Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > German
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XII: German
 
A Night Watchman as Prince
By Heinrich Zschokke (1771–1848)
 
From “Adventures of a New Year’s Eve”

PHILIP stalked majestically through the snow-covered streets of the capital, where as many people were still visible as in the middle of the day. Carriages were rattling in all directions; the houses were all brilliantly lighted. Our watchman enjoyed the scene. He sang his verses at ten o’clock, and blew his horn lustily in the neighborhood of St. Gregory’s Church, with many a thought on Rose, who was then with her friend. “Now, she hears me,” he said to himself; “now, she thinks of me, and forgets the scene around her. I hope she won’t fail me at twelve o’clock at the church door.” And when he had gone his round, he always returned to the dear house, and looked up at the lighted window. Sometimes he saw female figures, and his heart beat quick at the sight; sometimes he fancied he saw Rose herself; and sometimes he studied the long shadows thrown on the wall or the ceiling to discover which of them was Rose’s, and to fancy what she was doing. It was certainly not a very pleasant employment to stand in frost and snow, and look up at a window; but what care lovers for frost and snow? And watchmen are as fiery and romantic lovers as ever were the knights of ancient ballads.
  1
  He only felt the effects of the frost when, at eleven o’clock, he had to set out upon his round. His teeth chattered with cold; he could scarcely call the hour or sound his horn. He would willingly have gone into a beer-house to warm himself at the fire. As he was pacing through a lonely by-street, he met a man with a black half-mask on his face, enveloped in a fire-colored silken mantle, and wearing on his head a magnificent hat turned up at one side, and fantastically ornamented with a number of high and waving plumes.  2
  Philip endeavored to escape the mask, but in vain. The stranger blocked up his path, and said, “Ha! thou art a fine fellow! I like thy phiz amazingly! Where are you going, eh? I say, where are you going?”  3
  “To Mary Street,” replied Philip. “I am going to call the hour there.”  4
  “Enchanting!” answered the mask. “I’ll hear thee; I’ll go with thee. Come along, thou foolish fellow, and let me hear thee, and mind thou singest well, for I am a good judge. Canst thou sing me a jovial song?”  5
  Philip saw that his companion was of high rank and a little tipsy, and answered, “I sing better over a glass of wine in a warm room, than when up to my waist in snow.”  6
  They had now reached Mary Street, and Philip sang, and blew the horn.  7
  “Ha! that’s but a poor performance!” exclaimed the mask, who had accompanied him thither. “Give me the horn! I shall blow so well, that you’ll half die with delight.”  8
  Philip yielded to the mask’s wishes, and let him sing the verses and blow. For four or five times all was done as if the stranger had been a watchman all his life. He dilated most eloquently on the joys of such an occupation, and was so inexhaustible in his own praises, that he made Philip laugh at his extravagance. His spirits evidently owed no small share of their elevation to an extra glass of wine.  9
  “I’ll tell you what, my treasure, I’ve a great fancy to be a watchman myself for an hour or two. If I don’t do it now, I shall never arrive at that honor in the course of my life. Give me your greatcoat and wide-brimmed hat, and take my domino. Go into a beer-house and take a bottle at my expense; and when you have finished it, come again and give me back my masking-gear. You shall have a couple of dollars for your trouble. What do you think, my treasure?”  10
  But Philip did not like this arrangement. At last, however, at the solicitations of the mask, he capitulated as they entered a dark lane. Philip was half frozen; a warm drink would do him good, and so would a warm fire. He agreed to give up his watchmanship for one half hour, which would be till twelve o’clock. Exactly at that time the stranger was to come to the great door of St. Gregory’s and give back the greatcoat, horn, and staff, taking back his own silk mantle, hat, and domino. Philip also told him the four streets in which he was to call the hour. The mask was in raptures. “Treasure of my heart,” he exclaimed, “I could kiss thee if thou wert not a dirty, miserable fellow! But thou shalt have naught to regret if thou art at the church at twelve, for I will give thee money for a supper then. Joy! I am a watchman!”  11
  The mask looked a watchman to the life, while Philip was completely disguised with the half-mask tied over his face, the bonnet, ornamented with a buckle of diamonds, on his head, and the red silk mantle thrown around him. When he saw his companion commence his walk, he began to fear that the young gentleman might compromise the dignity of the watchman. He therefore addressed him once more, and said:  12
  “I hope you will not abuse my good nature and do any mischief, or misbehave in any way, as it may cost me the situation.”  13
  “Hullo!” answered the stranger, “what are you talking about? Do you think I don’t know my duty? Off with you this moment, or I’ll let you feel the weight of my staff! But come to St. Gregory’s Church and give me back my clothes at twelve o’clock. Good-by. This is glorious fun!”  14
  The new guardian of the streets walked onward with all the dignity becoming his office, while Philip hurried to a neighboring tavern.  15
  Passing the door of the royal palace, he was laid hold of by a person in a mask who had alighted from a carriage. Philip turned round, and in a low, whispering voice asked what the stranger wanted.  16
  “My gracious lord,” answered the mask, “in your reverie you have passed the door. Will your Royal Highness——”  17
  “What? Royal Highness?” said Philip, laughing. “I am no highness. What put that in your head?”  18
  The mask bowed respectfully, and pointed to the diamond buckle in Philip’s cap. “I ask your pardon if I have betrayed your disguise. But, in whatever character you assume, your noble bearing will betray you. Will you condescend to lead the way? Does your Highness intend to dance?”  19
  “I? Dance?” replied Philip. “No; you see, I have boots on.”  20
  “To play cards, then?” inquired the mask.  21
  “Still less. I have brought no money with me,” said the assistant watchman.  22
  “Good heavens!” exclaimed the mask. “Command my purse—all I possess is at your service!” Saying this, he forced a full purse into Philip’s hand.  23
  “But do you know who I am?” inquired Philip, as he rejected the purse.  24
  The mask whispered, with a bow of profound obeisance, “His Royal Highness, Prince Julian.”  25
  At this moment Philip heard his deputy in an adjoining street calling the hour very distinctly, and he now became aware of his metamorphosis. Prince Julian, who was well known in the capital as an amiable, wild, and good-hearted young man, had been the person with whom he had changed his clothes. “Now, then,” thought Philip, “as he enacts the watchman so well, I will not shame his rank; I’ll see if, for one half hour, I can’t be the prince. If I make any mistake, he has himself to blame for it.” He wrapped the red silken mantle closer round him, took the offered purse, put it in his pocket, and said, “Who are you, mask? I will return your money to-morrow.”  26
  “I am the Chamberlain Pilzou.”  27
  “Good! Lead the way, I’ll follow.”  28
  The chamberlain obeyed, and tripped up the marble stairs, Philip coming close behind him. They entered an immense hall, lighted by a thousand tapers and dazzling chandeliers which were reflected by brilliant mirrors. A confused crowd of maskers jostled each other, sultans, Tyrolese, harlequins, knights in armor, nuns, goddesses, satyrs, monks, Jews, Medes, and Persians. Philip for a while was abashed and blinded. Such splendor he had never dreamed of. In the middle of the hall the dance was being carried on by hundreds of people to the music of a full band. Philip, who in the heat of the apartment recovered from his frozen state, was so bewildered with the scene that he could scarcely nod his head as different masks addressed him, some confidentially, others deferentially.  29
  “Will you go to the card-table?” whispered the chamberlain, who stood beside him, and who Philip now observed was dressed as a Brahman.  30
  “Let me get thawed out first,” answered Philip; “I am an icicle at present.”  31
  “A glass of hot punch?” inquired the Brahman, and led him into the refreshment-room. The pseudo-prince did not wait for a second invitation, but emptied one glass after the other in a short time. The punch was good, and it spread its genial warmth through Philip’s veins.  32
  “How is it you don’t dance to-night, Brahman?” he asked of his companion, when they returned into the hall.  33
  The Brahman sighed, and shrugged his shoulders. “I have no pleasure now in dancing. Gaiety is distasteful to me. The only person I care to dance with—the Countess Bonau—I thought she loved me; our families offered no objection; but all at once she broke with me.” His voice trembled as he spoke.  34
  “What?” said Philip; “I never heard of such a thing.”  35
  “You never heard of it?” repeated the other. “The whole city is ringing with it. The quarrel happened a fortnight ago, and she will not allow me to justify myself, but has sent back three letters I wrote to her, unopened. She is a declared enemy of the Baroness Reizenthal, and had made me promise to drop her acquaintance. But think how unfortunate I was! When the queen mother made the hunting party to Freudenwald, she appointed me cavalier to the baroness. What could I do? It was impossible to refuse. On the very birthday of the adorable Bonau I was obliged to set out. She heard of it. She put no trust in my heart!”  36
  “Well, then, Brahman, take advantage of the present moment. The new year makes up all quarrels. Is the countess here?”  37
  “Do you not see her over there—the Carmelite on the left of the third pillar, beside the two black dominos? She has laid aside her mask. Ah, prince, your intercession would——”  38
  Philip thought, “Now I can do a good work,” and, as the punch had inspired him, he walked directly to the Carmelite. The Countess Bonau looked at him for some time seriously, and with flushed cheeks, as he sat down beside her. She was a beautiful girl; yet Philip remained persuaded that Rose was a thousand times more beautiful.  39
  “Countess,” he said, and became embarrassed when he met her clear bright eye fixed upon him.  40
  “Prince,” said the countess, “an hour ago you were somewhat too bold.”  41
  “Fair countess, I am therefore at this present moment the more quiet.”  42
  “So much the better. I shall not, then, be obliged to keep out of your way.”  43
  “Fair lady, allow me to ask one question: Have you put on a nun’s gown to do penance for your sins?”  44
  “I have nothing to do penance for.”  45
  “But you have, countess! Your cruelties, your injustice to the poor Brahman yonder, who seems neglected by his goddess and all the world!”  46
  The beautiful Carmelite cast down her eyes, and appeared uneasy.  47
  “And do you know, fair countess, that in the Freudenwald affair the chamberlain was as innocent as myself?”  48
  “As you, prince?” said the countess, frowning. “What did you tell me an hour ago?”  49
  “You are right, dear countess; I was too bold. You said so yourself. But now I declare to you the chamberlain was obliged to go to Freudenwald by command of the queen mother—against his will was obliged to be cavalier to the hated Reizenthal——”  50
  “Hated—by him?” interrupted the countess, with a bitter and sneering laugh.  51
  “Yes, he hates, he despises the baroness. Believe me, he scarcely treated her with civility, and incurred the royal displeasure by so doing. I know it; and it was for your sake. You are the only person he loves; to you he offers his hand, his heart; and you—you reject him!”  52
  “How comes it, prince, that you intercede so warmly for Pilzou? You did not do so formerly.”  53
  “That was because I did not know him, and still less the sad state into which you have thrown him by your behavior. I swear to you he is innocent; you have nothing to forgive him; he has much to forgive you.”  54
  “Hush!” whispered the Carmelite, “we are watched here. Come away!” She replaced her mask, stood up, and placing her arm within that of the supposed prince, they crossed the hall and entered a side-room. The countess uttered many bitter complaints against the chamberlain, but they were the complaints of jealous love. The countess was in tears, when the tender Brahman soon after came timidly into the apartment. There was a deep silence among the three. Philip, not knowing how to conclude his intercession better, led the Brahman to the Carmelite, and joined their hands together, without saying a word, and left them to fate. He himself returned into the hall.  55
  Here he was hastily addressed by a Mameluke: “I’m glad I have met you, Domino. Is the rose-girl in the side-room?” The Mameluke rushed into it, but returned in a moment evidently disappointed. “One word alone with you, Domino,” he said, and led Philip into a window recess in a retired part of the hall.  56
  “What do you want?” asked Philip.  57
  “I beseech you,” replied the Mameluke, in a subdued yet terrible voice, “where is the rose-girl?”  58
  “What is the rose-girl to me?”  59
  “But to me she is everything!” answered the Mameluke, whose suppressed voice and agitated demeanor showed that a fearful struggle was going on within. “To me she is everything. She is my wife. You make me wretched, prince! I conjure you, drive me not to madness! Think of my wife no more.”  60
  “With all my heart,” answered Philip dryly. “What have I to do with your wife?”  61
  “Oh, prince, prince!” exclaimed the Mameluke, “I have made a resolve, which I shall execute if it cost me my life. Do not seek to deceive me a moment longer. I have discovered everything. Here! look at this! ’tis a note my false wife slipped into your hand, and which you dropped in the crowd, without having read it.”  62
  Philip took the note. It was written in pencil, and in a fine, delicate hand: “Change your mask. Everybody knows you. My husband is watching you. He does not know me. If you obey me I will reward you.”  63
  “Hm!” muttered Philip. “As I live, this was not written to me! I don’t trouble my head about your wife.”  64
  “Death and fury, prince! do not drive me mad! Do you know who it is that speaks to you. I am the Marshal Blankenschwert. Your advances to my wife are not unknown to me, ever since the last rout at the palace.”  65
  “My Lord Marshal,” answered Philip, “excuse me for saying that jealousy has blinded you. If you knew me well, you would not think of accusing me of such folly. I give you my word of honor I will never trouble your wife.”  66
  “Are you in earnest, prince?”  67
  “Entirely.”  68
  “Give me a proof of this?”  69
  “Whatever you require.”  70
  “I know you have hindered her until now from going with me to visit her relations in Poland. Will you persuade her to do so now?”  71
  “With all my heart, if you desire it.”  72
  “Yes, yes! And your Royal Highness will prevent inconceivable and unavoidable misery.”  73
  The Mameluke continued for some time, sometimes begging and praying, and sometimes threatening so furiously, that Philip feared he might make a scene before the whole assembly that would not have suited him precisely. He therefore quitted him as soon as possible. Scarcely had he lost himself in the crowd, when a female, closely wrapped in deep mourning, tapped him familiarly on the arm, and whispered:  74
  “Butterfly, whither away? Have you no pity for the disconsolate widow?”  75
  Philip answered very politely, “Beautiful widows find no lack of comforters. May I venture to include myself among them?”  76
  “Why are you so disobedient? And why have you not changed your mask?” said the widow, while she led him aside, that they might speak more freely. “Do you really fancy, prince, that every one here does not know who you are?”  77
  “They are very much mistaken in me, I assure you,” replied Philip.  78
  “No, indeed,” answered the widow; “they know you very well, and if you do not immediately change your apparel, I shall not speak to you again the whole evening. I have no desire to give my husband an opportunity of making a scene.”  79
  By this Philip discovered whom he was talking with. “You were the beautiful rose-girl; are your roses withered so soon?”  80
  “What is there that does not wither? Not the constancy of man? I saw you when you slipped off with the Carmelite. Acknowledge your inconstancy; you can deny it no longer.”  81
  “Hm,” answered Philip dryly, “accuse me, if you will; I can return the accusation.”  82
  “How, pretty butterfly?”  83
  “Why, for instance, there is not a more constant man alive than the marshal.”  84
  “There is not, indeed! And I am wrong, very wrong, to have listened to you so long. I reproached myself enough, but he has unfortunately discovered our flirtation.”  85
  “Since the last rout at court, fair widow——”  86
  “Where you were so reckless and persistent, pretty butterfly!”  87
  “Let us repair the mischief. Let us part. I honor the marshal, and, for my part, do not like to give him pain.”  88
  The widow looked at him for some time in speechless amazement.  89
  “If you have indeed any regard for me,” continued Philip, “you will go with the marshal to Poland, to visit your relations. It is better that we should not meet so often. A beautiful woman is beautiful, but a pure and virtuous woman is more beautiful still.”  90
  “Prince!” cried the astonished lady, “are you really in earnest? Have you ever loved me, or have you deceived me all along?”  91
  “Look you,” answered Philip, “I am a tempter of a peculiar kind. I search constantly among women to find truth and virtue, and ’tis seldom that I encounter them. Only the true and virtuous can keep me constant, therefore I am true to none; but no, I will not lie; there is one that keeps me in her chains. I am sorry, fair widow, that that one—is not you!”  92
  “You are in a strange mood to-night, prince,” answered the rose-girl, and the trembling of her voice and heaving of her bosom showed the working of her mind.  93
  “No,” answered Philip, “I am in as rational a mood to-night as I ever was in my life. I wish only to repair an injury; I have promised your husband to do so.”  94
  “How!” she exclaimed in a voice of terror; “you have revealed all to the marshal?”  95
  “Not everything,” answered Philip; “only what I knew.”  96
  The widow wrung her hands in the extremity of agitation, and at last said, “Where is my husband?”  97
  Philip pointed to the Mameluke, who at this moment approached them with slow steps.  98
  “Prince,” said the marshal’s wife in a tone of inexpressible rage—“prince, you may be forgiven this, but not by me! I never dreamed that the heart of man could be so deceitful; but you are unworthy of a thought. You are an impostor! My husband in the dress of a barbarian is a prince; you in the dress of a prince are a barbarian. In this world you see me no more!”  99
  With these words she turned proudly away from him, and going up to the Mameluke, they left the hall in deep and earnest conversation. Philip laughed quietly, and said to himself, “My substitute, the watchman, must look to it, for I do not play my part badly; I only hope when he returns he will continue as I have begun.”  100
  He went up to the dancers, and was delighted to see the beautiful Carmelite standing up in a set with the overjoyed Brahman. No sooner did the latter perceive him, than he kissed his hand to him, and in dumb show gave him to understand in what a blessed state he was. Philip thought, “’Tis a pity I am not to be prince all my life! The people would be satisfied then. To be a prince is the easiest thing in the world. He can do more with a single word than a lawyer with a four hours’ speech. Yes, if I were a prince, my beautiful Rose would be—lost to me forever. No, I would not be a prince.”  101
  He now looked at the clock, and saw it was half past eleven. The Mameluke hurried up to him and gave him a paper. “Prince,” he exclaimed, “I could fall at your feet and thank you in the very dust; I am reconciled to my wife! You have broken her heart; but it is better that it should be so. We leave for Poland this very night, and there we shall fix our home. Farewell! I shall be ready, whenever your Royal Highness requires me, to pour out my last drop of blood in your service. My gratitude is eternal. Farewell!”  102
  “Stay!” said Philip to the marshal, who was hurrying away, “what am I to do with this paper?”  103
  “Oh, that—’tis the amount of my loss to your Highness last week at cards. I had nearly forgotten it; but before my departure I must clear my debts. I have indorsed it on the back.” With these words the marshal disappeared.  104
  Philip opened the paper, and read in it an order for five thousand dollars. He put it in his pocket, and thought, “Well, it’s a pity that I’m not a prince.” Some one whispered in his ear:  105
  “Your Royal Highness, we are both discovered. I shall blow my brains out!”  106
  Philip turned round in amazement, and saw a negro at his side.  107
  “What do you want, mask?” he asked in an unconcerned tone.  108
  “I am Colonel Kalt,” whispered the negro. “The marshal’s wife has been blabbing to Duke Hermann, and he has been breathing fire and fury against us both.”  109
  “He is quite welcome,” answered Philip.  110
  “But the king will hear it all,” sighed the negro. “This very night I may be arrested and carried off to a dungeon. I’ll sooner hang myself!”  111
  “No need of that,” said Philip.  112
  “What! am I to be made infamous for my whole life? I am lost, I tell you! The duke will demand entire satisfaction. His back is black and blue yet with the marks of the cudgeling I gave him. I am lost, and the baker’s daughter too. I’ll jump from the bridge, and drown myself at once!”  113
  “God forbid!” answered Philip. “What have you and the baker’s daughter to do with it?”  114
  “Your Royal Highness banters me, and I am in despair! I humbly beseech you to give me two minutes’ private conversation.”  115
  Philip followed the negro into a small boudoir dimly lighted up with a few candles. The negro threw himself on a sofa, quite overcome, and groaned aloud. Philip found some sandwiches and wine on the table, and helped himself with great relish.  116
  “I wonder your Royal Highness can be so cool on hearing this cursed story. If that rascally Salmoni were here who acted the conjurer, he might save us by some contrivance, for the fellow was a bunch of tricks. As it is, he has slipped out of the scrape.”  117
  “So much the better,” interrupted Philip, replenishing his glass. “Since he has got out of the way, we can throw all the blame on his shoulders.”  118
  “How can we do that? The duke, I tell you, knows that you, and I, and the marshal’s wife, and the baker’s daughter, were all in the plot together, to take advantage of his superstition. He knows that it was you that engaged Salmoni to play the conjurer; that it was I that instructed the baker’s daughter—with whom he is in love—how to inveigle him into the snare; that it was I that enacted the ghost that knocked him down and cudgeled him till he roared again. If I had only not carried the joke too far! I only wished to cool his love a little for my sweetheart. It was a devilish business! I’ll take poison!”  119
  “Rather take a glass of wine; it is delicious,” said Philip, helping himself to another tart at the same time. “To tell you the truth, my friend, I think you are rather a white-livered sort of rogue for a colonel, to think of hanging, drowning, shooting, and poisoning yourself about such a ridiculous story as that. One of these modes would be too much, but as to all the four—nonsense. I tell you that at this moment I don’t know what to make out of your tale.”  120
  “Your Royal Highness, have pity on me, my brain is turned! The duke’s page, an old friend of mine, has told me this very moment that the marshal’s wife, inspired by the devil, went up to the duke, and told him that the trick played on him at the baker’s house was planned by Prince Julian, who opposed his marriage with his sister; that the spirit he saw was myself, sent by the princess to be a witness of his superstition; that your Highness was a witness of his descent into the pit after hidden gold, and of his promise to make the baker’s daughter his mistress, and also to make her one of the nobility immediately after his marriage with the princess. ‘Do not hope to gain the princess. It is useless for you to try!’ were the last words of the marshal’s wife to the duke.”  121
  “And a pretty story it is!” muttered Philip. “Why, behavior like that would be a disgrace to the meanest of the people! I declare, there is no end to these deviltries.”  122
  “Yes, indeed. ’Tis impossible to behave more meanly than the marshal’s lady. The woman must be a fury. My gracious Lord, save me from destruction!”  123
  “Where is the duke?” asked Philip.  124
  “The page told me he started up on hearing the story, and said, ‘I will go to the king.’ And if he tells the story to the king in his own way——”  125
  “Is the king here, then?”  126
  “Oh, yes, he is at cards in the next room with the archbishop and the minister of police.”  127
  Philip walked up and down the boudoir. The case required consideration.  128
  “Your Royal Highness,” said the negro, “protect me! Your own honor is at stake. You can easily make all straight; otherwise, I am ready, at the first intimation of danger, to fly across the border. I will pack up, and to-morrow I shall expect your final commands as to my future behavior.”  129
  With these words the negro took his leave.  130
  “It is high time I was a watchman again,” thought Philip. “I am getting both myself and my substitute into scrapes he will find it hard to get out of; and that makes the difference between a peasant and a prince. One is no better off than the other. Good heavens! what fine things these court lords are up to, which we do not dream of with lantern and staff in hand, or digging with a spade! We think they lead the lives of angels, without sin or care. Pretty piece of business! Within a quarter of an hour I have heard of more rascally tricks than I ever played in my whole life. And—” But his reverie was interrupted by a whisper.  131
  “So lonely, prince! I consider myself happy in having a minute’s conversation with your Royal Highness.”  132
  Philip looked at the speaker. He was a miner, covered over with gold and jewels.  133
  “Only an instant,” said the mask. “The business is pressing, and deeply concerns you.”  134
  “Who are you?” inquired Philip.  135
  “Count Bodenlos, the minister of finance, at your Highness’s service,” answered the miner, and showed his face, which looked as if it was a second mask, with its little eyes and copper-colored nose.  136
  “Well, then, my Lord, what are your commands?”  137
  “May I speak openly? I waited on your Royal Highness thrice, and was never admitted to the honor of an audience; and yet—Heaven is my witness—no man in all this court has a deeper interest in your Royal Highness than I have.”  138
  “I am greatly obliged to you,” replied Philip. “What is your business just now? But be quick!”  139
  “May I venture to speak of the house of Abraham Levi?”  140
  “As much as you like.”  141
  “They have applied to me about the fifty thousand dollars which you owe them, and threaten to apply to the king. And you remember your promise to his Majesty when last he paid your debts.”  142
  “Can’t the people wait?” asked Philip.  143
  “No more than the brothers Goldschmidt, who demand their seventy-five thousand dollars.”  144
  “It is all the same to me. If the people won’t wait for their money, I must——”  145
  “No hasty resolutions, my gracious Lord! I have it in my power to settle everything comfortably, if——”  146
  “Well, if what?”  147
  “If you will honor me by listening to me one moment. I hope to have no difficulty in redeeming all your debts. The house of Abraham Levi has bought up immense quantities of corn, so that the price is very much raised. A decree against importation will raise it three or four per cent higher. By giving Abraham Levi the monopoly, the business will be arranged. The house erases your debt, and pays off your seventy-five thousand dollars to the Goldschmidts, and I give you over the receipts. But everything depends on my continuing for another year at the head of the finances. If Baron Greifensack succeeds in ejecting me from the ministry, I shall be unable to serve your Royal Highness as I could wish. If your Highness will leave the party of Greifensack, our point is gained. For me it is a matter of perfect indifference whether I remain in office or not. I sigh for repose. But for your Royal Highness it is a matter of great moment. If I have not the shuffling of the pack, I lose the game.”  148
  For some time Philip did not know what answer to make. At last, while the finance minister, waiting his reply, took a pinch out of his snuff-box set with jewels, Philip said:  149
  “If I rightly understand you, Sir Count, you would starve the country a little in order to pay my debts. Consider, sir, what misery you will cause. And will the king consent to it?”  150
  “If I remain in office I will answer for that, my gracious Lord. When the price of corn rises, the king will, of course, think of permitting importation, and prevent exportation by levying heavy imposts. The permission to do so is given to the house of Abraham Levi, and they export as much as they choose. But, as I said before, if Greifensack gets the helm, nothing can be done. For the first year he would be obliged to attend strictly to his duty, in order to be able afterward to feather his nest at the expense of the country. He must first make sure of his ground. He is dreadfully grasping!”  151
  “A pretty project!” answered Philip. “And how long do you think a finance minister must be in office before he can lay his shears on the flock to get wool enough for himself and me?”  152
  “Oh, if he has his wits about him he may manage it in a year.”  153
  “Then the king ought to be counseled to change his finance minister every twelve months, if he wishes to be faithfully and honorably served.”  154
  “I hope, your Royal Highness, that since I have had the exchequer, the king and court have been faithfully served.”  155
  “I believe you, count, and the poor people believe you still more. Already they scarcely know how to pay their rates and taxes. You should treat us with a little more consideration, count.”  156
  “Us? Don’t I do everything for the court?”  157
  “No; I mean the people. You should have a little more consideration for them.”  158
  “I appreciate what your Royal Highness says; but I serve the king and the court; the people are not to be considered. The country is his private property, and the people are only useful to him as increasing the value of his land. But this is no time to discuss the old story about the interests of the people. I beg your Royal Highness’s answer to my propositions. Am I to have the honor to discharge your debts on the above specified conditions?”  159
  “Answer? No, never, never—at the expense of hundreds and thousands of starving families!”  160
  “But, your Royal Highness, if, in addition to the clearance of your debts, I make the house of Abraham Levi present you with fifty thousand dollars in hard cash? I think it may afford you that sum. The house will gain so much by the operation, that——”  161
  “Perhaps it may be able to give you also a mark of its regard.”  162
  “Your Highness is pleased to jest with me. I gain nothing by the affair. My whole object is to obtain the protection of your Royal Highness.”  163
  “You are very polite!”  164
  “I may hope, then, prince?”  165
  “Count, I will do my duty. Do you do yours.”  166
  “My duty is to be of service to you. To-morrow I shall send for Abraham, and conclude the agreement with him. I shall have the honor to present your Royal Highness with the receipt for all your debts, besides the gift of fifty thousand dollars.”  167
  “Go; I want to hear no more of it!”  168
  “And your Royal Highness will honor me with your favor? For unless I am in the ministry it is impossible for me to deal with Abraham Levi, so as——”  169
  “I wish to Heaven you and your ministry, and Abraham Levi, were all three on the Blocksberg! I tell you what, unless you lower the price of corn, and take away the monopoly from that infernal Jew, I’ll go this moment and reveal your villainy to the king, and get you and Abraham Levi banished from the country. See to it—I’ll keep my word!” Philip turned away in a rage, and proceeded to the ballroom, leaving the minister of finance petrified with amazement.  170
 
 
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