Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

Baron and Chancellor

Chancellor Pruckmann sat at his richly carved oak desk, finishing a letter to the Elector, who was still in Prussia, as he had just been informed by Baron Leuchtmar. The Baron, a large, powerfully built man of about fifty, had a somewhat serious, even solemn, expression of face. The important duty of caring for the education of the young Prince Frederick William had recently been assigned to him. He was to enter upon that duty when the Prince, now in his fifth year, reached the age of seven.

Leuchtmar, who had just returned from a journey to Austria and Bohemia, had much of importance to communicate to his friend the Chancellor, as they sat over their wine. Pruckmann be n the conversation: "Is it true that a wealthy Bohemian nobleman has offered to recruit an army for the Emperor?"

"Yes, it is true."

"His name?


"Ah! that audacious general! I remember to have heard that he did the Emperor good service in his time against the Venetians, and that he was rewarded for it with the governorship of Moravia."

"You are right," replied Leuchtmar. "And while governor he enriched his own coffers much faster than he enriched the public treasury. Some years ago he was forced to resign his position and a sweeping investigation was ordered, but he succeeded in silencing the principal witnesses against him by buying them off."

"Then he is very rich?"

"He is exceedingly rich, as you may know by this fact. You remember the revenge which the Emperor took, when Frederick was defeated at White Mountain and the Bohemians were helpless at his feet?"

"Only too well," replied Pruckmann. "He vindictively waited three months and then gave the signal. The tiger stretched out its cruel claws and seized its victims, who fancied themselves secure. He consigned seven hundred and twenty of the foremost inciters of the uprising to the scaffold, and stripped them and thousands of the common people of their possessions."

"And do you know, Herr Chancellor, who purchased the larger part of the possessions of these victims? None other than Wallenstein. He bought sixty large and small estates from the Emperor for only seven million gulden, and in the following year made other purchases which cost him three and a half million gulden more."

The Chancellor regarded this statement with the utmost astonishment.

"Yes," continued the Baron, "Wallenstein possesses a kingly fortune and lives like a king. I do not believe any prince in Europe lives more luxuriously. Many indeed are poor compared to him. I will give you some idea of his immense wealth. He bought a hundred houses in Prague and had them demolished to make room for the palace he built. What is an electoral castle compared with that palace? You ought to see his stables. The arches are supported by marble columns and the horses stand in marble stalls."

"I heard something of this, but set it down as a romantic story."

Baron Leuchtmar shook his head: "It is the hard truth, and it is all the harder because without any doubt the inexhaustible wealth of this man will bring great trouble to us and the Protestants."

The Chancellor recognized this truth by his anxious expression. Leuchtmar continued: "Tell me, Herr Chancellor, how many halberdiers you have in the castle service."

"Twelve in all, dear Baron."

"Compare that with the number in Wallenstein's palace. Fifty halberdiers keep watch day and night in the anteroom, and twelve guards are in constant attendance upon him. Four chamberlains also keep watch and examine all persons who seek an audience with him. When he travels he requires for himself and attendants sixty wagons, and several more are necessary to convey the table plate and fixtures. He owns ten state coaches with glass windows. Fifty grooms follow, each with a good extra horse.

Wallenstein is an ambitious, violent, dangerous character, created to be a scourge of mankind. How audaciously he appropriates everything! The Catholic League, with Maximilian at its head, robbed Bohemia of its Emperor and forced the Catholic religion upon the Palatinate. This was agreeable to the Emperor, and at the same time not agreeable accordingly as it affected him personally. It was agreeable to have the Protestant cause weakened; but it was not agreeable that he, the Emperor, should possess no power and be obliged practically to live by the grace of the Catholic Princes' Union. The Emperor would gladly have raised an army, but he had not the money. Wallenstein understood the situation—oh, he has eyes, that man! and offered to raise an army for the Emperor at his own expense. It pleased the Emperor. He knew Wallenstein's ability as a leader, and he was also aware of his great wealth. The maximum of the army was fixed by the Emperor at twenty thousand men. Wallenstein objected. Fifty thousand men could be supported as easily as twenty thousand. When the Emperor's advisers asked him to explain, he replied: 'Where I go with fifty thousand men I am master.' They consented."

"That devil!" exclaimed Pruckmann. "He means that where he goes with his army he will be master because it will harry that region and consume everything like a swarm of locusts. This in our dear German Empire! God have pity upon it! Wallenstein has whims and extravagances of many sorts. Like the lion, he cannot endure the crowing of a cock. He is very superstitious also. He dabbles much in astrology. When he is not in the field, he secludes himself from other men. What do you think of him?"

Leuchtmar replied: "It cannot be denied he is sinister, violent, and taciturn. A man who hates his kind has always something strange about him. What they say about the crowing of a cock may be all romance. It is true, however, that in Prague he lives all the year round separated from men and mostly keeps himself shut up in the interior of the palace. His taciturnity and his general aspect give him a demoniac appearance which spreads terror all about him. When his tall, spare figure, with that high brow and sinister glance, moves among the ranks of the troops, even the stoutest spirits are seized with a mysterious awe, and his personal presence is not a little intensified by his attire. A red feather hangs from his hat. His collar is ruffled in the Spanish fashion. His breeehes and cloak are scarlet, his riding cloak of elk skin and his girdle red. When Christian took the leadership of the Protestant cause he found his victorious enemy in Tilly. Now comes a still worse enemy."

Leuchtmar asked: "What does Schwarzenberg say?"

He has advised the Elector to take sides with the Emperor, and my friends and I are working to prevent it; but Schwarzenberg will be satisfied if he continues neutral. But I fear, in spite of neutrality, that our country will suffer from Wallenstein's army. We have had already to suffer, first, because of the passage of the two thousand English five years ago through the land; second, from the armies of Count Ernst von Mansfeld and Duke Christian, in struggles for the Protestant cause; and, third, from the warlike Danes, perhaps. I say, all this seems to me but a foretaste of what is coming."

Leuchtmar asked: "What does the Electoress think?"

"She is overcome with sorrow."

An hour later, the Electoress knew of what they had been talking. The image of Wallenstein accompanied her as she reposed at night. She tossed about restlessly on her couch and his terrible figure appeared to her in dreams. It was early morning when she awoke, but she was so exhausted by her restless night that she did not rise. She went to sleep again, and again the terrible image appeared to her. A mysterious fire gleamed in his eyes, the features of his face were rigid. There was not a trace of human emotion in them. She felt as she gazed at it that she was doomed. Then he seemed gradually to grow larger. Higher and higher towered his figure. The sky was shrouded in clouds, lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and upon the storm winds fluttered the blood-red robe of the mighty figure.

The Princess awoke. An involuntary prayer to Heaven rose from her lips.