure the light of knowledge. He will not suffer a ghost, sneaking in the dark, to exercise power here, and he will not refuse the protection to me which is accorded to the least of his subjects. I do not fear you, and I will tell you the truth entire, I believe you to be a hypocrite and a charlatan, who-"

"Miserable one!" interrupted Cagliostro, as he furiously rushed to her, seizing her by the arm-"cease, unhappy one, or your life is forfeited to the invisible avengers!"

Wilhelmine shook her head, and encountered his flaming eyes with a proud glance. "I repeat your own words-cease, or your life will be forfeited! Perhaps you think I do not know what happened to you in Mittau, where you were recognized as a charlatan, who fooled the poor creatures into the belief of his miraculous acts, which consisted in lightening their purses to the benefit of his own. You were obliged to flee from Mitlau in the night, to save yourself, your treasures, and wonderful man-traps, and the beautiful Lorenza Feliciana. Beware! The Empress of Russia had a certain Joseph Balsamo pursued, who had practised great deception, and people pretend that he resembles Count Cagliostro. The Empress Catherine is a good friend and ally of the King of Prussia, and if the happy idea should occur to me to propose seeking the necromancer here, the Great Kophta might come a miserable end."

"On the contrary, it would only be a welcome occasion for the Great Kophta to reveal himself, and hurl his despicable, malicious enemy into the dust at his feet," replied Cagliostro, calmly. "Try it, you faithless, fallen daughter of the Invisibles-try to unloose the pack of my enemies, to recognize that all their yelling and barking does not trouble the noble stag to whom God has given the whole world for His forestward that He should rule therein. I have listened to you unto the end, and I regard your invectives and accusations as not worthy of a reply or justification, and I laugh at your menaces. But I warn you, Wilhelmine Enke, defy not the Invisibles, and offend not the Holy Fathers, by your continued resistance. Turn, misguided child of sin-turn while there is yet time! In their name I offer you a last chance, their forbearance is without bounds, and their mercy long enduring."

"I neither desire your forbearance nor mercy," cried she, proudly. "I will have no companionship with my enemies, and the Rosicrucians are such, for Bischofswerder and Woellner both hate me, and would put me aside. There is no reconciliation where only hostility is possible."

"The heavenly listen not to the voices of the earthly, and prove themselves, the most noble when the least deserved. They will protect and watch over you, even against your will, and never will they be deaf to your cry for aid in the hour of Here is a token of their grace toward you. Take this ring-do you recognize it?"

Wilhelmine regarded it attentively. "This is the ring which I gave at the tribute-altar instead of gold, which you desired."

"The Invisibles sent it to you to-day as the precious pledge of their favor. You shall keep it, and wear it as a token of their heavenly forbearance, and when you turn back from the erroneous ways into which the Illuminati have led you, send it to the circle of Berlin directors, either Bischofswerder or Wollner, and they will come to your rescue. Farewell! I forgive you all your wicked words, which fall like spent arrows from the helmet of my righteousness."

Cagliostro turned proudly away, and disappeared in the bushes.

Wilhelmine placed the ring upon her finger, turning it to watch the play of colors. "I do not know why," said she, "but it has not the same brilliancy as formerly. I will take it to the jeweller Wagner, and ask him if it is the same stone. Perhaps the Great Kophta has tried some of his miracles upon it. I will at once send the servant to Minister von Herzberg, and inform him that Cagliostro is here. He has promised me protection in the name of the king, and I feel that I shall now have need of it."

She hurried to the house, and devoted herself to the writing of the said letter-a task she was but little accustomed to. She had learned to speak French very prettily, and to express herself skilfully and wittily in German, and under her royal master, the crown prince Frederick William, gained much valuable scientific knowledge. But to write fluently was quite another thing, and it was a long time before the epistle was finished. However, happily accomplished, she commanded the servant to take it to Berlin.

He bowed with silent submission; but once having quitted the house, a cunning smile was visible upon his face, and he availed himself of a stage-coach which was going in the same direction. "I can afford this expense," said he, arranging himself comfortably. "When I have money in my pocket why should I walk the long distance? I was very clever to tell Bischofswerder that the Minister von Herzberg had secretly visited my mistress, and it was equally clever of him to give me a louis d'or, and promise me the same every time that I should bring him important news. Indeed, I think to-day he may well thank me, and I believe, if I often inform him, he will advance me a degree, and at last I shall be admitted to the circle of the elect, while I now belong to the outside circle, who know nothing and hope every thing."

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