"The Czarina, who spoke German very ill herself, and did not understand well what the Queen said, beckoned to her Fool to come near,"--a poor female creature, who had once been a Princess Galitzin, but having got into mischief, had been excused to the Czar by her high relations as mad, and saved from death or Siberia, into her present strange harbor of refuge. With her the Czarina talked in unknown Russ, evidently "laughing much and loud," till Supper was announced.
"At table," continues Wilhelmina, "the Czar placed himself beside the Queen. It is understood this Prince was attempted with poison in his youth, and that something of it had settled on his nerves ever after. One thing is certain, there took him very often a sort of convulsion, like Tic or St.-Vitus, which it was beyond his power to control. That happened at table now. He got into contortions, gesticulations; and as the knife was in his hand, and went dancing about within arm's-length of the Queen, it frightened her, and she motioned several times to rise. The Czar begged her not to mind, for he would do her no ill; at the same time he took her by the hand, which he grasped with such violence that the Queen was forced to shriek out. This set him heartily laughing; saying she had not bones of so hard a texture as his Catherine's. Supper done, a grand Ball had been got ready; but the Czar escaped at once, and walked home by himself to Monbijou, leaving the others to dance."
Wilhelmina's story of the Cabinet of Antiques; of the Indecent little Statue there, and of the orders Catherine got to kiss it, with a "KOPF AB (Head off, if you won't)!" from the bantering Czar, whom she had to obey,--is not incredible, after what we have seen. It seems, he begged this bit of Antique Indecency from Friedrich Wilhelm; who, we may fancy, would give him such an article with especial readiness. That same day, fourth of the Visit, Thursday, 23d of the month, the august Party went its ways again; Friedrich Wilhelm convoying "as far as Potsdam;" Czar and Suite taking that route towards Mecklenburg, where he still intends some little pause before proceeding homeward. Friedrich Wilhelm took farewell; and never saw the Czar again.
It was on this Journey, best part of which is now done, that the famous Order bore, "Do it for six thousand thalers; won't allow you one other penny (
Peter's, VIATICUM, the Antique Indecency, Friedrich Wilhelm did not grudge to part with; glad to purchase the Czar's good-will by coin of that kind. Last year, at Havelberg, he had given the Czar an entire Cabinet of Amber Articles, belonging to his late Father. Amber Cabinet, in the lump; and likewise such a Yacht, for shape, splendor and outfit, as probably Holland never launched before;-- Yacht also belonging to his late Father, and without value to Friedrich Wilhelm. The old King had got it built in Holland, regardless of expense,--15,000 pounds, they say, perhaps as good as 50,000 pounds now; --and it lay at Potsdam: good for what? Friedrich Wilhelm sent it down the Havel, down the Elbe, silk sailors and all, towards Hamburg and Petersburg, with a great deal of pleasure. For the Czar, and peace and good-will with the Czar, was of essential value to him. Neither, at any rate, is the Czar a man to take gifts without return. Tall fellows for soldiers: that is always one prime object with Friedrich Wilhelm; for already these Potsdam Guards of his are getting ever more gigantic. Not less an object, though less an ideal or POETIC one (as we once defined), was this other, to find buyers for the Manufactures, new and old, which he was so bent on encouraging. "It is astonishing, what quantities of cloth, of hardware, salt, and all kinds of manufactured articles the Russians buy from us," say the old Books;--"see how our 'Russian Company' flourishes!" In both these objects, not to speak of peace and good-will in general, the Czar is our man.
Thus, this very Autumn, there arrive, astonished and astonishing, no fewer than a hundred and fifty human figures (one half MORE than were promised), probably from seven to eight feet high; the tallest the Czar could riddle out from his Dominions: what a windfall to the Potsdam Guard and its Colonel-King! And all succeeding Autumns the like, so long as Friedrich Wilhelm lived; every Autumn, out of Russia a hundred of the tallest mortals living. Invaluable,--to a "man of genius" mounted on his hobby! One's "stanza" can be polished at this rate.
In return for these Russian sons of Anak, Friedrich Wilhelm grudged not to send German smiths, millwrights, drill-sergeants, cannoneers, engineers; having plenty of them. By whom, as Peter well calculated, the inert opaque Russian mass might be kindled into luminosity and vitality; and drilled to know the Art of War, for one thing. Which followed accordingly. And it is observable, ever since, that the Russian Art of War has a tincture of GERMAN in it (solid German, as contradistinguished from unsolid Revolutionary-French); and hints to us of Friedrich Wilhelm and the Old Dessauer, to this hour.--EXEANT now the Barbaric semi-fabulous Sovereignties, till wanted again.
THE CROWN-PRINCE IS PUT TO HIS SCHOOLING.