Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

The Battle

Chancellor Pruckmann went to the castle to seek an audience. He entered in his usual deferential manner but the Electoress had not yet returned from the apartment of her mother-in-law. As he was traversing the corridor, he suddenly heard his name called behind him. He turned and beheld her. A look of distress came into his face and he bowed very low, perhaps to conceal his countenance from her gaze until he could master his emotions. His expression did not escape the sharp eyes of the Electoress, who was already filled with gloomy anticipations. Her presentiment as to the fate of her brother and Bohemia was confirmed by his looks, and she said in a tone of alarm: Pruckmann, you are the bearer of evil tidings, are you not? Oh, God! What am I to hear next. Quick! follow me to my apartment."

When they were together there the Electoress paced up and down the room with clasped hands, trying to regain her composure. At last she seated herself and said to Pruckmann, who remained standing by the door like a statue, and looking down: "Now, Pruckmann, I am strong enough to hear whatever you have to say. Tell me briefly and quickly all that has happened."

It seemed as if the flowers on the carpet had riveted Pruckmann's gaze. He did not look up, but after a little said in a hollow voice: "So be it. I will tell you briefly. Your brother is no longer King of Bohemia. He was defeated, and has had to fly."

Another pause ensued. As Pruckmann heard no sound from the Electoress he looked up. Her face alarmed him beyond all measure, for in reality she looked like a dead rather than a live person. She was barely able to gasp out: "Pruckmann, are you certain of this?"

"Alas! as certain as I know that this hand is mine!"

The Electoress's head suddenly dropped upon the arm of her chair. Pruckmann rushed to an adjoining apartment and sent her maids to her. He remained there but had not waited long when he heard her voice, which had been silenced by her convulsive weeping. When at last he was summoned he found her remarkably composed.

"Now, Pruckmann, give me, as far as you can, an exact account of what has occurred. Have you the news by word of mouth or by letter?"

"I received this letter two hours ago."

"Leave it with me. I will read it later. Now tell me what you know."

"Gracious Princess, I should not merit your confidence did I not tell you the whole truth."

"Pruckmann, tell me everything, in the fewest words."

"Your princely brother lost the devotion of the Bohemians in many ways: he showed himself too fond of splendor; he offended the Bohemian leaders in the army by disregarding the movements of the German general; and, worse still, he embittered the Bohemian Lutherans by his unmistakable expressions of contempt for their faith. I have known these things for several weeks, and you know that as far as it was my duty, I gave you intimations of them."

"Yes; and I have not failed to communicate my opinions about these things to my brother freely, but as now appears in vain."

"Your princely brother deemed himself too secure. His advisers must have failed in their duty. He soon discovered, however, the weakness of his situation. The Catholic princes rallied promptly at the call of the Emperor, but none of the princes who had joined the Protestant Union came at the King's summons. The Elector of Saxony—he belongs, you know, to the Lutheran confession—sent word: 'I would rather unite with the Turks than with you.'

The Electoress was growing impatient. Pruckmann—and this was a frequent failing of his—dwelt upon matters which she knew already as well as he.

"The result of all these acts was the failure of the Bohemian army to meet the emergency when the decisive hour approached."

"At last you are coming to the point, Pruckmann. Tell me when and where the battle occurred."

"The battle took place fourteen days ago, on the eighth of November, at White Mountain, near Prague."

"Did Maximilian of Bavaria lead his army against my brother in the battle?"

"He led the army of the Catholics in person. But your brother was not there."

"Not there! Where was he, then?"

"The news of the defeat reached him at dinner, in Prague. He hurried to the ramparts and beheld his army in full retreat."

"And now?"

"Your princely brother asked for an armistice of twenty-four hours. Only eight was granted. He took advantage of the armistice to fly, his wife and children and the leaders following him."

The Electoress breathed heavily. "Is everything, then, lost?" she said, after a pause. "What does the black raven say about it? [She meant Schwarzenberg.] Ah! he has a keen scent."

Pruckmann replied: "I spoke with him just before I came here. God grant his words do not come true. He says with the crown of Bohemia stands and falls the Electorate of the Palatinate."

"Bird of ill omen!" exclaimed the Electoress. "He means that both King and Elector are lost together. But that is not yet the case. My brother is Elector of the Palatinate by divine right and justice, and he is still, in fact, King of Bohemia. The dignitaries of the country placed the crown upon his head before the whole world. One battle is lost. Cannot a second be won? What do you say to that?"

"This letter says the flight of your brother was so precipitate that he forgot to take not only his private papers but his crown with him. Without doubt they are at this moment in possession of the Emperor. Losing the crown, the outward symbol of power, I fear he has lost the confidence of the Bohemians, and especially the confidence of the Protestant party of Germany."

"And what do you both think my brother's next step will be?"

"Gracious Princess, I have no gift of prophecy. Schwarzenberg fears that your brother and his family will seek refuge in your court."

"Does Schwarzenberg fear that?"

"Alas! yes. Your brother is an enemy of the Emperor. As his reception here would be dangerous, Schwarzenberg thinks it must be refused, however painful it may be."

"My God!" exclaimed the Electoress in a despairing tone, "has it come to this, that my brother is to be banned as an outlaw?"

Pruckmann shrugged his shoulders, as he said: "Schwarzenberg thinks—"

The Electoress wrung her hands. Pruckmann was about to go on. "It is enough," said the Electoress. "I cannot bear more to-day." She gave him a sign to leave.

As he passed through the courtyard he looked up at the windows of the apartment he had just left and, as he pursued his way, said to himself: "Perhaps to-day this or that one passing here has also looked up with envious glances and has thought that the greatest happiness on earth is found in a princely crown. O foolish ones, who thus think! Truly princes buy dearly enough the favors which you cannot have, with sorrows you cannot know."