AMELIA B. EDWARDS
The events I am about to relate took place more than fifty years ago. I am
a white-haired old woman now and I was then a little girl scarce ten years
of age; but those times and the places and people associated with them
seem in truth to lie nearer my memory than the times and people of
to-day. Trivial incidents which if they had happened yesterday would be
forgotten come back upon me sometimes with all the vivid detail of a
photograph; and words unheeded many a year ago start out like the
handwriting on the wall in sudden characters of fire.
But this is no new experience. As age creeps on we all have the same tale
to tell. The days of our youth are those we remember best and most fondly
and even the sorrows of that bygone time become pleasures in the
retrospect. Of my own solitary childhood I retain the keenest recollection
as the following pages will show.
My father's name was Bernhard--Johann Ludwig Bernhard; and he was a native
of Coblentz on the Rhine. Having grown grey in the Prussian service fought
his way slowly and laboriously from the ranks upward been seven times
wounded and twice promoted on the field he was made colonel of his
regiment in 1814 when the Allies entered Paris. In 1819 being no longer
fit for active service he retired on a pension and was appointed King's
steward of the Chateau of Augustenburg at Bruehl--a sort of military
curatorship to which few duties and certain contingent emoluments were
attached. Of these last a suite of rooms in the Chateau a couple of acres
of private garden and the revenue accruing from a small local impost
formed the most important part. It was towards the latter half of this year
(1819) that having now for the first time in his life a settled home in
which to receive me my father fetched me from Nuremberg where I was living
with my aunt Martha Baur and took me to reside with him at Bruehl.
Now my aunt Martha Baur was an exemplary person in her way; a rigid
Lutheran a strict disciplinarian and the widow of a wealthy wool-stapler.
She lived in a gloomy old house near the Frauen-Kirche where she received
no society and led a life as varied and lively on the whole as that of a
Trappist. Every Wednesday afternoon we paid a visit to the grave of her
"blessed man" in the Protestant cemetery outside the walls and on Sundays
we went three times to church. These were the only breaks in the long
monotony of our daily life. On market-days we never went out of doors at
all; and when the great annual fair-time came round we drew down all the
front blinds and inhabited the rooms at the back.
As for the pleasures of childhood I cannot say that I knew many of them in
those old Nuremberg days. Still I was not unhappy nor even very dull. It
may be that knowing nothing pleasanter I was not even conscious of the
dreariness of the atmosphere I breathed. There was at all events a big
old-fashioned garden full of vegetables and cottage-flowers at the back
of the house in which I almost lived in Spring and Summer-time and from
which I managed to extract a great deal of enjoyment; while for companions
and playmates I had old Karl my aunt's gardener a pigeon-house full of
pigeons three staid elderly cats and a tortoise. In the way of education
I fared scantily enough learning just as little as it pleased my aunt to
teach me and having that little presented to me under its driest and most
Such was my life till I went away with my father in the Autumn of 1819. I
was then between nine and ten years of age--having lost my mother in
earliest infancy and lived with aunt Martha Baur ever since I could
The change from Nuremberg to Bruehl was for me like the transition from
Purgatory to Paradise. I enjoyed for the first time all the delights of
liberty. I had no lessons to learn; no stern aunt to obey; but which was
infinitely pleasanter a kind-hearted Rhenish Maedchen with a silver arrow
in her hair to wait upon me; and an indulgent father whose only orders
were that I should be allowed to have my own way in everything.
And my way was to revel in the air and the sunshine; to roam about the park
and pleasure-grounds; to watch the soldiers at drill and hear the band
play every day and wander at will about the deserted state-apartments of
the great empty Chateau.
Looking back upon it from this distance of time I should pronounce the
Electoral Residenz at Bruehl to be a miracle of bad taste; but not Aladdin's
palace if planted amid the gardens of Armida could then have seemed
lovelier in my eyes. The building a heavy many-windowed pile in the worst
style of the worst Renaissance period stood and still stands in a fat
flat country about ten miles from Cologne to which city it bears much the
same relation that Hampton Court bears to London or Versailles to Paris.
Stucco and whitewash had been lavished upon it inside and out and pallid
scagliola did duty everywhere for marble. A grand staircase supported by
agonised colossi grinning and writhing in vain efforts to look as if they
didn't mind the weight led from the great hall to the state apartments;
and in these rooms the bad taste of the building may be said to have
culminated. Here were mirrors framed in meaningless arabesques cornices
painted to represent bas-reliefs consoles and pilasters of mock marble
and long generations of Electors in the tawdriest style of portraiture all
at full length all in their robes of office and all too evidently by one
and the same hand. To me however they were all majestic and beautiful. I
believed in themselves their wigs their armour their ermine their
high-heeled shoes and their stereotyped smirk from the earliest to the
But the gardens and grounds were my chief delight as indeed they were the
main attraction of the place making it the focus of a holiday resort for
the townsfolk of Cologne and Bonn and a point of interest for travellers.
First came a great gravelled terrace upon which the ground-floor windows
opened--a terrace where the sun shone more fiercely than elsewhere and
orange-trees in tubs bore golden fruit and great green yellow and
striped pumpkins alternating with beds of brilliant white and scarlet
geraniums lay lazily sprawling in the sunshine as if they enjoyed it.
Beyond this terrace came vast flats of rich green sward laid out in formal
walks flower-beds and fountains; and beyond these again stretched some two
or three miles of finely wooded park pierced by long avenues that radiated
from a common centre and framed in exquisite little far-off views of
Falkenlust and the blue hills of the Vorgebirge.
We were lodged at the back where the private gardens and offices abutted
on the village. Our own rooms looked upon our own garden and upon the
church and Franciscan convent beyond. In the warm dusk when all was still
and my father used to sit smoking his meerschaum by the open window we
could hear the low pealing of the chapel-organ and the monks chanting
their evening litanies.
A happy time--a pleasant peaceful place! Ah me! how long ago!
A whole delightful Summer and Autumn went by thus and my new home seemed
more charming with every change of season. First came the gathering of the
golden harvest; then the joyous vintage-time when the wine-press creaked
all day in every open cellar along the village street and long files of
country carts came down from the hills in the dusk evenings laden with
baskets and barrels full of white and purple grapes. And then the long
avenues and all the woods of Bruehl put on their Autumn robes of crimson
and flame-colour and golden brown; and the berries reddened in the hedges;
and the Autumn burned itself away like a gorgeous sunset; and November came
in grey and cold like the night-time of the year.
I was so happy however that I enjoyed even the dull November. I loved the
bare avenues carpeted with dead and rustling leaves--the solitary
gardens--the long silent afternoons and evenings when the big logs
crackled on the hearth and my father smoked his pipe in the chimney
corner. We had no such wood-fires at Aunt Martha Baur's in those dreary old
Nuremberg days now almost forgotten; but then to be sure Aunt Martha
Baur who was a sparing woman and looked after every groschen had to pay
for her own logs whereas ours were cut from the Crown Woods and cost not
It was as well as I can remember just about this time when the days were
almost at their briefest that my father received an official communication
from Berlin desiring him to make ready a couple of rooms for the immediate
reception of a state-prisoner for whose safe-keeping he would be held
responsible till further notice. The letter--(I have it in my desk
now)--was folded square sealed with five seals and signed in the King's
name by the Minister of War; and it was brought as I well remember by a
mounted orderly from Cologne.
So a couple of empty rooms were chosen on the second story just over one
of the State apartments at the end of the east wing; and my father who was
by no means well pleased with his office set to work to ransack the
Chateau for furniture.
"Since it is the King's pleasure to make a gaoler of me" said he "I'll
try to give my poor devil of a prisoner all the comforts I can. Come with
me my little Gretchen and let's see what chairs and tables we can find up
in the garrets."
Now I had been longing to explore the top rooms ever since I came to live
at Bruehl--those top rooms under the roof of which the shutters were always
closed and the doors always locked and where not even the housemaids were
admitted oftener than twice a year. So at this welcome invitation I sprang
up joyfully enough and ran before my father all the way. But when he
unlocked the first door and all beyond was dark and the air that met us
on the threshold had a faint and dead odour like the atmosphere of a tomb
I shrank back trembling and dared not venture in. Nor did my courage
altogether come back when the shutters were thrown open and the wintry
sunlight streamed in upon dusty floors and cobwebbed ceilings and piles
of mysterious objects covered in a ghostly way with large white sheets
looking like heaps of slain upon a funeral pyre.
The slain however turned out to be the very things of which we were in
search; old-fashioned furniture in all kinds of incongruous styles and of
all epochs--Louis Quatorze cabinets in cracked tortoise-shell and blackened
buhl--antique carved chairs emblazoned elaborately with coats of arms as
old as the time of Albert Duerer--slender-legged tables in battered
marqueterie--time-pieces in lack-lustre ormolu still pointing to the hour
at which they had stopped who could tell how many years ago? bundles of
moth-eaten tapestries and faded silken hangings--exquisite oval mirrors
framed in chipped wreaths of delicate Dresden china--mouldering old
portraits of dead-and-gone court beauties in powder and patches warriors
in wigs and prelates in point-lace--whole suites of furniture in old
stamped leather and worm-eaten Utrecht velvet; broken toilette services in
pink and blue Sevres; screens wardrobes cornices--in short all kinds of
luxurious lumber going fast to dust like those who once upon a time
enjoyed and owned it.
And now going from room to room we chose a chair here a table there and
so on till we had enough to furnish a bedroom and sitting-room.
"He must have a writing-table" said my father thoughtfully "and a
Saying which he stopped in front of a ricketty-looking gilded cabinet with
empty red-velvet shelves and tapped it with his cane.
"But supposing he has no books!" suggested I with the precocious wisdom of
nine years of age.
"Then we must beg some or borrow some my little Maedchen" replied my
father gravely; "for books are the main solace of the captive and he who
hath them not lies in a twofold prison."
"He shall have my picture-book of Hartz legends!" said I in a sudden
impulse of compassion. Whereupon my father took me up in his arms kissed
me on both cheeks and bade me choose some knicknacks for the prisoner's
"For though we have gotten together all the necessaries for comfort we
have taken nothing for adornment" said he "and 'twere pity the prison
were duller than it need be. Choose thou a pretty face or two from among
these old pictures my little Gretchen and an ornament for his
mantelshelf. Young as thou art thou hast the woman's wit in thee."
So I picked out a couple of Sevres candlesticks; a painted Chinese screen
all pagodas and parrots; two portraits of patched and powdered beauties in
the Watteau style; and a queer old clock surmounted by a gilt Cupid in a
chariot drawn by doves. If these failed to make him happy thought I he
must indeed be hard to please.
That afternoon the things having been well dusted and the rooms
thoroughly cleaned we set to work to arrange the furniture and so quickly
was this done that before we sat down to supper the place was ready for
occupation even to the logs upon the hearth and the oil-lamp upon the
All night my dreams were of the prisoner. I was seeking him in the gloom of
the upper rooms or amid the dusky mazes of the leafless
plantations--always seeing him afar off never overtaking him and trying
in vain to catch a glimpse of his features. But his face was always turned
My first words on waking were to ask if he had yet come. All day long I
was waiting and watching and listening for him starting up at every
sound and continually running to the window. Would he be young and
handsome? Or would he be old and white-haired and world-forgotten like
some of those Bastille prisoners I had heard my father speak of? Would his
chains rattle when he walked about? I asked myself these questions and
answered them as my childish imagination prompted a hundred times a day;
and still he came not.
So another twenty-four hours went by and my impatience was almost
beginning to wear itself out when at last about five o'clock in the
afternoon of the third day it being already quite dark there came a
sudden clanging of the gates followed by a rattle of wheels in the
courtyard and a hurrying to and fro of feet upon the stairs.
Then listening with a beating heart but seeing nothing I knew that he
I had to sleep that night with my curiosity ungratified; for my father had
hurried away at the first sounds from without nor came back till long
after I had been carried off to bed by my Rhenish handmaiden.
He was neither old nor white-haired. He was as well as I in my childish
way could judge about thirty-five years of age pale slight dark-eyed
delicate-looking. His chains did not rattle as he walked for the simple
reason that being a prisoner on parole he suffered no kind of restraint
but was as free as myself of the Chateau and grounds. He wore his hair
long tied behind with a narrow black ribbon and very slightly powdered;
and he dressed always in deep mourning--black all black from head to
foot even to his shoe-buckles. He was a Frenchman and he went by the name
of Monsieur Maurice.
I cannot tell how I knew that this was only his Christian name; but so it
was and I knew him by no other neither did my father. I have indeed
evidence among our private papers to show that neither by those in
authority at Berlin nor by the prisoner himself was he at any time
informed either of the family name of Monsieur Maurice or of the nature of
the offence whether military or political for which that gentleman was
consigned to his keeping at Bruehl.
"Of one thing at least I am certain" said my father holding out his pipe
for me to fill it. "He is a soldier."
It was just after dinner the second day following our prisoner's arrival
and I was sitting on my father's knee before the fire as was our pleasant
custom of an afternoon.
"I see it in his eye" my father went on to say. "I see it in his walk. I
see it in the way he arranges his papers on the table. Everything in order.
Everything put away into the smallest possible compass. All this bespeaketh
"I don't believe he is a soldier for all that" said I thoughtfully. "He
is too gentle."
"The bravest soldiers my little Gretchen are ofttimes the gentlest"
replied my father. "The great French hero Bayard and the great English
hero Sir Philip Sidney about whom thou wert reading 'tother day were
both as tender and gentle as women."
"But he neither smokes nor swears nor talks loud" said I persisting in
My father smiled and pinched my ear.
"Nay little one" said he "Monsieur Maurice is not like thy father--a
rough German Dragoon risen from the ranks. He is a gentleman and a
Frenchman; and he hath all the polish of what the Frenchman calls the
_vieille ecole_. And there again he puzzles me with his court-manners
and his powdered hair! He's no Bonapartist I'll be sworn--yet if he be o'
the King's side what doth he here with the usurper at Saint Helena and
Louis the Eighteenth come to his own again?"
"But he _is_ a Bonapartist father" said I "for he carries the
Emperor's portrait on his snuff-box."
My father laid down his pipe and drew a long breath expressive of
"He showed thee his snuff-box!" exclaimed he.
"Ay--and told me it was the Emperor's own gift."
"Thunder and Mars! And when was this my little Gretchen?"
"Yesterday morning on the terrace. And he asked my name; and told me I
should go up some day to his room and see his sketches; and he kissed me
when he said good-bye; and--and I like Monsieur Maurice very much father
and I'm sure it's very wicked of the King to keep him here in prison!"
My father looked at me shook his head and twirled his long grey
"Bonapartist or Legitimist again I say what doth he here?" muttered he
presently more to himself than to me. "If Legitimist why not with his
King? If Bonapartist--then he is his King's prisoner; not ours. It passeth
my comprehension how we should hold him at Bruehl."
"Let him run away father dear and don't run after him!" whispered I
putting my arms coaxingly about his neck.
"But 'tis some cursed mess of politics at bottom depend on't!" continued
my father still talking to himself. "Ah you don't know what politics are
my little Gretchen!--so much the better for you!"
"I do know what politics are" replied I with great dignity. "They are the
_chef-d'oeuvre_ of Satan. I heard you say so the other day."
My father burst into a Titanic roar of laughter.
"Said I so?" shouted he. "Thunder and Mars! I did not remember that I had
ever said anything half so epigrammatic!"
Now from this it will be seen that the prisoner and I were already
acquainted. We had indeed taken to each other from the first and our
mutual liking ripened so rapidly that before a week was gone by we had
become the fastest friends in the world.
Our first meeting as I have already said took place upon the terrace. Our
second which befell on the afternoon of the same day when my father and I
had held the conversation just recorded happened on the stairs. Monsieur
Maurice was coming up with his hat on; I was running down. He stopped and
held out both his hands.
"_Bonjour petite_" he said smiling. "Whither away so fast?"
The hoar frost was clinging to his coat where he had brushed against the
trees in his walk and he looked pale and tired.
"I am going home" I replied.
"Home? Did you not tell me you lived in the Chateau?"
"So I do Monsieur; but at the other side up the other staircase. This is
the side of the state-apartments."
Then seeing in his face a look half of surprise half of curiosity I
"I often go there in the afternoon when it is too cold or too late for
out-of-doors. They are such beautiful rooms and full of such beautiful
pictures! Would you like to see them?"
He smiled and shook his head.
"Thanks petite" he said "I am too cold now and too tired; but you shall
show them to me some other day. Meanwhile suppose you come up and pay me
that promised visit?"
I assented joyfully and slipping my hand into his with the ready
confidence of childhood turned back at once and went with him to his rooms
on the second floor.
Here finding the fire in the salon nearly out we went down upon our knees
and blew the embers with our breath and laughed so merrily over our work
that by the time the new logs had caught I was as much at home as if I had
known Monsieur Maurice all my life.
"_Tiens_!" he said taking me presently upon his knee and brushing the
specks of white ash from my clothes and hair "what a little Cinderella I
have made of my guest! This must not happen again Gretchen. Did you not
tell me yesterday that your name was Gretchen?"
"Yes but Gretchen you know is not my real name" said I "my real name
is Marguerite. Gretchen is only my pet name."
"Then you will always be Gretchen for me" said Monsieur Maurice with the
sweetest smile in the world.
There were books upon the table; there was a thing like a telescope on a
brass stand in the window; there was a guitar lying on the couch. The
fire too was burning brightly now and the room altogether wore a
cheerful air of habitation.
"It looks more like a lady's boudoir than a prison" said Monsieur Maurice
reading my thoughts. "I wonder whose rooms they were before I came here!"
"They were nobody's rooms" said I. "They were quite empty."
And then I told him where we had found the furniture and how the
ornamental part thereof had been of my choosing.
"I don't know who the ladies are" I said referring to the portraits. "I
only chose them for their pretty faces."
"Their lovers probably did the same petite a hundred years ago" replied
Monsieur Maurice. "And the clock--did you choose that also?"
"Yes; but the clock doesn't go."
"So much the better. I would that time might stand still also--till I am
free! till I am free!"
The tears rushed to my eyes. It was the tone more than the words that
touched my heart. He stooped and kissed me on the forehead.