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And raising her arm toward the glittering, radiant image in the looking-glass, she said in a loud and solemn voice: "Marianne Meier, rise from your grave and come hither to reply to my questions! Marianne Meier, rise and walk; it is the Princess von Eibenberg who is calling you! Ah, I see you--it is you, Marianne; you are looking at me with the melancholy eyes of those days when you had to bear so much contumely and disgrace, and when you were sitting mournfully by the rivers of Babylon and weeping. Yes, I recognize you; you still wear the features of your ancestors of the tribe of Levi; men pretend not to notice them any longer, but I see them. Marianne Meier, now listen to what I am going to tell you, and reply to me: tell me what is the matter with the Princess von Eibenberg? What is the reason she is not happy? Look around in her house, Marianne Meier; you will behold there such opulence and magnificence as you never knew in the days of your childhood. Look at her gilt furniture, her carpets and lustres; look at the beautiful paintings on the walls, and at the splendid solid plate in her chests. Look at her velvet and silk dresses, adorned with gold and silver embroidery; look at her diamonds, her other precious stones and jewelry. Do you know still, Marianne Meier, how often, in the days of your childhood and early youth, you have longed, with scalding tears, for all those things? Do you know still, Marianne Meier, how often you have wrung your hands and wailed, 'Would to God I were rich! For he who is rich is happy!' The Princess von Eibenberg is rich, Marianne Meier; why, then, is she not happy? If it had been predicted to you at that time, when you were only sighing for wealth, Marianne Meier, that you would be a princess one day, and carry your Jewish head proudly erect in the most aristocratic society, would you not have believed that this was the acme of happiness, and that your boldest wishes had been fulfilled? Ah, Marianne Meier, I have reached this acme, and yet it seems to me that I am much more remote from happiness than you ever were at that time! You had then something to struggle for; you had a great aim. But what have I got? I have reached my aim, and there is nothing for me to accomplish and to struggle for! That is the secret of my melancholy; I have nothing to struggle for. I have reached the acme of my prosperity, and every step I advance is a step down-hill toward the grave, and when the grave closes over me nothing will remain of me, and my name will be forgotten, while the name of the hateful usurper will resound through all ages like a golden harp! Oh, a little glory, a little immortality on earth; that, Marianne Meier, is what the ambitious heart of the Princess von Eibenberg is longing for; that is the object for which she would willingly sacrifice years of her life. Life is now so boundlessly tedious and empty; it is nothing but a glittering phrase; nothing but a smiling and gorgeous but dull repetition of the same thing! But, hark! What is that?" She suddenly interrupted herself. "It seemed to me as if I heard steps in the small corridor. Yes, I was not mistaken. Somebody is at the door. Oh, it is he, then; it is Gentz."
She rushed toward the door, and opening it hastily, she said, "Is it you, my beloved friend?"
"If you apply this epithet to me, Marianne, yes, it is I," replied Gentz, entering the room.
"And to whom else should I apply it, Frederick?" she asked, reproachfully. "Who but you has got a key to my house and to this door? Who but you is allowed to enter my house and my room at any hour of the day or night?"
"Perhaps Lord Paget, my powerful and fine-looking rival," said Gentz, carelessly, and without the least shade of bitterness, while he sat down on the sofa with evident symptoms of weariness and exhaustion.
"Are you jealous of Lord Paget?" she asked, taking a seat by his side, and placing her hand, sparkling with diamond-rings, on his shoulder. "Remember, my friend, that it was solely in obedience to your advice that I did not reject the attentions of the dear lord and entered into this political liaison."
"I know, I know," said Gentz, deprecatingly; "nor have I come to quarrel with you about such trifles. I have not come as a jealous lover who wishes to upbraid his beloved with the attentions she has shown to other men, but as a poor, desponding man who appears before his friend to pour his lamentations, his despair into her bosom, and to ask her for a little sympathy with his rage and grief."
"My friend, what has occurred?" asked Marianne, in dismay.
"Where have you been during the week, since I have not seen you? You took leave of me in a hurried note, stating that you would set out on an important journey, although you did not tell me whither you were going. Where have you been, Frederick?"
"I was in Olmutz with the emperor and with the ministers," sighed Gentz. "I hoped to promote there the triumph of the good cause and of Germany; I hoped to witness a brilliant victory, and now--"
"And now?" asked Marianne, breathlessly, when Gentz paused.
"Now I have witnessed a disgraceful defeat," groaned Gentz.
Marianne uttered a cry, and her eyes flashed angrily. "He has conquered again?" she asked, in a husky voice.
"He has conquered, and we have been beaten," exclaimed Gentz, in a loud and bitter tone. "The last hope of Germany, nay, of Europe, is gone; the Russians were defeated with us in a terrible battle. The disaster is an irretrievable one, all the armies of Prussia being unable to restore the lost prestige of the coalition! [Footnote: Gentz's own words.--Vide Gentz's "Correspondence with Johannes von Muller," p. 150.] The Russians have already retreated, and the Emperor Alexander has set out to-night in order to return to his dominions."
"And HE," muttered Marianne, "HE is celebrating another triumph over us! He is marching onward proudly and victoriously, while we are lying, crushed and humiliated, in the dust of degradation. Is it Thy will that it should be so, God in heaven?" she asked, turning her eyes upward with an angry glance. "Hast Thou no thunderbolt for this Titan who is rebelling against the laws of the world? Wilt Thou permit this upstart to render all countries unhappy, and to enslave all nations?"
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Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa Muhlbach