11. The Young King

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The king rapidly walked through the rooms and across the hall, separating his own apartments from those of the queen. He had scarcely entered his cabinet, when he opened the door of the ante- room, and exclaimed:

"Pray, come in, my dear Kockeritz."

A corpulent little gentleman, about fifty years of age, with a kind, good-natured face, small, vivacious eyes, denoting an excellent heart, but little ability, and large, broad lips, which never perhaps had uttered profound truths, but assuredly many pleasant jests, immediately appeared on the threshold.

While he was bowing respectfully, the king extended his hand to him.

"You have received my letter, my friend?" he asked.

"Yes, your majesty. I received it yesterday, and I have been studying it all night."

"And what are you going to reply to me?" asked the king, quickly. "Are you ready to accept the position I have tendered to you? Will you become my conscientious and impartial adviser--my true and devoted friend?"

"Your majesty," said the lieutenant-colonel, sighing, "I am afraid your majesty has too good an opinion of my abilities. When I read your truly sublime letter, my heart shuddered, and I said to myself, 'The king is mistaken about you. To fill the position he is offering to you, he needs a man of the highest ability and wisdom. The king has confounded your heart with your head.' Yes, your majesty, my heart is in the right place; it is brave, bold, and faithful, but my head lacks wisdom and knowledge. I am not a learned man, your majesty."

" But you are a man of good common sense and excellent judgment, and that is worth more to me than profound learning," exclaimed the king. "I have observed you for years, and these extended observations have confirmed my conviction more and more that I was possessing in you a man who would be able one day to render me the most important services by his straightforwardness, his unerring judgment, his firm character, and well-tried honesty. I have a perfect right to trust you implicitly. I am a young man, as yet too ignorant of the world to rely exclusively upon myself, and not to fear lest dishonest men, in spite of the most earnest precautions, should deceive me. Hence every well-meant advice must be exceedingly welcome to me, and such advice I can expect at your hands. I pray you, sir, remain my friend, do not change your bearing toward me, become my adviser. [Footnote: Vide "A letter to Lieutenant-Colonel von Kockeritz, by Frederick William III."] Kockeritz, will you reject my request?"

"No," exclaimed Herr von Kockeritz; "if that is all your majesty asks of me, I can promise it and fulfil my promise. Your majesty shall always find me to be a faithful, devoted, and honest servant."

"I ask more than that," said the king, gently. "Not only a faithful servant, but a devoted FRIEND--a friend who will call my attention to my short-comings and errors. Assist me with your knowledge of men and human nature. For nobody is more liable to make mistakes in judging of men than a prince, and it cannot be otherwise. To a prince no one shows himself in his true character. Every one tries to fathom the weaknesses and inclinations of rulers--and then assumes such a mask as seems best calculated to accomplish his purposes. Hence, I expect you to look around quietly, without betraying your intentions, for honest and sagacious men, and to find out what positions they are able to fill in the most creditable manner." [Footnote: Ibid.]

"I shall take pains, your majesty, to discover such men," said Herr von Kockeritz, gravely. "It seems to me, however, sire, that fortunately you have got many able and excellent men close at hand, and for that reason need not look very far for other assistants."

"To whom do you allude?" exclaimed the king, sharply, and with a slight frown.

Herr von Kockeritz cast a rapid glance upon the king's countenance and seemed to have read his thoughts upon his clouded brow.

"Your majesty," he said, gravely and slowly, "I do not mean to say any thing against Wollner, the minister, and his two counsellors, Hermes and Hiller, nor against Lieutenant-General von Bischofswerder."

The frown had already disappeared from the king's brow. Stepping up to his desk, he seized a piece of paper there, which he handed to his friend.

"Just read that paper, and tell me what to do about it."

"Ah, Lieutenant-General von Bischofswerder has sent in his resignation!" exclaimed Herr von Kockeritz, when he had read the paper. "Well, I must confess that the general has a very fine nose, and that he acted most prudently."

"You believe, then, I would have dismissed him anyhow?"

"Yes, I believe so, your majesty."

"And you are right, Kockeritz. This gloomy and bigoted man has done a great deal of mischief in Prussia, and the genius of our country had veiled his head and fled before the spirits which Bischofswerder had called up. Oh, my friend, we have passed through a gloomy, disastrous period, and seen many evil spirits here, and been tormented by them. But not another word about it: It does not behoove me to judge the past, for it does not belong to me. Only the future is mine; and God grant when it has, in turn, become the past, that it may not judge ME! Lieutenant-General von Bischofswerder was the friend and confidant of my lamented father, the king, and in that capacity I must and will honor him. I shall accept his resignation, but grant him an ample pension."


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Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa Muhlbach

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