46. The Oath At The Grave Of Frederick The Great

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The wishes of the queen had rapidly been fulfilled; public opinion had declared in Berlin with rare energy and emphasis against France, and the people had received the news of the violation of Prussia's neutrality with a unanimous cry of rage and horror. The inhabitants of Berlin, usually so peaceable and addicted to pleasure, seemed all at once transformed into heroes grave and eager for war, who no longer knew any other aim than to avenge as speedily as possible the insult offered to them, and to call France to account for the outrage she had committed against Prussia.

"War! war!" That was the word of jubilee and supplication now resounding on every street, and in every house; like one exulting prayer of the whole nation, it rose to the windows of the royal palace, and seemed to rap gently at them, so that the king might open them and let it penetrate into his heart.

The people spoke everywhere of this one great affair; they asked each other, in conversation: "Shall we take up arms? Shall we declare war against France?"

Those who answered these questions in the negative were treated in the most contemptuous manner; the people turned their backs on them, with angry glances and threatening murmurs: to those, however, who replied in the affirmative, they offered their hands joyfully and greeted them as friends and allies.

Minister von Haugwitz was known to be an adherent of the French and an opponent of the war; the people rushed to his house and broke his windows, shouting loudly and angrily, "We do not want peace! Let all the French and friends of the French perish!"

Minister von Hardenberg, on the other hand, was hailed by the people with the most enthusiastic applause wherever he made his appearance; and on their return from the house of Minister von Haugwitz, they hurried to Hardenberg's humble residence in order to cheer him and to shout, "War! war! We want war with France!"

Not only the people in the streets, however, but also the best classes of the public participated in this general enthusiasm, and did not hesitate to give vent to it in public. Even the royal functionaries found suddenly sufficient energy to show themselves as German patriots, and it was certainly not unintentional that "Wallenstein's Camp," by Schiller, was to be performed at the Royal Theatre during those days of general excitement.

Everybody wished to attend this performance; all Berlin rushed to the Royal Theatre, and the fortunate persons who had succeeded in obtaining tickets were envied by the thousands unable to gain admission. The theatre was crowded; the pit was a surging sea, the gallery was filled to suffocation, and in the boxes of the first and second tiers the aristocratic, elegant, educated, and learned world of all Berlin seemed to have met. All faces were glowing, all lips were smiling, all eyes were sparkling; every one was aware that this was to be a political demonstration, and every one was happy and proud to participate in it.

When Prince Louis Ferdinand made his appearance in the small royal proscenium-box, all eyes turned immediately toward him, and when he bent forward from his box, and seemed to greet the audience with his merry eyes and winning smile, there arose a storm of applause as though a favorite singer had just concluded an aria di bravura and received the thanks of the enraptured listeners. Suddenly, however, the loud applause died away, perhaps because the prince had waved his hands as if he wished to calm this roaring sea--perhaps because the attention of the audience was attracted by somebody else. The eyes of the crowd turned from the prince toward an adjoining box. Four gentlemen, in brilliant uniforms, had just entered it; but these uniforms were not those of the Prussian army, and the broad ribbons which these gentlemen wore across their breasts, were not the ribbons of Prussian orders. The newcomers, who had entered the box, were the members of the French embassy--General Lefevre, with his attaches, and General Duroc, whom Napoleon had recently again sent to Berlin in order to strengthen the friendly relations of France and Prussia. It was certainly a mere accident that Prince Louis Ferdinand, just at the moment when these gentlemen intended to salute him, turned to the opposite side, and did not see and acknowledge their greetings; it was certainly a mere accident that the audience, which had just now shouted and applauded jubilantly, all at once commenced hissing loudly.

The members of the French embassy took good care not to refer this hissing to themselves; they took their seats quietly near the balustrade of the box, and seemed to take no notice of the loud murmurs and the threatening glances of the audience.

The band now struck up the overture. It was a skilfully arranged medley of well-known popular war-songs, interlarded with the Dessauer and Hohenfriedberger march, as if the enthusiasm of the audience were to be carried to the highest pitch by brilliant reminiscences of the heroic deeds and imperishable glory of Prussia.

All at once a joyful murmur spread through the pit, the boxes, and the gallery. "The king, the queen!" whispered everybody, and all those hundreds of faces turned toward the small proscenium-box which the royal couple had just entered.

The queen, radiantly beautiful, with rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes, greeted the audience with an enchanting smile; the king, whose brow seemed unusually gloomy and clouded, cast only a hesitating and anxious glance over the house, and then withdrew behind the crimson curtain of the box.


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Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa Muhlbach

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