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"The goal lies before us clearly and distinctly," said Gentz, sadly; "but the way leading to it is still obstructed, and so narrow and low that we are compelled, for the time being, to advance very slowly on our knees. But we must take spades and work, so that the way may become wider and higher, and that we may walk on it one day, not with bowed heads, but drawn up to our full height, our eyes flashing, and sword in hand. Let us prepare for that day; let us work in the dark shaft, and other laborers will join us, and, like us, take spades and dig; and in the dead of night, with curses on our lips and prayers in our hearts, we will dig on, dig like moles, until we have finally reached our goal, and burst forth into the sunshine of the day which will restore liberty to Germany. At the present time, Secret societies may become very useful. I always hated and despised whatever bore that name; but necessity knows no law, and now I am obliged to hail them as the harbingers of a blessed future. [Footnote: Gentz's own words.--Vide "Correspondence," etc., p. 163.] Like the first church, the great secret society of Germany ought to be enthusiastic, self-reliant, and thoroughly organized; its aim ought to be the destruction of Bonaparte's tyranny, reconstruction of the states, restoration of the legitimate sovereigns, introduction of a better system of government, and, last, everlasting resistance to the principles which have brought about our indifference, prostration, and meanness. And now, Marianne, I come to ask you as the worthiest patriot, as the most intrepid and generous man I know and revere-- Marianne, will you join this, secret society?"
He gave her his hand with a glance full of the most profound emotion; and she returned his glance with her large, open eyes, warmly grasping his hand.
"I will, so help me God!" she said, solemnly; "I will join your secret society, and I will travel around and win over men to our league. I will seek for catacombs where we may pray, and exhort, and encourage each other to struggle on with unflagging zeal. I will enlist brethren and adherents in all circles, in the highest as well as in the lowest; and the peasant as well as the prince, the countess as well as the citizen's wife, shall become brethren and sisters of the holy covenant, the aim of which is to be the deliverance of Germany from the tyrant's yoke. My activity and zeal to promote the good work you have begun shall prove to you, my friend, whether I love you still, and whether my mind has comprehended you."
"I counted on your mind, Marianne, after I ceased building my hopes on your heart!" exclaimed Gentz, "and I was not mistaken. Your mind has comprehended me; it is the same as mine. Let us, therefore, go to work with joyful courage and make our first steps forward. The time when there was still a hope that the sword might save our cause is past; the sword lies broken at our feet. Now we have two weapons left, but they are no less sharp, cutting, and fatal than the sword."
"These weapons are the tongue and the pen?" said Marianne, smiling.
"Yes, you have understood me," said Gentz, joyfully, "these are our weapons. You, my beautiful comrade, will wield one of these weapons, the tongue, and I shall wield the other, the pen. And I have already commenced doing so, and written in the sleepless nights of these last few days a pamphlet which I should like to flit, like a pigeon, over Germany, so that everywhere it may be seen, understood and appreciated. The title of this pamphlet is Germany in her Deepest Degredation. It is an outcry of my grief, by which I intend arousing the German people, so that they may wake up at last from their long torpor, seize the sword and rise in the exuberance of their vigor for the purpose of expelling the tyrant. But, alas! where shall I find one who will dare to print it; a censor who will not expunge its most powerful passages; and, finally, book-sellers who will venture to offer so bold a work to their customers?"
"Give your manuscript to ME!" exclaimed Marianne, enthusiastically; "I will cause it to be printed, and if there should be no booksellers to circulate it, I will travel as your agent throughout the whole of Germany, and in the night-time secretly scatter your pamphlet in the streets of all the German cities, so that their inhabitants may find it in the morning--a manna fallen from heaven to nourish and invigorate them. Give your manuscript to me, Frederick Gentz; let it be the first solemn act of our secret league!"
"Just see how well I understood you, and how entirely I counted on your cooperation, Marianne," said Gentz, drawing a small package from his side pocket and placing it in her hands. "Here is my manuscript; seek for a printer and for a bookseller to publish it; give it the blessing of your protection, and promote its general circulation to the best of your ability."
"I shall do so most assuredly," replied Marianne, placing her hand on the package, as though she were taking an oath. "In less than a month's time the German people shall read this pamphlet. It shall be only the first comet which the secret league of which we are now members causes to appear on the dark firmament. Count on me; your manuscript will be published."
Gentz bent over her hand and kissed it. He then rose.
"My purpose is accomplished," he said; "I came to Vienna only to see you and enlist you as a member of my secret society. My purpose is accomplished, and I shall set out within an hour."
"And why are you in such a hurry, my friend? Why depart in so stormy and wintry a night?" asked Marianne. "Remain with me for another day."
"It is impossible, Marianne," said Gentz, deprecatingly. "Friends like ourselves must have no secrets from each other, and are allowed fearlessly to tell each other every thing. The Countess of Lankoronska is waiting for me; I shall set out with her for Breslau."
"Ah," exclaimed Marianne, reproachfully, "Lord Paget, too, is going to leave Vienna, but I do not desert you in order to accompany him; I remain."
"You are the sun around which the planets are revolving," said Gentz, smiling; "but I am nothing but a planet. I am revolving around my sun."
"You love the Countess of Lankoronska, then?"
"She is to me the quintessence of all womanly and of many manly accomplishments!" exclaimed Gentz, enthusiastically.
"And she will also join our secret society?" asked Marianne. "No," said Gentz, hastily. "My heart adores her, but my mind will never forget that she is a Russian. Next to cold death and the French, I hate nothing so cordially as the Russians."
"Still you have lived for a month with a Russian lady, of whom you are enamoured."
"And precisely in this month my hatred has increased to an astonishing extent. I despise the Austrians; I am indignant at their weakness, but still I also pity them; and when I see them, as was the case this time, trampled under foot by the Russian barbarians, my German bowels turn, and I feel that the Austrians are my brethren. During the last few days I have frequently met Constantine, the grand-duke, and the other distinguished Russians; and the blind, stupid, and impudent national pride with which they assailed Austria and Germany generally, calling our country a despicable part of earth, where none but traitors and cowards were to be found, cut me to the quick. I know very well that we are at present scarcely allowed to maintain our dignity as Germans; our government has reduced us to so degrading a position; but when we keep in mind what the Russians are, compared with US; when we have mournfully witnessed for two months that they are unable, in spite of the bravery of their troops, to make any headway against the French, and that they have injured rather than improved our condition; when we see those insulting and scorning us who cannot even claim the merit of having saved us, only then we become fully alive to the consciousness of our present degradation and abject misery!" [Footnote: Gentz's own words--"Correspondence," pp. 159, 167.]
"God be praised that such are your thoughts!" exclaimed Marianne, "for now I may hope at least that the Countess of Lankoronska, even though every thing should fail here, will not succeed in enticing you to Russia. I am sure, Gentz, you will not accompany her to the cold, distant north."
"God forbid!" replied Gentz, shuddering." If every thing should fail, I shall settle somewhere in the southern provinces of Austria, in Carinthia or in the Tyrol, where one may hear the people speak German, and live there with the plants and stars which I know and love, and with God, in some warm nook, no matter what tyrant or proconsul may rule over me. [Footnote: Ibid., p. 167] And now, Marianne, let us part. I do not promise that our meeting will be a joyful one, for I hardly count on any more joyful days, but I say that we will meet at the right hour. And the right hour will be for us only the hour when we shall have reached the goal of our secret league; when we shall have aroused the German people, and when they will rise like a courageous giant whom no one is able to withstand, and who will expel the invader with his hordes from the soil of Germany! Farewell!"
"Farewell," said Marianne, feelingly. "My friend will always be welcome, and cordial greetings will be in store for him whenever he comes. Remember that, my friend; I say no more 'my beloved,' for the Countess of Lankoronska might be jealous!"
"And she might inform Lord Paget of it," said Gentz, smiling. He then kissed Marianne's hand, and took his hat and overcoat. "Farewell, Marianne, and do not forget our league and my manuscript."
"I shall not forget any thing, for I shall not forget you," she replied, giving him her hand.
Thus, hand in hand, they walked to the door; then they nodded a last silent greeting to each other, and Gentz left the room.
Marianne listened to his steps until they had died away. She then drew a deep breath, and commenced once more slowly pacing the room.
The tapers on the silver chandeliers had burned down very low, and their liquid wax trickled slowly and lazily on the marble table. Whenever Marianne passed them, the draught fanned them to a blaze; then they shed a lurid light on the tall, queenly form in the magnificent dress, and grew dim again when Marianne stepped back into the darker parts of the long room.
Suddenly she exclaimed in a joyful voice: "Yes, I have found it at last! That is the path leading to the goal; that is the path I have to pursue." With rapid steps she hastened back to the looking-glass. "Marianne Meier," she cried aloud?--"Marianne Meier, listen to what I am going to tell you. The Princess von Eibenberg has discovered a remedy to dispel her weariness and dull repose--a remedy that will immortalize her name. Good-night, Marianne Meier, now you may go to sleep, for the Princess von Eibenberg will take care of herself!"
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Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa MuhlbachBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.