“They will pay, I am certain they will pay,” he said, a triumphant expression flitting across his troubled, peevish countenance. “I have properly frightened them and put them in wholesome dread, so that they will not dare to oppose us longer. Yes, they will pay and thus extricate us from the dilemma in which we find ourselves at present. Ah! what a hard, fearful thing is life, and how little does it fulfill the hopes with which I looked forward to it in the years of my youth! My blessed father was such a fortunate ruler! With him everything was successful. He lived in peace and concord with Emperor and empire, was beloved by his people, and had great prospects for the future, being heir to precious possessions. And when I thus beheld him in the glory and fullness of his power, I thought to myself that it was a glorious destiny to be an Elector, and that a clear sky always shone above the head of a Prince. Yet all at once clouds chased across and darkened this sky, for in Bohemia was kindled the war which soon split Germany into two hostile parties. My blessed father took sides with his brother-in-law, the new King of Bohemia. But then came the battle of the White Mountain, which cost my poor uncle, the King of Bohemia, Frederick of the Palatinate, his land and crown, and drove him forth into misfortune and misery. And the triumphant Emperor threatened all who should succor the conquered sovereign with proscription and the ban of the empire, and whoever should rescue him must cry pater peccavi, and penitentially confess to the Emperor and empire. My blessed father did so, but henceforth he might no longer sit upon the throne, which could only remain his through the condescension of the Emperor. He preferred to live independently in solitude and retirement, devoting himself to the meditations and practices of the reformed doctrines, whose confession he adopted, together with his whole family. So he resigned the government, and gave it to me. Alas! it was a sad heritage, and little enough had I to rule, for misfortune, war, and the Emperor ruled me and my land, so that I soon had my fill of it, and—”
“May we come in?” asked a pleasant voice behind the Elector, interrupting him in his melancholy reminiscences.
“Yes, Lady Electress,” he replied, painfully rising from his armchair—“yes, come in and be heartily welcome to your spouse.”
The Electress Charlotte Elizabeth closed the little side door which led from her private apartments, and with a friendly nod of the head and tender glances approached her husband, who advanced slowly to meet her.
“Elizabeth,” he said, thoughtfully shaking his head, “I see from your countenance that you have something special to say to me. Your brown eyes shine to-day unusually bright and clear, and on your lips rests a happy, tender smile, such as, alas! I no longer observe often in my wife.”