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   Chapter 37 THE ESPOUSALS.

Old Fritz and the New Era By L. Muhlbach Characters: 12175

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

Both Bischofswerder and Woellner hastened to avail themselves of the commanding "adieu," and quit the royal presence. Without, the carriage was ready to reconvey them to the new palace. They were so exhausted that neither of them uttered a word, the last injunctions of the king ringing in their ears.

Silently they alighted upon arriving, but as the footman came out to meet them they asked, simultaneously, if his royal highness had dined.

"His highness is not here, having departed immediately after the two gentlemen, and is not yet returned," he answered.

"You may serve us something to eat as quickly as possible in the little dining-room. Let it be ready in a quarter of an hour," commanded Bischofswerder.

"Now that we are alone, what do you think of this affair?" asked Woellner.

"I cannot vouchsafe a reply until I have eaten a pheasant's wing, and drunken my champagne," replied Bischofswerder.

He kept his word, preserving a solemn silence until a good half of the bird had disappeared, and many glasses of iced champagne.

Then Bischofswerder leaned back in his comfortable armchair with infinite ease, whilst his friend occupied himself with the most pious zeal with the pheasant, rejoicing at this revelation of the Invisibles. Bischofswerder let him enjoy it, and ordered the footman to serve the dessert and withdraw.

"Now I am prepared to reply to you, my dear friend, that we are alone. I believe the king would have sent us to Spandau at once if we had opposed his free-thinking opinions."

"I am convinced of it," sighed Woellner, eyeing the remains of the bird with a melancholy glance. "We shall have much to endure for the holy cause which we serve."

"That is to say, we will have much to suffer if we, in fanatical indiscretion, do not submit to circumstances," said Bischofswerder.

"You cannot traduce the sublime Fathers!" cried Woellner;-"for the body's security, we cannot endanger the salvation of our souls, and, like Peter, deny our master."

"No, my much-loved and noble friend. But we must be wise as serpents, and our duty to the holy order is to preserve its useful tools that they may not be lost. You will agree with me in this?"

"Indeed, I do admit it," replied Wollner, pathetically.

"Further, you will acknowledge that we are very useful, and I might say indispensable tools of the Sublime Order of the Rosicrucians and the Invisible Fathers of the Order of Jesus? It is our task to secure an abiding-place to the proscribed and, cursed, to plough and sow the field, which will yield good fruit for humanity entire, and particularly our order, when the crown prince ascends the throne. We will here erect a kingdom of the future, and it is all-important to lay so secure a corner-stone in the heart of his highness that nothing can shake or dislodge it. Who could perfect this work if we were not here? Who would dare to undertake the difficult task if we should fail? Who would carry on a secret and continued warfare with this artful and powerful seductress if we were conquered?"

"No one would do it," sighed Woellner, "no one would sacrifice themselves like Samson for this Delilah."

"We will together be the Samson," replied Bischofswerder, drawing a glass of sparkling champagne. "We will be the Samson which the Philistines drove out, but this woman shall not practise the arts of Delilah upon us in putting our eyes out or cutting off our hair. Against two Samsons the most artful and beautiful Delilah is not wary enough; and if we cannot conquer her, we must resort to other means."

"What may they be, dear brother?"

"We must compromise the matter."

Woellner sprang up, and a flush of anger or from champagne overspread his face "Compromise with the sinful creature!" he cried, impetuously. "Make peace with the seductress, who leads the prince from the path of virtue!"

"Yes, we must be on friendly terms with this woman, who could greatly injure us as an enemy, and aid us infinitely as a friend. This is my intention, and I am the more convinced that we must accept this middle course, as she is protected by the king."

"Because he knows from his spies that she mingles with the Illuminati and the Freemasons, and that she is our opponent," said Woellner.

"The more the reason, my noble zealot, to win her friendship, who will have validity and power until the crown prince reigns, and this old godless freethinker of a king is in his gravel Then Prussia will commence a new era, and we shall be lords, and guide the machine of state. For such lofty aims one ought to be ready to compromise with his Satanic majesty even. Then why not with this little she-devil, whose power is fading every year with her youth and beauty?"

"It is quite true, we should be mindful of the device of our Invisible Fathers. The end sanctifies the means," sighed Woellner.

"I believe it to be indispensable, and you will grant that I am right. Do you not see that the prince has availed himself of our absence to go there, and has not yet returned?"

"What!" shrieked Woellner, clasping his hands-"you do not mean that-"

"That Rinaldo has returned to the enchanted garden of Armida."

"Oh, let us hasten to release him at once, and revue his soul from perdition!" cried Woellner, springing up.

"On the contrary, let us await him here without a word of reproach upon his return. This will touch his tender heart which we must work upon, if we would get him into our power, for to us he must belong. Fill our glasses with the sparkling wine, and drink to the contract with Wilhelmine Enke."

Just as merrily they quaffed the champagne in the little cosy dining-room at Charlottenburg, where the prince and Wilhelmine were rejoicing over a reconciliation, no one being present but the two children. Their joyous laugh and innocent jests delighted the father, and the beaming eyes, sweet smile, and witty conversation of his favorite, filled his heart with pleasure.

Not a word of reproach escaped her, but exultant and joyous she hastened with outstretched arms to meet him,

kissing away all his attempts to implore pardon, and thanking him that he had returned to her.

At first the prince gave himself up to the joy of the reunion with his beloved Wilhelmine sad children; but now, as the first outburst had passed, the quiet, happy dinner being finished, and they had returned to the sitting-room, a tinge of melancholy earnestness overshadowed his amiable face.

Wilhelmine threw her arms gently around his neck as she sat beside him upon the divan, and looked up to him with a tender questioning glance. "Your thoughts are veiled, dearest; will you not confide to me that which lies concealed there?"

"Ah, Wilhelmine, it is a mourning veil, and hides the sorrow of renunciation."

"I do not understand you, Frederick," she smilingly replied. "Who could compel you to an abnegation which would cause you grief?"

"Listen to me, Wilhelmine, and understand that I am suffering from circumstances-an oath taken in the pressure of the moment. Try to comprehend me, my dear child."

Drawing her closer to him, he faithfully related to her the night of the communion of the spirits, and his consequent oath.

"Is that all, my dear?" she replied, smiling, as he finished.

"What do you mean?" he asked, astonished.

"Nothing more than I would know if you have only sworn to renounce Wilhelmine Enke!"

"What could I have done more prejudicial to you?" he cried, not a little irritated.

"Surely you could not injure or grieve me more, and therefore I am not a little surprised that the pious Fathers could so carelessly word their oaths. You have sworn to renounce your affection to and separate from Wilhelmine Enke; so it follows that the Invisibles only demand that you give up my name, not myself, and that is easily changed, and my dear prince will not become a perjurer."

"I do not quite understand you; but I perceive by the arch expression of your face that you have conceived a lucky escape for your unhappy Frederick William. Explain to me, dearest, your meaning."

"I must change my name by marrying some one!" she whispered.

"Marry! and I give you to another? I will never consent to that," he cried, alarmed.

"Not to a husband, only a name," said she. "These Rosicrucians are such extraordinarily virtuous and pure beings, loving you so infinitely and disinterestedly, that it grieves them that my love for you does not shun the light, and throw over itself the mantle of hypocritical virtue! We will yield to the zealous purity of the Rosicrucians," continued Wilhelmine, her eyes sparkling, "and wrap this Wilhelmine Enke in a mantle of virtue by giving her a husband; and then, when she walks out with her children the passers-by will not have to blush with shame, and cry, 'There goes the miss with her children!' I have conceived and planned during this long and painful separation, and I am resolved to submit humbly to the pious Fathers, who are so zealously watchful for the salvation of your soul and my good fame."

"That is to say, you are determined to snap your fingers at them! Your plan is a good one, but you will find no one to aid you in a sham marriage!"

"I have already found one," whispered Wilhelmine, smiling. "Your valet de chambre Rietz is willing to stand with me in a sham marriage."

"My body-servant!"

"Yes, Frederick William! You will confess that I am not ambitious, and only consent to it to secure our happiness from the persecution of these virtuous men. Here is the contract," said she, drawing from her dress-pocket a paper, which she unfolded. "He promises to give me his name, and regard me as a stranger always, for the sum of four hundred thalers annually, with the promise of promotion to confidential servant when the noble crown prince shall ascend the throne. [Footnote: Historical.-See F. Forster, "Latest Prussian History," vol. 1., p. 74.] Will you sign it?"

"I will do any thing that will grant me your affection, in spite of my unhappy oath. Give me the paper. I will sign it. When is the wedding?"

"The moment that you, my dear lord and master, have inscribed your name," said Wilhelmine, handing him the pen, and pointing to the paper.

The prince wrote the desired signature, quickly throwing the pen across the room, shouting, "Long live Wilhelmine Rietz, who has rescued me from perjury and sin! Come to my arms, outstretched to press to my heart the most beautiful, most intelligent, and most diplomatic of women!"

Two days later it was related in Berlin that Wilhelmine Enke had married the princely valet de chambre Rietz, the crown prince being present at the ceremony, which took place at a small village near Potsdam.

Under the head of marriages, the Berlin newspapers announced "Wilhelmine Enke to Carl Rietz."

"Ah, my Rosicrucians," cried Wilhelmine, laughingly, as she read this notice, a mischievous triumph sparkling in her eyes; "ah, my heroes in virtue, for once you are outwitted, and I am victorious! I would like to witness their surprise. How they will laugh and swear over it! The favorite of a prince married to a valet de chambre! Wait until the prince becomes a king, then Wilhelmine Rietz will develop into a beautiful butterfly, and the wife of the valet de chambre will become a countess-nay, a princess. The Great Kophta has promised it, and he shall keep his word. I wear his ring, which sparkles and glistens, although the jeweller declares the diamond has been exchanged for a false stone. No matter, if it only shines like the real one. Every thing earthly is deception, falsehood, and glitter. Every one is storming and pressing on in savage eagerness toward fortune, honor, and fame! I will have my part in it. The storm and pressure of the world rage in my own heart. The fire of ambition is lighted in my soul, and the insatiable thirst for fortune consumes me. Blaze and burn until the day that Frederick William ascends the throne; then the low-born daughter of the trumpeter will become the high-born countess. The false stone will change to the sparkling diamond and Cagliostro shall then serve me."

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