Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

In the Park

In the vicinity of Arnheim, at Rehnen, dwelt the clever and once so beautiful Elizabeth, daughter of King James the First of England, who still called herself Queen of Bohemia and Electoress of the Palatinate. Her country house stood in a handsome park. The last hopes of her husband, Frederick the Fifth, disappeared with the death of Gustavus Adolphus. Shortly after the news came he was stricken down with an illness which proved fatal. Both the oldest sons of the Electoress, the Prince, subsequently the Elector Carl Ludwig, and Prince Rupert, who was a year older than the Electoral Prince Frederick William, had been fellow-students with him at Leyden and in daily intercourse with him. They were now spending a short time with their mother in Rehnen. Besides these, the Electoress had a younger son, Prince Moritz, and two daughters, Princess Henrietta, who was so well educated that in her nineteenth year she engaged in arguments with Dutch scholars, and Princess Louise, who was sprightlier by nature and had a special talent in painting.

While the Prince was living in Arnheim it was his custom to ride over to Rehnen every afternoon and make a call of a few hours, returning at dusk. One day, as he approached Rehnen, he was informed by the porter to whom he gave his horse that he would find the Electoress with the princes and princesses in the pavilion at the lower end of the park. In the middle of the park he reached a garden ornamented with marble statuary. From this point he saw his princely relatives. The green doors and windows of the pavilion in which they were sitting were open, so that the sunshine and perfume of the garden found their way into it. His cousins saw him coming and advanced to meet him, and the Electoress and princesses greeted him affectionately upon the estrade.

The time passed in animated conversation. It was the dearest wish of the Electoress to secure the heir of Brandenburg for her son-in-law. The pleasure of the conversation, however, was soon seriously marred. The Princess Henrietta asked if Wallenstein had not actually attempted to secure the crown of Bohemia. The Princess Louise maintained that he had. "I look with a shudder," said she, "into the dark, bottomless abyss of that man's soul. Despicable ambitions rage there. Selfishness characterizes every mortal more or less, but he had no other impelling motive. All love in his nature was destroyed by it, and where there is no love one becomes a fiend. What were Luther, the Pope, or Calvin to him! He made no account of them. His own person was all he cared for. Many a time I have said 'He is Satan incarnate!'"

"And yet," remarked the Electoress, "his faith in the stars—"

"Superstition," replied the Princess.

"I will not dispute with you about the word," replied the Electoral Prince. "But you must concede one thing: He sought to read his fate in the position of the stars. He believed that everything which happened to him was written there, and he tried to read the writing. To that extent he acknowledged the power which governs the stars."

"Then in reality his superstition was an evidence of his faith," said the Electoress. "Then if he sometimes fell into a fanaticism, which sprung from his belief in his favorite science, we are bound to excuse him. Do you mean that?"

"Not entirely," replied Frederick William. In part he was a fanatic; but besides this there was much of evil in him, and when that evil took possession of his nature it destroyed everything before it."

The Princess Henrietta replied: "There is nothing upon earth which interests me so much as the human soul. The famous botanist Kluit at Leyden analyzes an object and examines its organism and structure with the microscope. I would like to have an instrument which would so disclose the soul of Wallenstein that I might look into its lowest depths. What a picture it would reveal to my gaze!"

"Sister," said the Princess Louise, "I agree with you. Many years have passed, but I clearly remember that for a long time I could not rid myself of the picture of the dying Wallenstein by day or night. The door is burst open by the hired assassin. There he stands in the middle of his chamber, an apparition in his white night-dress. The assassin trembles for an instant. Then plucking up courage he rushes upon Wallenstein and pierces him with his knife. Silently and with out-stretched arms he receives his death-wound. Not a word! not a sound! He expires in silence! What a monstrous spectacle! But I will desist, for our Rupert is again growing angry."

It was true, but Rupert only said: "Not yet, sister! But I think you ought not to make such an ado about a murderous soul. In the end you may sympathize with that wretch as well as with Maximilian, who took away our inheritance without a sting of conscience."

The Electoress grew visibly pale. It was always so when she heard the name of the man who had defeated her husband's army at Prague.

The oldest Prince, desirous of pacifying his brother, who was somewhat impetuous and outbreaking, said: "Now I will say a word for the sisters who have often expressed themselves as to Maximilian. I may not repeat what they said here, but I remember it. Believe me as to one thing. Had no battle been fought at Prague and had not Maximilian. usurped our birthright, I should still have despised him from the bottom of my soul and ranked him far below Wallenstein. How basely he' acted! He first suggested his removal. Then when Gustavus Adolphus had driven him into straits, he whined like a dog at Wallenstein's door and begged for protection and assistance. But hardly is Gustavus Adolphus gone when he again begins his machinations, and continues them until Wallenstein is killed by an assassin."

"Do you seriously mean, cousin," said the Electoral Prince, "that Maximilian was the only cause of Wallenstein's murder?"

"Not the only one, but the principal one."

Prince Ludwig now spoke: "I do not believe it. Maximilian had a hand in the game, but the Emperor is mainly responsible. What a weak successor the Emperor's oldest son will prove!"

"He is only nominally commander-in-chief of the army. The real leader is Gallas, and he has learned from his great predecessors. It almost seemed as if Tilly or Pappenheim were again leading the Imperialists, so bravely did they fight at Nordlingen, where Marshal Franz Horn was captured."

"This is also an inestimable loss for our side," said the Electoress with a sigh. "With my own ears I have heard Gustavus Adolphus call him his right hand. As long as the Swedes had a Marshal Franz Horn and a Chancellor Oxenstjern they decided to continue the war against the Emperor and the League. But Horn has been languishing in prison for several years."

"Twenty years," began Prince Ludwig, "the war has already lasted. If the Elector of Saxony did not continually temporize, possibly some settlement might be reached, but that vacillating gentleman thinks only of his own advantage. The Protestant cause has been left in the lurch. He does not consider our rights in treaties of peace with the Emperor. But the enraged Swedes now in his country will pay him off."

The Electoress folded her hands. "May the Almighty," she sighed, "soon bring peace to the German Empire and restore us our rights!"

Prince Ludwig replied: "Mother, we three must also play some part upon the stage of war. There is still much remaining to be done."

The wild Rupert exclaimed: "Even if peace could be made, I would not have it so until I have done something in the field."

The Electoral Prince said nothing, but his look and manner showed how ardently he longed to take part in the struggle.

The Elector of Brandenburg had agreed to the treaty of peace which had been concluded between the Emperor and the Elector of Saxony. That the Electoress of the Palatinate as well as her sons and daughters were dissatisfied may well be imagined. But up to this time nothing had been said of his father's politics in the presence of the Electoral Prince. But now Prince Rupert broke out: "The Electors by this treaty with the Emperor have proved traitors to a good cause."

The Electoral Prince rose and with flashing eyes passionately exclaimed: "Cousin, woe to you or me, if I have heard aright!"

The rest of the company were alarmed. They were familiar with Rupert's wildness and impetuosity, but now they had experienced Frederick William's resoluteness and passionate sense of honor.

"Dear cousin," said Ludwig, "our brother only refers to the Elector of Saxony."

The mother and the princesses confirmed the statement and demanded of Prince Rupert by look and action that he should agree with them.

He remained silent, and his manner caused the apprehension that he was disinclined to answer his cousin. His mother's look, however, had such power over him that he overmastered his furious temper. He said: "Far be it from me to tarnish your father's honor with a breath from my mouth."

The Prince was outwardly satisfied with the explanation. Political conversation was dropped, and they talked about The Hague, which the Electoral Prince was going to visit during the next few days.

In the bright moonlight Frederick William rode back to Arnheim.