The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Life and Adventures of Baron Trenck, by Baron Trenck, Edited by Henry Morley, Translated by Thomas Holcroft This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Life and Adventures of Baron Trenck Vol. 1 (of 2) Author: Baron Trenck Editor: Henry Morley Release Date: October 16, 2007 [eBook #2668] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII) ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF BARON TRENCK***
Transcribed from the 1892 Cassell & Co. edition by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org, proofed by Bridie, Rab Hughes and Roland Chapman.
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There were two cousins Von der Trenck, who were barons descended from an ancient house in East Prussia, and were adventurous soldiers, to whom, as to the adventurous, there were adventures that lost nothing in the telling, for they were told by the authors’ most admiring friends—themselves. Franz, the elder, was born in 1711, the son of an Austrian general; and Frederick, whose adventures are here told, was the son of a Prussian major-general. Franz, at the age of seventeen, fought duels, and cut off the head of a man who refused to lend him money. He stood six feet three inches in his shoes, knocked down his commanding officer, was put under arrest, offered to pay for his release by bringing in three Turks’ heads within an hour, was released on that condition, and actually brought in four Turks’ heads. When afterwards cashiered, he settled on his estates in Croatia, and drilled a thousand of his tenantry to act as “Pandours” against the banditti. In 1740, he served with his Pandours under Maria Theresa, and behaved himself as one of the more brutal sort of banditti. He offered to capture Frederick of Prussia, and did capture his tent. Many more of his adventures are vaingloriously recounted by himself in the Mémoires du Baron Franz de Trenck, published at Paris in 1787. This Trenck took poison when imprisoned at Grätz, and died in October, 1747, at the age of thirty-six.
His cousin Frederick is the Trenck who here tells a story of himself that abounds in lively illustration of the days of Frederick the Great. He professes that Frederick the King owed him a grudge, because Frederick the Trenck had, when eighteen years old, fascinated the Princess Amalie at a ball. But as Frederick the Greater was in correspondence with his cousin Franz at the time when that redoubtable personage was planning the seizure of Frederick the Great, there may have been better ground for the Trenck’s arrest than he allows us to imagine. Mr. Carlyle shows that Frederick von der Trenck had been three months in prison, and was still in prison, at the time of the battle of the Sohr, in which he professes to have been engaged. Frederick von der Trenck, after his release from imprisonment in 1763, married a burgomaster’s daughter, and went into business as a wine merchant. Then he became adventurous again. His adventures, published in German in 1786-7, and in his own French version in 1788, formed one of the most popular books of its time. Seven plays were founded on them, and ladies in Paris wore their bonnets à la Trenck. But the French finally guillotined the author, when within a year of threescore and ten, on the 26th of July, 1794. He had gone to Paris in 1792, and joined there in the strife of parties. At the guillotine he struggled with the executioner.
I was born at Königsberg in Prussia, February 16, 1726, of one of the most ancient families of the country. My father, who was lord of Great Scharlach, Schakulack, and Meichen, and major-general of cavalry, died in 1740, after receiving eighteen wounds in the Prussian service. My mother was daughter of the president of the high court at Königsberg. After my father’s death she married Count Lostange, lieutenant-colonel in the Kiow regiment of cuirassiers, with whom she went and resided at Breslau. I had two brothers and a sister; my youngest brother was taken by my mother into Silesia; the other was a cornet in this last-named regiment of Kiow; and my sister was married to the only son of the aged General Valdow.
My ancestors are famous in the Chronicles of the North, among the ancient Teutonic knights, who conquered Courland, Prussia, and Livonia.
By temperament I was choleric, and addicted to pleasure and dissipation; my tutors found this last defect most difficult to overcome; happily, they were aided by a love of knowledge inherent in me, an emulative spirit, and a thirst for fame, which disposition it was my father’s care to cherish. A too great consciousness of innate worth gave me a too great degree of pride, but the endeavours of my instructor to inspire humility were not all lost; and habitual reading, well-timed praise, and the pleasures flowing from science, made the labours of study at length my recreation.
My memory became remarkable; I am well read in the Scriptures, the classics, and ancient history; was acquainted with geography; could draw; learnt fencing, riding, and other necessary exercises.
My religion was Lutheran; but morality was taught me by my father, and by the worthy man to whose care he committed the forming of my heart, whose memory I shall ever hold in veneration. While a boy, I was enterprising in all the tricks of boys, and exercised my wit in crafty excuses; the warmth of my passions gave a satiric, biting cast to my writings, whence it has been imagined, by those who knew but little of me, I was a dangerous man; though, I am conscious, this was a false judgment.
A soldier himself, my father would have all his sons the same; thus, when we quarrelled, we terminated our disputes with wooden sabres, and, brandishing these, contested by blows for victory, while our father sat laughing, pleased at our valour and address. This practice, and the praises he bestowed, encouraged a disposition which ought to have been counteracted.
Accustomed to obtain the prize, and be the hero of scholastic contentions, I acquired the bad habit of disputation, and of imagining myself a sage when little more than a boy. I became stubborn in argument; hasty to correct others, instead of patiently attentive: and, by presumption, continually liable to incite enmity. Gentle to my inferiors, but impatient of contradiction, and proud of resisting power, I may hence date, the origin of all my evils.
How might a man, imbued with the heroic principles of liberty, hope for advancement and happiness, under the despotic and iron Government of Frederic? I was taught neither to know nor to avoid, but to despise the whip of slavery. Had I learnt hypocrisy, craft, and meanness, I had long since become field-marshal, had been in possession of my Hungarian estates, and had not passed the best years of my life in the dungeons of Magdeburg. I was addicted to no vice: I laboured in the cause of science, honour, and virtue; kept no vicious company; was never in the whole of my life intoxicated; was no gamester, no consumer of time in idleness nor brutal pleasures; but devoted many hundred laborious nights to studies that might make me useful to my country; yet was I punished with a severity too cruel even for the most worthless, or most villanous.
I mean, in my narrative, to make candour and veracity my guides, and not to conceal my failings; I wish my work may remain a moral lesson to the world. Yet it is an innate satisfaction that I am conscious of never having acted with dishonour, even to the last act of this distressful tragedy.
I shall say little of the first years of my life, except that my father took especial care of my education, and sent me, at the age of thirteen, to the University of Königsberg, where, under the tuition of Kowalewsky, my progress was rapid. There were fourteen other noblemen in the same house, and under the same master.
In the year following, 1740, I quarrelled with one young Wallenrodt, a fellow-student, much stronger than myself, and who, despising my weakness, thought proper to give me a blow. I demanded satisfaction. He came not to the appointed place, but treated my demand with contempt; and I, forgetting all further respect, procured a second, and attacked him in open day. We fought, and I had the fortune to wound him twice; the first time in the arm, the second in the hand.
This affair incited inquiry:—Doctor Kowalewsky, our tutor, laid complaints before the University, and I was condemned to three hours’ confinement; but my grandfather and guardian, President Derschau, was so pleased with my courage, that he took me from this house and placed me under Professor Christiani.
Here I first began to enjoy full liberty, and from this worthy man I learnt all I know of experimental philosophy and science. He loved me as his own son, and continued instructing me till midnight. Under his auspices, in 1742, I maintained, with great success, two public theses, although I was then but sixteen; an effort and an honour till then unknown.
Three days after my last public exordium, a contemptible fellow sought a quarrel with me, and obliged me to draw in my own defence, whom, on this occasion, I wounded in the groin.
This success inflated my valour, and from that time I began to assume the air and appearance of a Hector.
Scarcely had a fortnight elapsed before I had another with a lieutenant of the garrison, whom I had insulted, who received two wounds in the contest.
I ought to remark, that at this time, the University of Königsberg was still highly privileged. To send a challenge was held honourable; and this was not only permitted, but would have been difficult to prevent, considering the great number of proud, hot-headed, and turbulent nobility from Livonia, Courland, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland, who came thither to study, and of whom there were more than five hundred. This brought the University into disrepute, and endeavours have been made to remedy the abuse. Men have acquired a greater extent of true knowledge, and have begun to perceive that a University ought to be a place of instruction, and not a field of battle; and that blood cannot be honourably shed, except in defence of life or country.
In November, 1742, the King sent his adjutant-general, Baron Lottum, who was related to my mother, to Königsberg, with whom I dined at my grandfather’s. He conversed much with me, and, after putting various questions, purposely, to discover what my talents and inclinations were, he demanded, as if in joke, whether I had any inclination to go with him to Berlin, and serve my country, as my ancestors had ever done: adding that, in the army, I should find much better opportunities of sending challenges than at the University. Inflamed with the desire of distinguishing myself, I listened with rapture to the proposition, and in a few days we departed for Potzdam.
On the morrow after my arrival, I was presented to the King, as indeed I had before been in the year 1740, with the character of being, then, one of the most hopeful youths of the University. My reception was most flattering; the justness of my replies to the questions he asked, my height, figure, and confidence, pleased him; and I soon obtained permission to enter as a cadet in his body guards, with a promise of quick preferment.
The body guards formed, at this time, a model and school for the Prussian cavalry; they consisted of one single squadron of men selected from the whole army, and their uniform was the most splendid in all Europe. Two thousand rix-dollars were necessary to equip an officer: the cuirass was wholly plated with silver; and the horse, furniture, and accoutrements alone cost four hundred rix-dollars.
This squadron only contained six officers and a hundred and forty-four men; but there were always fifty or sixty supernumeraries, and as many horses, for the King incorporated all the most handsome men he found in the guards. The officers were the best taught of any the army contained; the King himself was their tutor, and he afterwards sent them to instruct the cavalry in the manoeuvres they had learnt. Their rise was rapid if they behaved well; but they were broken for the least fault, and punished by being sent to garrison regiments. It was likewise necessary they should be tolerably rich, as well as possess such talents as might be successfully employed, both at court and in the army.
There are no soldiers in the world who undergo so much as this body guard; and during the time I was in the service of Frederic, I often had not eight hours’ sleep in eight days. Exercise began at four in the morning, and experiments were made of all the alterations the King meant to introduce in his cavalry. Ditches of three, four, five, six feet, and still wider, were leaped, till that someone broke his neck; hedges, in like manner, were freed, and the horses ran careers, meeting each other full speed in a kind of lists of more than half a league in length. We had often, in these our exercises, several men and horses killed or wounded.
It happened more frequently than otherwise that the same experiments were repeated after dinner with fresh horses; and it was not uncommon, at Potzdam, to hear the alarm sounded twice in a night. The horses stood in the King’s stables; and whoever had not dressed, armed himself, saddled his horse, mounted, and appeared before the palace in eight minutes, was put under arrest for fourteen days.
Scarcely were the eyes closed before the trumpet again sounded, to accustom youth to vigilance. I lost, in one year, three horses, which had either broken their legs, in leaping ditches, or died of fatigue.
I cannot give a stronger picture of this service than by saying that the body guard lost more men and horses in one year’s peace than they did, during the following year, in two battles.
We had, at this time, three stations; our service, in the winter, was at Berlin, where we attended the opera, and all public festivals: in the spring we were exercised at Charlottenberg; and at Potzdam, or wherever the King went, during the summer. The six officers of the guard dined with the King, and, on gala days, with the Queen. It may be presumed there was not at that time on earth a better school to form an officer and a man of the world than was the court of Berlin.
I had scarcely been six weeks a cadet before the King took me aside, one day, after the parade, and having examined me near half an hour, on various subjects, commanded me to come and speak to him on the morrow.
His intention was to find whether the accounts that had been given him of my memory had not been exaggerated; and that he might be convinced, he first gave me the names of fifty soldiers to learn by rote, which I did in five minutes. He next repeated the subjects of two letters, which I immediately composed in French and Latin; the one I wrote, the other I dictated. He afterwards ordered me to trace, with promptitude, a landscape from nature, which I executed with equal success; and he then gave me a cornet’s commission in his body guards.
Each mark of bounty from the monarch increased an ardour already great, inspired me with gratitude, and the first of my wishes was to devote my whole life to the service of my King and country. He spoke to me as a Sovereign should speak, like a father, like one who knew well how to estimate the gifts bestowed on me by nature; and perceiving, or rather feeling, how much he might expect from me, became at once my instructor and my friend.
Thus did I remain a cadet only six weeks, and few Prussians can vaunt, under the reign of Frederic, of equal good fortune.
The King not only presented me with a commission, but equipped me splendidly for the service. Thus did I suddenly find myself a courtier, and an officer in the finest, bravest, and best disciplined corps in Europe. My good fortune seemed unlimited, when, in the month of August, 1743, the King selected me to go and instruct the Silesian cavalry in the new manoeuvres: an honour never before granted to a youth of eighteen.
I have already said we were garrisoned at Berlin during winter, where the officers’ table was at court: and, as my reputation had preceded me, no person whatever could be better received there, or live more pleasantly.
Frederic commanded me to visit the literati, whom he had invited to his court: Maupertuis, Jordan, La Mettrie, and Pollnitz, were all my acquaintance. My days were employed in the duties of an officer, and my nights in acquiring knowledge. Pollnitz was my guide, and the friend of my heart. My happiness was well worthy of being envied. In 1743, I was five feet eleven inches in height, and Nature had endowed me with every requisite to please. I lived, as I vainly imagined, without inciting enmity or malice, and my mind was wholly occupied by the desire of earning well-founded fame.
I had hitherto remained ignorant of love, and had been terrified from illicit commerce by beholding the dreadful objects of the hospital at Potzdam. During the winter of 1743, the nuptials of his Majesty’s sister were celebrated, who was married to the King of Sweden, where she is at present Queen Dowager, mother of the reigning Gustavus. I, as officer of my corps, had the honour to mount guard and escort her as far as Stettin. Here first did my heart feel a passion of which, in the course of my history, I shall have frequent occasion to speak. The object of my love was one whom I can only remember at present with reverence; and, as I write not romance, but facts, I shall here briefly say, ours were mutually the first-fruits of affection, and that to this hour I regret no misfortune, no misery, with which, from a stock so noble, my destiny was overshadowed.
Amid the tumult inseparable to occasions like these, on which it was my duty to maintain order, a thief had the address to steal my watch, and cut away part of the gold fringe which hung from the waistcoat of my uniform, and afterwards to escape unperceived. This accident brought on me the raillery of my comrades; and the lady alluded to thence took occasion to console me, by saying it should be her care that I should be no loser. Her words were accompanied by a look I could not misunderstand, and a few days after I thought myself the happiest of mortals. The name, however, of this high-born lady is a secret, which must descend with me to the grave; and, though my silence concerning this incident heaves a void in my life, and indeed throws obscurity over a part of it, which might else be clear, I would much rather incur this reproach than become ungrateful towards my best friend and benefactress. To her conversation, to her prudence, to the power by which she fixed my affections wholly on herself, am I indebted for the improvement and polishing of my bodily and mental qualities. She never despised, betrayed, or abandoned me, even in the deepest of my distress; and my children alone, on my death-bed, shall be taught the name of her to whom they owe the preservation of their father, and consequently their own existence.
I lived at this time perfectly happy at Berlin, and highly esteemed. The King took every opportunity to testify his approbation; my mistress supplied me with more money than I could expend; and I was presently the best equipped, and made the greatest figure, of any officer in the whole corps. The style in which I lived was remarked, for I had only received from my father’s heritage the estate of Great Scharlach; the rent of which was eight hundred dollars a year, which was far from sufficient to supply my then expenses. My amour, in the meantime, remained a secret from my best and most intimate friends. Twice was my absence from Potzdam and Charlottenberg discovered, and I was put under arrest; but the King seemed satisfied with the excuse I made, under the pretext of having been hunting, and smiled as he granted my pardon.
Never did the days of youth glide away with more apparent success and pleasure than during these my first years at Berlin. This good fortune was, alas, of short duration. Many are the incidents I might relate, but which I shall omit. My other adventures are sufficiently numerous, without mingling such as may any way seem foreign to the subject. In this gloomy history of my life, I wish to paint myself such as I am; and, by the recital of my sufferings, afford a memorable example to the world, and interest the heart of sensibility. I would also show how my fatal destiny has deprived my children of an immense fortune; and, though I want a hundred thousand men to enforce and ensure my rights, I will leave demonstration to my heirs that they are incontestable.
In the beginning of September, 1744, war again broke out between the Houses of Austria and Prussia. We marched with all speed towards Prague, traversing Saxony without opposition. I will not relate in this place what the great Frederic said to us, with evident emotion, when surrounded by all his officers, on the morning of our departure from Potzdam.
Should any one be desirous of writing the lives of him and his opponent, Maria Theresa, without flattery and without fear, let him apply to me, and I will relate anecdotes most surprising on this subject, unknown to all but myself, and which never must appear under my own name.
All monarchs going to war have reason on their side; and the churches of both parties resound with prayers, and appeals to Divine Justice, for the success of their arms. Frederic, on this occasion, had recourse to them with regret, of which I was a witness.
If I am not mistaken, the King’s army came before Prague on the 14th of September, and that of General Schwerin, which had passed through Silesia, arrived the next day on the other side of the Moldau. In this position we were obliged to wait some days for pontoons, without which we could not establish a communication between the two armies.
The height called Zischka, which overlooks the city, being guarded only by a few Croats, was instantly seized, without opposition, by some grenadiers, and the batteries, erected at the foot of that mountain, being ready on the fifth day, played with such success on the old town with bombs and red-hot balls that it was set on fire. The King made every effort to take the city before Prince Charles could bring his army from the Rhine to its relief.
General Harsh thought proper to capitulate, after a siege of twelve days, during which not more than five hundred men of the garrison, at the utmost, were killed and wounded, though eighteen thousand men were made prisoners.
Thus far we had met with no impediment. The Imperial army, however, under the command of Prince Charles of Lorraine, having quitted the banks of the Rhine, was advancing to save Bohemia.
During this campaign we saw the enemy only at a distance; but the Austrian light troops being thrice as numerous as ours, prevented us from all foraging. Winter was approaching, dearth and hunger made Frederic determine to retreat, without the least hope from the countries in our rear, which we had entirely laid waste as we had advanced. The severity of the season, in the month of November, rendered the soldiers excessively impatient of their hardships; and, accustomed to conquer, the Prussians were ashamed of and repined at retreat: the enemy’s light troops facilitated desertion, and we lost, in a few weeks, above thirty thousand men. The pandours of my kinsman, the Austrian Trenck, were incessantly at our heels, gave us frequent alarms, did us great injury, and, by their alertness, we never could make any impression upon them with our cannon. Trenck at length passed the Elbe, and went and burnt and destroyed our magazines at Pardubitz: it was therefore resolved wholly to evacuate Bohemia.
The King hoped to have brought Prince Charles to the battle between Benneschan and Kannupitz, but in vain: the Saxons, during the night, had entered a battery of three-and-twenty cannon on a mound which separated two ponds: this was the precise road by which the King meant to make the attack.
Thus were we obliged to abandon Bohemia. The dearth, both for man and horse, began to grow extreme. The weather was bad; the roads and ruts were deep; marches were continual, and alarms and attacks from the enemy’s light troops became incessant. The discontent all these inspired was universal, and this occasioned the great loss of the army.
Under such circumstances, had Prince Charles continued to harass us, by persuading us into Silesia, had he made a winter campaign, instead of remaining indolently at ease in Bohemia, we certainly should not have vanquished him, the year following, at Strigau; but he only followed at a distance, as far as the Bohemian frontiers. This gave Frederic time to recover, and the more effectually because the Austrians had the imprudence to permit the return of deserters.
This was a repetition of what had happened to Charles XII. when he suffered his Russian prisoners to return home, who afterwards so effectually punished his contempt of them at the battle of Pultawa.
Prague was obliged to be abandoned, with considerable loss; and Trenck seized on Tabor, Budweis, and Frauenberg, where he took prisoners the regiments of Walrabe Kreutz.
No one would have been better able to give a faithful history of this campaign than myself, had I room in this place, and had I at that time been more attentive to things of moment; since I not only performed the office of adjutant to the King, when he went to reconnoitre, or choose a place of encampment, but it was, moreover, my duty to provide forage for the headquarters. The King having only permitted me to take six volunteers from the body guard, to execute this latter duty, I was obliged to add to them horse chasseurs, and hussars, with whom I was continually in motion. I was peculiarly fortunate on two occasions, by happening to come after the enemy when they had left loaded waggons and forage bundles.
I seldom passed the night in my tent during this campaign, and my indefatigable activity obtained the favour and entire confidence of Frederic. Nothing so much contributed to inspire me with emulation as the public praises I received, and my enthusiasm wished to perform wonders. The campaign, however, but ill supplied me with opportunities to display my youthful ardour.
At length no one durst leave the camp, notwithstanding the extremity of the dearth, because of the innumerable clouds of pandours and hussars that hovered everywhere around.
No sooner were we arrived in Silesia, than the King’s body guard were sent to Berlin, there to remain in winter quarters.
I should not here have mentioned the Bohemian war, but that, while writing time history of my life, I ought not to omit accidents by which my future destiny was influenced.
One day, while at Bennaschen, I was commanded out, with a detachment of thirty hussars and twenty chasseurs, on a foraging party. I had posted my hussars in a convent, and gone myself, with the chasseurs, to a mansion-house, to seize the carts necessary for the conveyance of the hay and straw from a neighbouring farm. An Austrian lieutenant of hussars, concealed with thirty-six horsemen in a wood, having remarked the weakness of my escort, taking advantage of the moment when my people were all employed in loading the carts, first seized our sentinel, and then fell suddenly upon them, and took them all prisoners in the very farm-yard. At this moment I was seated at my ease, beside the lady of the mansion-house, and was a spectator of the whole transaction through the window.
I was ashamed of and in despair at my negligence. The kind lady wished to hide me when the firing was heard in the farm-yard. By good fortune, the hussars, whom I had stationed in the convent, had learnt from a peasant that there was an Austrian detachment in the wood: they had seen us at a distance enter the farmyard, hastily marched to our aid, and we had not been taken more than two minutes before they arrived. I cannot express the pleasure with which I put myself at their head. Some of the enemy’s party escaped through a back door, but we made two-and-twenty prisoners, with a lieutenant of the regiment of Kalnockichen. They had two men killed, and one wounded; and two also of my chasseurs were hewn down by the sabre, in the hay-loft, where they were at work.
We continued our forage with more caution after this accident: the horses we had taken served, in part, to draw the carts; and, after raising a contribution of one hundred and fifty ducats on the convent, which I distributed among the soldiers to engage them to silence, we returned to the army, from which we were distant about two leagues.
We heard firing as we marched, and the foragers on all sides were skirmishing with the enemy. A lieutenant and forty horse joined me; yet, with this reinforcement, I durst not return to the camp, because I learned we were in danger from more than eight hundred pandours and hussars, who were in the plain. I therefore determined to take a long, winding, but secret route, and had the good fortune to come safe to quarters with my prisoners and five-and-twenty loaded carts. The King was at dinner when I entered his tent. Having been absent all night, it was imagined I had been taken, that accident having happened the same day to many others.
The instant I entered, the King demanded if I returned singly. “No, please your Majesty,” answered I; “I have brought five-and-twenty loads of forage, and two-and-twenty prisoners, with their officer and horses.”
The King then commanded me to sit down, and turning himself towards the English ambassador, who was near him, said, laying his hand on my shoulder, “C’est un Matador de ma jeunesse.”
A reconnoitring party was, at the same moment, in waiting before his tent: he consequently asked me few questions, and to those he did ask, I replied trembling. In a few minutes he rose from the table, gave a glance at the prisoners, hung the Order of Merit round my neck, commanded me to go and take repose, and set off with his party.
It is easy to conceive the embarrassment of my situation; my unpardonable negligence deserved that I should have been broken, instead of which I was rewarded; an instance, this, of the great influence of chance on the affairs of the world. How many generals have gained victories by their very errors, which have been afterwards attributed to their genius! It is evident the sergeant of hussars, who retook me and my men by bringing up his party, was much better entitled than myself to the recompense I received. On many occasions have I since met with disgrace and punishment when I deserved reward. My inquietude lest the truth should be discovered, was extreme, especially recollecting how many people were in the secret: and my apprehensions were incessant.
As I did not want money, I gave the sergeants twenty ducats each, and the soldiers one, in order to insure their silence, which, being a favourite with them, they readily promised. I, however, was determined to declare the truth the very first opportunity, and this happened a few days after.
We were on our march, and I, as cornet, was at the head of my company, when the King, advancing, beckoned me to come to him, and bade me tell him exactly how the affair I had so lately been engaged in happened.
The question at first made me mistrust I was betrayed, but remarking the King had a mildness in his manner, I presently recovered myself, and related the exact truth. I saw the astonishment of his countenance, but I at the same time saw he was pleased with my sincerity. He spoke to me for half an hour, not as a King, but as a father, praised my candour, and ended with the following words, which, while life remains, I shall never forget: “Confide in the advice I give you; depend wholly upon me, and I will make you a man.” Whoever can feel, may imagine how infinitely my gratitude towards the King was increased, by this his great goodness; from that moment I had no other desire than to live and die for his service.
I soon perceived the confidence the King had in me after this explanation, of which I received very frequent marks, the following winter, at Berlin. He permitted me to be present at his conversations with the literati of his court, and my state was truly enviable.
I received this same winter more than five hundred ducats as presents. So much happiness could not but excite jealousy, and this began to be manifest on every side. I had too little disguise for a courtier, and my heart was much too open and frank.
Before I proceed, I will here relate an incident which happened during the last campaign, and which will, no doubt, be read in the history of Frederic.
On the rout while retreating through Bohemia, the King came to Kollin, with his horse-guards, the cavalry piquets of the head-quarters, and the second and third battalions of guards. We had only four field pieces, and our squadron was stationed in one of the suburbs. Our advance posts, towards evening, were driven back into the town, and the hussars entered pell-mell: the enemy’s light troops swarmed over the country, and my commanding officer sent me immediately to receive the King’s orders. After much search, I found him at the top of a steeple, with a telescope in his hand. Never did I see him so disturbed or undecided as on this occasion. Orders were immediately given that we should retreat through the city, into the opposite suburb, where we were to halt, but not unsaddle.
We had not been here long before a most heavy rain fell, and the night became exceedingly dark. My cousin Trenck made his approach about nine in the evening, with his pandour and janissary music, and set fire to several houses. They found we were in the suburb, and began to fire upon us from the city windows. The tumult became extreme: the city was too full for us to re-enter: the gate was shut, and they fired from above at us with our field-pieces. Trenck had let in the waters upon us, and we were up to the girths by midnight, and almost in despair. We lost seven men, and my horse was wounded in the neck.
The King, and all of us, had certainly been made prisoners had my cousin, as he has since told me, been able to continue the assault he had begun: but a cannon ball having wounded him in the foot, he was carried off, and the pandours retired. The corps of Nassau arrived next day to our aid; we quitted Kollin, and during the march the King said to me, “Your cousin had nearly played us a malicious prank last night, but the deserters say he is killed.” He then asked what our relationship was, and there our conversation ended.
It was about the middle of December when we came to Berlin, where I was received with open arms. I became less cautious than formerly, and, perhaps, more narrowly observed. A lieutenant of the foot guards, who was a public Ganymede, and against whom I had that natural antipathy and abhorrence I have for all such wretches, having indulged himself in some very impertinent jokes on the secret of my amour, I bestowed on him the epithet he deserved: we drew our swords, and he was wounded. On the Sunday following I presented myself to pay my respects to his Majesty on the parade, who said to me as he passed, “The storm and the thunder shall rend your heart; beware!”  He added nothing more.
Some little time after I was a few minutes too late on the parade; the King remarked it, and sent me, under arrest, to the foot-guard at Potzdam. When I had been here a fortnight, Colonel Wartensleben came, and advised me to petition for pardon. I was then too much a novice in the modes of the court to follow his counsel, nor did I even remark the person who gave it me was himself a most subtle courtier. I complained bitterly that I had so long been deprived of liberty, for a fault which was usually punished by three, or, at most, six days’ arrest. Here accordingly I remained.
Eight days after, the King being come to Potzdam, I was sent by General Bourke to Berlin, to carry some letters, but without having seen the King. On my return I presented myself to him on the parade; and as our squadron was garrisoned at Berlin, I asked, “Does it please your Majesty that I should go and join my corps?” “Whence came you?” answered he. “From Berlin.” “And where were you before you went to Berlin?” “Under arrest.” “Then under arrest you must remain!”
I did not recover my liberty till three days before our departure for Silesia, towards which we marched, with the utmost speed, in the beginning of May, to commence our second campaign.
Here I must recount an event which happened that winter, which became the source of all my misfortunes, and to which I must entreat my readers will pay the utmost attention; since this error, if innocence can be error, was the cause that the most faithful and the best of subjects became bewildered in scenes of wretchedness, and was the victim of misery, from his nineteenth to the sixtieth year of his age. I dare presume that this true narrative, supported by testimonies the most authentic, will fully vindicate my present honour and my future memory.
Francis, Baron of Trenck, was the son of my father’s brother, consequently my cousin german. I shall speak, hereafter, of the singular events of his life. Being a commander of pandours in the Austrian service, and grievously wounded at Bavaria, in the year 1743, he wrote to my mother, informing her he intended me, her eldest son, for his universal legatee. This letter, to which I returned no answer, was sent to me at Potzdam. I was so satisfied with my situation, and had such numerous reasons so to be, considering the kindness with which the King treated me, that I would not have exchanged my good fortune for all the treasures of the Great Mogul.
On the 12th of February, 1744, being at Berlin, I was in company with Captain Jaschinsky, commander of the body guard, the captain of which ranks as colonel in the army, together with Lieutenant Studnitz, and Cornet Wagnitz. The latter was my field comrade, and is at present commander-general of the cavalry of Hesse Cassel. The Austrian Trenck became the subject of conversation, and Jaschinsky asked if I were his kinsman. I answered, yes, and immediately mentioned his having made me his universal heir. “And what answer have you returned?” said Jaschinsky.—“None at all.”
The whole company then observed that, in a case like the present, I was much to blame not to answer; that the least I could do would be to thank him for his good wishes, and entreat a continuance of them. Jaschinsky further added, “Desire him to send you some of his fine Hungarian horses for your own use, and give me the letter; I will convey it to him, by means of Mr. Bossart, legation counsellor of the Saxon embassy; but on condition that you will give me one of the horses. This correspondence is a family, and not a state affair; I will make myself responsible for the consequences.”
I immediately took my commander’s advice, and began to write; and had those who suspected me thought proper to make the least inquiry into these circumstances, the four witnesses who read what I wrote could have attested my innocence, and rendered it indubitable. I gave my letter open to Jaschinsky, who sealed and sent it himself.
I must omit none of the incidents concerning this letter, it being the sole cause of all my sufferings. I shall therefore here relate an event which was the first occasion of the unjust suspicions entertained against me.
One of my grooms, with two led horses, was, among many others, taken by the pandours of Trenck. When I returned to the camp, I was to accompany the King on a reconnoitring party. My horse was too tired, and I had no other: I informed him of my embarrassment, and his Majesty immediately made me a present of a fine English courser.
Some days after, I was exceedingly astonished to see my groom return, with my two horses, and a pandour trumpeter, who brought me a letter, containing nearly the following words:—
“The Austrian Trenck is not at war with the Prussian Trenck, but, on the contrary, is happy to have recovered his horses from his hussars, and to return them to whom they first belonged,” &c.
I went the same day to pay my respects to the King, who, receiving me with great coldness, said, “Since your cousin has returned your own horses, you have no more need of mine.”
There were too many who envied me to suppose these words would escape repetition. The return of the horses seems infinitely to have increased that suspicion Frederic entertained against me, and therefore became one of the principal causes of my misfortunes: it is for this reason that I dwell upon this and suchlike small incidents, they being necessary for my own justification, and, were it possible, for that of the King. My innocence is, indeed, at present universally acknowledged by the court, the army, and the whole nation; who all mention the injustice I suffered with pity, and the fortitude with which it was endured with surprise.
We marched for Silesia, to enter on our second campaign: which, to the Prussians, was as bloody and murderous as it was glorious.
The King’s head-quarters were fixed at the convent of Kamentz, where we rested fourteen days, and the army remained in cantonments. Prince Charles, instead of following us into Bohemia, had the imprudence to occupy the plain of Strigau, and we already concluded his army was beaten. Whoever is well acquainted with tactics, and the Prussian manoeuvres, will easily judge, without the aid of calculation or witchcraft, whether a well or ill-disciplined army, in an open plain, ought to be victorious.
The army hastily left its cantonments, and in twenty-four hours was in order of battle; and on the 14th of June, eighteen thousand bodies lay stretched on the plain of Strigau. The allied armies of Austria and Saxony were totally defeated.
The body guard was on the right; and previous to the attack, the King said to our squadron, “Prove today, my children, that you are my body guard, and give no Saxon quarter.”
We made three attacks on the cavalry, and two on the infantry. Nothing could withstand a squadron like this, which for men, horses, courage, and experience, was assuredly the first in the world. Our corps alone took seven standards and five pairs of colours, and in less than an hour the affair was over.
I received a pistol shot in my right hand, my horse was desperately wounded, and I was obliged to change him on the third charge. The day after the battle all the officers were rewarded with the Order of Merit. For my own part, I remained four weeks among the wounded, at Schweidnitz, where there were sixteen thousand men under the torture of the army surgeons, many of whom had not their wounds dressed till the third day.
I was near three months before I recovered the use of my hand: I nevertheless rejoined my corps, continued to perform my duty, and as usual accompanied the King when he went to reconnoitre. For some time past he had placed confidence in me, and his kindness towards me continually increased, which raised my gratitude even to enthusiasm.
I also performed the service of adjutant during this campaign, a circumstantial account of which no person is better enabled to write than myself, I having been present at all that passed. I was the scholar of the greatest master the art of war ever knew, and who believed me worthy to receive his instructions; but the volume I am writing would be insufficient to contain all that personally relates to myself.
I must here mention an adventure that happened at this time, and which will show the art of the great Frederic in forming youth for his service, and devotedly attaching them to his person.
I was exceedingly fond of hunting, in which, notwithstanding it was severely forbidden, I indulged myself. I one day returned, laden with pheasants; but judge my astonishment and fears when I saw the army had decamped, and that it was with difficulty that I could overtake the rear-guard.
In this my distress, I applied to an officer of hussars, who instantly lent me his horse, by the aid of which I rejoined my corps, which always marched as the vanguard. Mounting my own horse, I tremblingly rode to the head of my division, which it was my duty to precede. The King, however, had remarked my absence, or rather had been reminded of it by my superior officer, who, for some time past, had become my enemy.
Just as the army halted to encamp, the King rode towards me, and made a signal for me to approach, and, seeing my fears in my countenance, said, “What, are you just returned from hunting?” “Yes, your Majesty. I hope—” Here interrupting me, he added, “Well, well, for this time, I shall take no further notice, remembering Potzdam; but, however, let me find you more attentive to your duty.”
So ended this affair, for which I deserved to have been broken. I must remind my readers that the King meant by the words remembering Potzdam, he remembered I had been punished too severely the winter before, and that my present pardon was intended as a compensation.
This was indeed to think and act greatly; this was indeed the true art of forming great men: an art much more effectual than that of ferocious generals, who threaten subalterns with imprisonment and chains on every slight occasion; and, while indulging all the rigours of military law, make no distinction of minds or of men. Frederic, on the contrary, sometimes pardoned the failings of genius, while mechanic souls he mechanically punished, according to the very letter of the laws of war.
I shall further remark, the King took no more notice of my late fault, except that sometimes, when I had the honour to dine with him, he would ridicule people who were too often at the chase, or who were so choleric that they took occasion to quarrel for the least trifle.
The campaign passed in different manoeuvres, marches, and countermarches. Our corps was the most fatigued, as being encamped round the King’s tent, the station of which was central, and as likewise having the care of the vanguard; we were therefore obliged to begin our march two hours sooner than the remainder of the army, that we might be in our place. We also accompanied the King whenever he went to reconnoitre, traced the lines of encampment, led the horse to water, inspected the head-quarters, and regulated the march and encampment, according to the King’s orders; the performance of all which robbed us of much rest, we being but six officers to execute so many different functions.
Still further, we often executed the office of couriers, to bear the royal commands to detachments. The King was particularly careful that the officers of his guards, whom he intended should become excellent in the art of tactics, should not be idle in his school. It was necessary to do much in order that much might be learnt. Labour, vigilance, activity, the love of glory and the love of his country, animated all his generals; into whom, it may be said, he infused his spirit.
In this school I gained instruction, and here already was I selected as one designed to instruct others; yet, in my fortieth year, a great general at Vienna told me, “My dear Trenck, our discipline would be too difficult for you to learn; for which, indeed, you are too far advanced in life.” Agreeable to this wise decision was I made an Austrian invalid, and an invalid have always remained; a judgment like this would have been laughed at, most certainly, at Berlin.
If I mistake not, the famous battle of Soor, or Sorau, was fought on the 14th day of September. The King had sent so many detachments into Saxony, Bohemia, and Silesia, that the main army did not consist of more than twenty-five thousand men. Neglecting advice, and obstinate in judging his enemy by numbers, and not according to the excellence of discipline, and other accidents, Prince Charles, blind to the real strength of the Prussian armies, had enclosed this small number of Pomeranian and Brandenburg regiments, with more than eighty-six thousand men, intending to take them all prisoners.
It will soon be seen from my narrative with what kind of secrecy his plan was laid and executed.
The King came into my tent about midnight; as he also did into that of all the officers, to awaken them; his orders were, “Secretly to saddle, leave the baggage in the rear, and that the men should stand ready to mount at the word of command.”
Lieutenant Studnitz and myself attended the King, who went in person, and gave directions through the whole army; meantime, break of day was expected with anxiety.
Opposite the defile through which the enemy was to march to the attack eight field-pieces were concealed behind a hill. The King must necessarily have been informed of the whole plan of the Austrian general, for he had called in the advanced posts from the heights, that he might lull him into security, and make him imagine we should be surprised in the midst of sleep.
Scarcely did break of day appear before the Austrian artillery, situated upon the heights, began to play upon our camp, and their cavalry to march through the defile to the attack.
As suddenly were we in battle array; for in less than ten minutes we ourselves began the attack, notwithstanding the smallness of our number, the whole army only containing five regiments of cavalry. We fell with such fury upon the enemy (who at this time were wholly employed in forming their men at the mouth of the defile, and that slowly, little expecting so sudden and violent a charge), that we drove them back into the defile, where they pressed upon each other in crowds; the King himself stood ready to unmask his eight field-pieces, and a dreadful and bloody slaughter ensued in this narrow place; from which the enemy had not the power to retreat. This single incident gained the battle, and deceived all time hopes of Prince Charles.
Nadasti, Trenck, and the light troops, sent to attack our rear, were employed in pillaging the camp. The ferocious Croats met no opposition, while this their error made our victory more secure. It deserves to be noticed that, when advice was brought to the King that the enemy had fallen upon and were plundering the camp, his answer was, “So much the better; they have found themselves employment, and will be no impediment to our main design.”
Our victory was complete, but all our baggage was lost; the headquarters, utterly undefended, were totally stripped; and Trenck had, for his part of the booty, the King’s tent and his service of plate.
I have mentioned this circumstance here, because that, in the year 1740, my cousin Trenck, having fallen into the power of his enemies, who had instituted a legal, process against him, was accused, by some villanous wretches, of having surprised the King in bed at the battle of Sorau, and of having afterwards released him for a bribe.
What was still worse, they hired a common woman, a native of Brünn, who pretended she was the daughter of Marshal Schwerin, to give in evidence that she herself was with the King when Trenck entered his tent, whom he immediately made prisoner, and as immediately released.
To this part of the prosecution I myself, an eye-witness, can answer: the thing was false and impossible. He was informed of the intended attack. I accompanied the watchful King from midnight till four in the morning, which time he employed in riding through the camp, and making the necessary preparations to receive the enemy; and the action began at five. Trenck could not take the King in bed, for the battle was almost gained when he and his pandours entered the camp and plundered the head-quarters.
As for the tale of Miss Schwerin, it is only fit to be told by schoolboys, or examined by the Inquisition, and was very unworthy of making part of a legal prosecution against an innocent man at Vienna.
This incident, however, is so remarkable that I shall give in this work a farther account of my kinsman, and what was called his criminal process, at reading which the world will be astonished. My own history is so connected with his that this is necessary, and the more so because there are many ignorant or wicked people at Vienna, who believe, or affirm, Trenck had actually taken the King of Prussia prisoner.
Never yet was there a traitor of the name of Trenck; and I hope to prove, in the clearest manner, the Austrian Trenck as faithfully served the Empress-Queen as the Prussian Trenck did Frederic, his King. Maria Theresa, speaking to me of him some time after his death, and the snares that had been laid for him, said, “Your kinsman has made a better end than will be the fate of his accusers and judges.”
Of this more hereafter: I approach that epoch when my misfortunes began, and when the sufferings of martyrdom attended me from youth onward till my hairs grew grey.
A few days after the battle of Sorau, the usual camp postman brought me a letter from my cousin Trenck, the colonel of pandours, antedated at Effek four months, of which the following is a copy:—
“Your letter, of the 12th of February, from Berlin, informs me you desire to have some Hungarian horses. On these you would come and attack me and my pandours. I saw with pleasure, during the last campaign, that the Prussian Trenck was a good soldier; and that I might give you some proofs of my attachment, I then returned the horses which my men had taken. If, however, you wish to have Hungarian horses, you must take mine in like manner from me in the field of battle: or, should you so think fit, come and join one who will receive you with open arms, like his friend and son, and who will procure you every advantage you can desire,” &c.
At first I was terrified at reading this letter, yet could not help smiling. Cornet Wagenitz, now general in chief of the Hesse Cassel forces, and Lieutenant Grotthausen, both now alive, and then present, were my camp comrades. I gave them the letter to read, and they laughed at its contents. It was determined to show it to our superior officer, Jaschinsky, on a promise of secrecy, and it was accordingly shown him within an hour after it was received.
The reader will be so kind as to recollect that, as I have before said, it was this Colonel Jaschinsky who on the 12th of February, the same year, at Berlin, prevailed on me to write to the Austrian Trenck, my cousin; that he received the letter open, and undertook to send it according to its address; also that, in this letter, I in jest had asked him to send me some Hungarian horses, and, should they come, had promised one to Jaschinsky. He read the letter with an air of some surprise; we laughed, and, it being whispered through the army that, in consequence of our late victory, detached corps would be sent into Hungary, Jaschinsky said, “We shall now go and take Hungarian horses for ourselves.” Here the conversation ended, and I, little suspecting future consequences, returned to my tent.
I must here remark the following observations:—
1st. I had not observed the date of the letter brought by the postman, which, as I have said, was antedated four months: this, however, the colonel did not fail to remark.
2ndly. The probability is that this was a net, spread for me by this false and wicked man. The return of my horses, during the preceding campaign, had been the subject of much conversation. It is possible he had the King’s orders to watch me; but more probably he only prevailed on me to write that he might entrap me by a fictitious answer. Certain it is, my cousin Trenck, at Vienna, affirmed to his death he never received any letter from me, consequently never could send any answer. I must therefore conclude this letter was forged.
Jaschinsky was at this time one of the King’s favourites; his spy over the army; a tale-bearer; an inventor of wicked lies and calumnies. Some years after the event of which I am now speaking, the King was obliged to break and banish him the country.
He was then also the paramour of the beauteous Madame Brossart, wife of the Saxon resident at Berlin, and there can be little doubt but that this false letter was, by her means, conveyed to some Saxon or Austrian post-office, and thence, according to its address, sent to me. He had daily opportunities of infusing suspicions into the King’s mind concerning me; and, unknown to me, of pursuing his diabolical plan.
I must likewise add he was four hundred ducats indebted to me. At that time I had always a plentiful supply of money. This booty became his own when I, unexamined, was arrested, and thrown into prison. In like manner he seized on the greatest part of my camp equipage.
Further, we had quarrelled during our first campaign, because he had beaten one of my servants; we even were proceeding to fight with pistols, had not Colonel Winterfield interfered, and amicably ended our quarrel. The Lithuanian is, by nature, obstinate and revengeful; and, from that day, I have reason to believe he sought my destruction.
God only knows what were the means he took to excite the King’s suspicious; for it is incredible that Frederic, considering his well-known professions of public justice, should treat me in the manner he did, without a hearing, without examination, and without a court-martial. This to me has ever remained a mystery, which the King alone was able to explain; he afterwards was convinced I was innocent: but my sufferings had been too cruel, and the miseries he had inflicted too horrible, for me ever to hope for compensation.
In an affair of this nature, which will soon he known to all Europe, as it long has been in Prussia, the weakest is always guilty. I have been made a terrible example to this our age, how true that maxim is in despotic States.
A man of my rank, having once unjustly suffered, and not having the power of making his sufferings known, must ever be highly rewarded or still more unjustly punished. My name and injuries will ever stain the annals of Frederic the Great; even those who read this book will perhaps suppose that I, from political motives of hope or fear, have sometimes concealed truth by endeavouring to palliate his conduct.
It must ever remain incomprehensible that a monarch so clear-sighted, himself the daily witness of my demeanour, one well acquainted with mankind, and conscious I wanted neither money, honour, nor hope of future preferment; I say it is incomprehensible that he should really suppose me guilty. I take God to witness, and all those who knew me in prosperity and misfortune, I never harboured a thought of betraying my country. How was it possible to suspect me? I was neither madman nor idiot. In my eighteenth year I was a cornet of the body guard, adjutant to the King, and possessed his favour and confidence in the highest degree. His presents to me, in one year, amounted to fifteen hundred dollars. I kept seven horses, four men in livery; I was valued, distinguished, and beloved by the mistress of my soul. My relations held high offices, both civil and military; I was even fanatically devoted to my King and country, and had nothing to wish.
That I should become thus wretched, in consequence of this unfortunate letter, is equally wonderful: it came by the public post. Had there been any criminal correspondence, my kinsman certainly would not have chosen this mode of conveyance; since, it is well known, all such letters are opened; nor could I act more openly. My colonel read the letter I wrote; and also that which I received, immediately after it was brought.
The day after the receipt of this letter I was, as I have before said, unheard, unaccused, unjudged, conducted like a criminal from the army, by fifty hussars, and imprisoned in the fortress of Glatz. I was allowed to take three horses, and my servants, but my whole equipage was left behind, which I never saw more, and which became the booty of Jaschinsky. My commission was given to Cornet Schatzel, and I cashiered without knowing why. There were no legal inquiries made: all was done by the King’s command.
Unhappy people! where power is superior to law, and where the innocent and the virtuous meet punishment instead of reward. Unhappy land! where the omnipotent “such is our will” supersedes all legal sentence, and robs the subject of property, life, and honour.
I once more repeat I was brought to the citadel of Glatz; I was not, however, thrown into a dungeon, but imprisoned in a chamber of the officer of the guard; was allowed my servants to wait on me, and permitted to walk on the ramparts.
I did not want money, and there was only a detachment from the garrison regiment in the citadel of Glatz, the officers of which were all poor. I soon had both friends and freedom, and the rich prisoner every day kept open table.
He only who had known me in this the ardour of my youth, who had witnessed how high I aspired, and the fortune that attended me at Berlin, can imagine what my feelings were at finding myself thus suddenly cast from my high hopes.
I wrote submissively to the King, requesting to be tried by a court-martial, and not desiring any favour should I be found guilty. This haughty tone, in a youth, was displeasing, and I received no answer, which threw me into despair, and induced me to use every possible means to obtain my liberty.
My first care was to establish, by the intervention of an officer, a certain correspondence with the object of my heart. She answered, she was far from supposing I had ever entertained the least thought treacherous to my country; that she knew, too well, I was perfectly incapable, of dissimulation. She blamed the precipitate anger and unjust suspicions of the King; promised me speedy aid, and sent me a thousand ducats.
Had I, at this critical moment, possessed a prudent and intelligent friend, who could have calmed my impatience, nothing perhaps might have been more easy than to have obtained pardon from the King, by proving my innocence; or, it may be, than to have induced him to punish my enemies.
But the officers who then were at Glatz fed the flame of discontent. They supposed the money I so freely distributed came all from Hungary, furnished by the pandour chest; and advised me not to suffer my freedom to depend upon the will of the King, but to enjoy it in his despite.
It was not more easy to give this advice than to persuade a man to take it, who, till then, had never encountered anything but good fortune, and who consequently supported the reverse with impatience. I was not yet, however, determined; because I could not yet resolve to abandon my country, and especially Berlin.
Five months soon passed away in prison: peace was concluded; the King was returned to his capital; my commission in the guards was bestowed on another, when Lieutenant Piaschky, of the regiment of Fouquet, and Ensign Reitz, who often mounted guard over me, proposed that they and I should escape together. I yielded; our plan was fixed, and every preparatory step taken.
At that time there was another prisoner at Glatz, whose name was Manget, by birth a Swiss, and captain of cavalry in the Natzmerschen hussars; he had been broken, and condemned by a court-martial to ten years’ imprisonment, with an allowance of only four rix-dollars per month.
Having done this man kindness, I was resolved to rescue him from bondage, at the same time that I obtained freedom for myself. I communicated my design, and made the proposal, which was accepted by him, and measures were taken; yet were we betrayed by this vile man, who thus purchased pardon and liberty.
Piaschky, who had been informed that Reitz was arrested, saved himself by deserting. I denied the fact in presence of Manget, with whom I was confronted, and bribed the Auditor with a hundred ducats. By this means Reitz only suffered a year’s imprisonment, and the loss of his commission. I was afterwards closely confined in a chamber, for having endeavoured to corrupt the King’s officers, and was guarded with greater caution.
Here I will interrupt my narrative, for a moment, to relate an adventure which happened between me and this Captain Manget, three years after he had thus betrayed me—that is to say, in 1749, at Warsaw.
I there met him by chance, and it is not difficult to imagine what was the salutation he received. I caned him; he took this ill, and challenged me to fight with pistols. Captain Heucking, of the Polish guards, was my second. We both fired together; I shot him through the neck at the first shot, and he fell dead on the field.
He alone, of all my enemies, ever died by my own hand; and he well merited his end, for his cowardly treachery towards the two brave fellows of whom I have spoken; and still more so with respect to myself, who had been his benefactor. I own, I have never reproached myself for this duel, by which I sent a rascal out of the world.
I return to my tale. My destiny at Glatz was now become more untoward and severe. The King’s suspicions were increased, as likewise was his anger, by this my late attempt to escape.
Left to myself, I considered my situation in the worst point of view, and determined either on flight or death. The length and closeness of my confinement became insupportable to my impatient temper.
I had always had the garrison on my side, nor was it possible to prevent my making friends among them. They knew I had money, and, in a poor garrison regiment, the officers of which are all dissatisfied, having most of them been drafted from other corps, and sent thither as a punishment, there was nothing that might not be undertaken.
My scheme was as follows:—My window looked towards the city, and was ninety feet from the ground in the tower of the citadel, out of which I could not get, without having found a place of refuge in the city.
This an officer undertook to procure me, and prevailed on an honest soap-boiler to grant me a hiding place. I then notched my pen-knife, and sawed through three iron bars; but this mode was too tedious, it being necessary to file away eight bars from my window, before I could pass through; another officer therefore procured me a file, which I was obliged to use with caution, lest I should be overheard by the sentinels.
Having ended this labour, I cut my leather portmanteau into thongs, sewed them end to end, added the sheets of my bed, and descended safely from this astonishing height.
It rained, the night was dark, and all seemed fortunate, but I had to wade through moats full of mud, before I could enter the city, a circumstance I had never once considered. I sank up to the knees, and after long struggling, and incredible efforts to extricate myself, I was obliged to call the sentinel, and desire him to go and tell the governor, Trenck was stuck fast in the moat.
My misfortune was the greater on this occasion, because that General Fouquet was then governor of Glatz. He was one of the cruellest of men. He had been wounded by my father in a duel; and the Austrian Trenck had taken his baggage in 1744, and had also laid the country of Glatz under contribution. He was, therefore, an enemy to the very name of Trenck; nor did he lose any opportunity of giving proofs of his enmity, and especially on the present occasion, when he left me standing in the mire till noon, the sport of the soldiers. I was then drawn out, half dead, only again to be imprisoned, and shut up the whole day, without water to wash me. No one can imagine how I looked, exhausted and dirty, my long hair having fallen into the mud, with which, by my struggling, it was loaded.
I remained in this condition till the next day, when two fellow-prisoners were sent to assist and clean me.
My imprisonment now became more intolerable. I had still eighty louis-d’ors in my purse, which had not been taken from me at my removal into another dungeon, and these afterwards did me good service.
The passions soon all assailed me at once, and impetuous, boiling, youthful blood overpowered reason; hope disappeared; I thought myself the most unfortunate of men, and my King an irreconcileable judge, more wrathful and more fortified in suspicion by my own rashness. My nights were sleepless, my days miserable; my soul was tortured by the desire of fame; a consciousness of innocence was a continued stimulus inciting me to end my misfortunes. Youth, inexperienced in woe and disastrous fate, beholds every evil magnified, and desponds on every new disappointment, more especially after having failed in attempting freedom. Education had taught me to despise death, and these opinions had been confirmed by my friend La Mettrie, author of the famous work, “L’Homme Machine,” or “Man a Machine.”
I read much during my confinement at Glatz, where books were allowed me; time was therefore less tedious; but when the love of liberty awoke, when fame and affection called me to Berlin, and my baulked hopes painted the wretchedness of my situation; when I remembered that my loved country, judging by appearances, could not but pronounce me a traitor; then was I hourly impelled to rush on the naked bayonets of my guards, by whom, to me, the road of freedom was barred.
Big with such-like thoughts, eight days had not elapsed since my last fruitless attempt to escape, when an event happened which would appear incredible, were I, the principal actor in the scene, not alive to attest its truth, and might not all Glatz and the Prussian garrison be produced as eye and ear witnesses. This incident will prove that adventurous, and even rash, daring will render the most improbable undertakings possible, and that desperate attempts may often make a general more fortunate and famous than the wisest and best concerted plans.
Major Doo  came to visit me, accompanied by an officer of the guard, and an adjutant. After examining every corner of my chamber, he addressed me, taxing me with a second crime in endeavouring to obtain my liberty; adding this must certainly increase the anger of the King.
My blood boiled at the word crime; he talked of patience; I asked him how long the King had condemned me to imprisonment; he answered, a traitor to his country, who has correspondence with the enemy, cannot be condemned for a certain time, but must depend for grace and pardon on the King.
At that instant I snatched his sword from his side, on which my eyes had some time been fixed, sprang out of the door, tumbled the sentinel from the top to the bottom of the stairs, passed the men who happened to be drawn up before the prison door to relieve the guard, attacked them sword in hand, threw them suddenly into surprise by the manner in which I laid about me, wounded four of them, made way through the rest, sprang over the breastwork of the ramparts, and, with my sword drawn in my hand, immediately leaped this astonishing height without receiving the least injury. I leaped the second wall with equal safety and good fortune. None of their pieces were loaded; no one durst leap after me, and in order to pursue, they must go round through the town and gate of the citadel; so that I had the start full half an hour.
A sentinel, however, in a narrow passage, endeavoured to oppose my flight, but I parried his fixed bayonet, and wounded him in the face. A second sentinel, meantime, ran from the outworks, to seize me behind, and I, to avoid him, made a spring at the palisadoes; there I was unluckily caught by the foot, and received a bayonet wound in the upper lip; thus entangled, they beat me with the butt-end of their muskets, and dragged me back to prison, while I struggled and defended myself like a man grown desperate.
Certain it is, had I more carefully jumped the palisadoes, and despatched the sentinel who opposed me, I might have escaped, and gained the mountains. Thus might I have fled to Bohemia, after having, at noonday, broken from the fortress of Glatz, sprung past all its sentinels, over all its walls, and passed with impunity, in despite of the guard, who were under arms, ready to oppose me. I should not, having a sword, have feared any single opponent, and was able to contend with the swiftest runners.
That good fortune which had so far attended me forsook me at the palisadoes, where hope was at an end. The severities of imprisonment were increased; two sentinels and an under officer were locked in with me, and were themselves guarded by sentinels without; I was beaten and wounded by the butt-ends of their muskets, my right foot was sprained, I spat blood, and my wounds were not cured in less than a month.
I was now first informed that the King had only condemned me to a year’s imprisonment, in order to learn whether his suspicions were well founded. My mother had petitioned for me, and was answered, “Your son must remain a year imprisoned, as a punishment for his rash correspondence.”
Of this I was ignorant, and it was reported in Glatz that my imprisonment was for life. I had only three weeks longer to repine for the loss of liberty, when I made this rash attempt. What must the King think? Was he not obliged to act with this severity? How could prudence excuse my impatience, thus to risk a confiscation, when I was certain of receiving freedom, justification, and honour, in three weeks? But, such was my adverse fate, circumstances all tended to injure and persecute me, till at length I gave reason to suppose I was a traitor, notwithstanding the purity of my intentions.
Once more, then, was I in a dungeon, and no sooner was I there than I formed new projects of flight. I first gained the intimacy of my guards. I had money, and this, with the compassion I had inspired, might effect anything among discontented Prussian soldiers. Soon had I gained thirty-two men, who were ready to execute, on the first signal, whatever I should command. Two or three excepted, they were unacquainted with each other; they consequently could not all be betrayed at a time: had chosen the sub-officer Nicholai to head them.
The garrison consisted only of one hundred and twenty men from the garrison regiment, the rest being dispersed in the county of Glatz, and four officers, their commanders, three of whom were in my interest. Everything was prepared; swords and pistols were concealed in the oven which was in my prison. We intended to give liberty to all the prisoners, and retire with drums beating into Bohemia.
Unfortunately, an Austrian deserter, to whom Nicholai had imparted our design, went and discovered our conspiracy. The governor instantly sent his adjutant to the citadel, with orders that the officer on guard should arrest Nicholai, and, with his men, take possession of the casement.
Nicholai was on the guard, and the lieutenant was my friend, and being in the secret, gave the signal that all was discovered. Nicholai only knew all the conspirators, several of whom that day were on guard. He instantly formed his resolution, leaped into the casement, crying, “Comrades, to arms, we are betrayed!” All followed to the guard-house, where they seized on the cartridges, the officer having only eight men, and threatening to fire on whoever should offer resistance, came to deliver me from prison; but the iron door was too strong, and the time too short for that to be demolished. Nicholai, calling to me, bid me aid them, but in vain: and perceiving nothing more could be done for me, this brave man, heading nineteen others, marched to the gate of the citadel, where there was a sub-officer and ten soldiers, obliged these to accompany him, and thus arrived safely at Braunau, in Bohemia; for, before the news was spread through the city, and men were collected for the pursuit, they were nearly half-way on their journey.
Two years after I met with this extraordinary man at Ofenbourg, where hue was a writer: he entered immediately into my service, and became my friend, but died some months after of a burning fever, at my quarters in Hungary, at which I was deeply grieved, for his memory will be ever dear to me.
Now was I exposed to all the storms of ill-fortune: a prosecution was entered against me as a conspirator, who wanted to corrupt the officers and soldiers of the King. They commanded me to name the remaining conspirators; but to these questions I made no answer, except by steadfastly declaring I was an innocent prisoner, an officer unjustly broken; unjustly, because I had never been brought to trial; that consequently I was released from all my engagements; nor could it be thought extraordinary that I should avail myself of that law of nature which gives every man a right to defend his honour defamed, and seek by every possible means to regain his liberty: that such had been my sole purpose in every enterprise I had formed, and such should still continue to be, for I was determined to persist, till I should either be crowned with success, or lose my life in the attempt.
Things thus remained: every precaution was taken except that I was not put in irons; it being a law in Prussia that no gentleman or officer can be loaded with chains, unless he has first for some crime been delivered over to the executioner; and certainly this had not been my case.
The soldiers were withdrawn from my chamber; but the greatest ill was I had expended all my money, and my kind mistress, at Berlin, with whom I had always corresponded, and which my persecutors could not prevent, at last wrote—
“My tears flow with yours; the evil is without remedy—I dare no more—escape if you can. My fidelity will ever be the same, when it shall be possible for me to serve you.—Adieu, unhappy friend: you merit a better fate.”
This letter was a thunderbolt:—my comfort, however, still was that the officers were not suspected, and that it was their duty to visit my chamber several times a day, and examine what passed: from which circumstance I felt my hopes somewhat revive. Hence an adventure happened which is almost unexampled in tales of knight-errantry.
A lieutenant, whose name was Bach, a Dane by nation, mounted guard every fourth day, and was the terror of the whole garrison; for, being a perfect master of arms, he was incessantly involved in quarrels, and generally left his marks behind him. He had served in two regiments, neither of which would associate with him for this reason, and he had been sent to the garrison regiment at Glatz as punishment.
Bach one day, sitting beside me, related how, the evening before, he had wounded a lieutenant, of the name of Schell, in the arm. I replied, laughing, “Had I my liberty, I believe you would find some trouble in wounding me, for I have some skill in the sword.” The blood instantly flew in his face; we split off a kind of pair of foils from an old door, which had served me as a table, and at the first lunge I hit him on the breast.
His rage became ungovernable, and he left the prison. What was my astonishment when, a moment after, I saw him return with two soldiers’ swords, which he had concealed under his coat.—“Now, then, boaster, prove,” said he, giving me one of them, “what thou art able to do.” I endeavoured to pacify him, by representing the danger, but ineffectually. He attacked me with the utmost fury, and I wounded him in the arm.
Throwing his sword down, he fell upon my neck, kissed me, and wept. At length, after some convulsive emotions of pleasure, he said, “Friend, thou art my master; and thou must, thou shalt, by my aid, obtain thy liberty, as certainly as my name is Bach.” We bound up his arm as well as we could. He left me, and secretly went to a surgeon, to have it properly dressed, and at night returned.
He now remarked, that it was humanly impossible I should escape, unless the officer on guard should desert with me;—that he wished nothing more ardently than to sacrifice his life in my behalf, but that he could not resolve so far to forget his honour and duty to desert, himself, while on guard: he notwithstanding gave me his word of honour he would find me such a person in a few days; and that, in the meantime, he would prepare everything for my flight.
He returned the same evening, bringing with him Lieutenant Schell, and as he entered said, “Here is your man.” Schell embraced me, gave his word of honour, and thus was the affair settled, and as it proved, my liberty ascertained.
We soon began to deliberate on the means necessary to obtain our purpose. Schell was just come from garrison at Habelchwert to the citadel of Glatz, and in two days was to mount guard over me, till when our attempt was suspended. I have before said, I received no more supplies from my beloved mistress, and my purse at that time only contained some six pistoles. It was therefore resolved that Bach should go to Schweidnitz, and obtain money of a sure friend of mine in that city.
Here must I inform the reader that at this period the officers and I all understood each other, Captain Roder alone excepted, who was exact, rigid, and gave trouble on all occasions.
Major Quaadt was my kinsman, by my mother’s side, a good, friendly man, and ardently desirous I should escape, seeing my calamities were so much increased. The four lieutenants who successively mounted guard over me were Bach, Schroeder, Lunitz, and Schell. The first was the grand projector, and made all preparations; Schell was to desert with me; and Schroeder and Lunitz three days after were to follow.
No one ought to be surprised that officers of garrison regiments should be so ready to desert. They are, in general, either men of violent passions, quarrelsome, overwhelmed with debts, or unfit for service. They are usually sent to the garrison as a punishment, and are called the refuse of the army. Dissatisfied with their situation, their pay much reduced, and despised by the troops, such men, expecting advantage, may be brought to engage in the most desperate undertaking. None of them can hope for their discharge, and they live in the utmost poverty. They all hoped by my means to better their fortune, I always having had money enough; and, with money, nothing is more easy than to find friends, in places where each individual is desirous of escaping from slavery.
The talents of Schell were of a superior order; he spoke and wrote six languages, and was well acquainted with all the fine arts. He had served in the regiment of Fouquet, had been injured by his colonel, who was a Pomeranian; and Fouquet, who was no friend to well-informed officers, had sent him to a garrison regiment. He had twice demanded his dismissal, but the King sent him to this species of imprisonment; he then determined to avenge himself by deserting, and was ready to aid me in recovering my freedom, that he might, by that means, spite Fouquet.
I shall speak more hereafter of this extraordinary man, that I must not in this place interrupt my story. We determined everything should be prepared against the first time Schell mounted guard, and that our project should be executed on our next. Thus, as he mounted guard every four days, the eighth was to be that of our flight.
The governor meantime had been informed how familiar I was become with the officers, at which taking offence, he sent orders that my door should no more be opened, but that I should receive my food through a small window that had been made for the purpose. The care of the prison was committed to the major, and he was forbidden to eat with me, under pain of being broken.
His precautions were ineffectual; the officers procured a false key, and remained with me half the day and night.
Captain Damnitz was imprisoned in an apartment by the side of mine. This man had deserted from the Prussian service, with the money belonging to his company, to Austria, where he obtained a commission in his cousin’s regiment, who having prevailed on him to serve as a spy, during the campaign of 1744, he was taken in the Prussian territories, known, and condemned to be hanged.
Some Swedish volunteers, who were then in the army, interested themselves in his behalf, and his sentence was changed to perpetual imprisonment, with a sentence of infamy.
This wretch, who two years after, by the aid of his protectors, not only obtained his liberty but a lieutenant-colonel’s commission, was the secret spy of the major over the prisoners; and he remarked that, notwithstanding the express prohibition laid on the officers, they still passed the greater part of their time in my company.
The 24th of December came, and Schell mounted guard. He entered my prison immediately, where he continued a long time, and we made our arrangements for flight when he next should mount guard.
Lieutenant Schroeder that day dined with the governor, and heard orders given to the adjutant that Schell should be taken from the guard, and put under arrest.
Schroeder, who was in the secret, had no doubt but that we were betrayed, not knowing that the spy Damnitz had informed the governor that Schell was then in my chamber.
Schroeder, full of terror, came running to the citadel, and said to Schell, “Save thyself, friend; all is discovered, and thou wilt instantly be put under arrest.”
Schell might easily have provided for his own safety, by flying singly, Schroeder having prepared horses, on one of which he himself offered to accompany him into Bohemia. How did this worthy man, in a moment so dangerous, act toward his friend?
Running suddenly into my prison, he drew a corporal’s sabre from under his coat, and said, “Friend, we are betrayed; follow me, only do not suffer me to fall alive into the hands of my enemies.”
I would have spoken: but interrupting me, and taking me by the hand, he added, “Follow me; we have not a moment to lose.” I therefore slipped on my coat and boots, without having time to take the little money I had left; and, as we went out of the prison, Schell said to the sentinel, “I am taking the prisoner into the officer’s apartment; stand where you are.”
Into this room we really went, but passed out at the other door. The design of Schell was to go under the arsenal, which was not far off, to gain the covered way, leap the palisadoes, and afterwards escape after the best manner we might.
We had scarcely gone a hundred paces before we met the adjutant and Major Quaadt.
Schell started back, sprang upon the rampart, and leaped from the wall, which was there not very high. I followed, and alighted unhurt, except having grazed my shoulder. My poor friend was not so fortunate; having put out his ankle. He immediately drew his sword, presented it to me, and begged me to despatch him, and fly. He was a small, weak man: but, far from complying with his request, I took him in my arms, threw him over the palisadoes, afterwards got him on my back, and began to run, without very well knowing which way I went.
It may not be unnecessary to remark those fortunate circumstances that favoured our enterprise.
The sun had just set as we took to flight; the hoar frost fell. No one would run the risk that we had done, by making so dangerous a leap. We heard a terrible noise behind us. Everybody knew us; but before they could go round the citadel, and through the town, in order to pursue us, we had got a full half league.
The alarm guns were fired before we were a hundred paces distant; at which my friend was very much terrified, knowing that in such cases it was generally impossible to escape from Glatz, unless the fugitives had got the start full two hours before the alarm guns were heard; the passes being immediately all stopped by the peasants and hussars, who are exceedingly vigilant. No sooner is a prisoner missed than the gunner runs from the guard-house, and fires the cannon on the three sides of the fortress, which are kept loaded day and night for that purpose.
We were not five hundred paces from the walls, when all before us and behind us were in motion. It was daylight when we leaped, yet was our attempt as fortunate as it was wonderful: this I attributed to my presence of mind, and the reputation I had already acquired, which made it thought a service of danger for two or three men to attack me.
It was besides imagined we were well provided with arms for our defence; and it was little suspected that Schell had only his sword, and I an old corporal’s sabre.
Among the officers commanded to pursue us was Lieutenant Bart, my intimate friend. Captain Zerbst, of the regiment of Fouquet, who had always testified the kindness of a brother towards me, met us on the Bohemian frontiers, and called to me, “Make to time left, brother, and you will see some lone houses, which are on the Bohemian confines: the hussars have ridden straight forward.” He then passed on as if he had not seen us.
We had nothing to fear from the officers; for the intimacy between the Prussian officers was at that time so great, and the word of honour so sacred, that during my rigorous detention at Glatz I had been once six-and-thirty hours hunting at Neurode, at the seat of Baron Stillfriede; Lunitz had taken my place in the prison, which the major knew when he came to make his visit. Hence may be conjectured how great was the confidence in which the word of the unfortunate Trenck was held at Glatz, since they did not fear letting him leave his dungeon, and hunt on the very confines of Bohemia. This, too, shows the governor was deceived, in despite of his watchfulness and order, and that a man of honour, with money, and a good head and heart, will never want friends.
These my memoirs will be the picture of what the national character then was; and will prove that, with officers who lived like brothers, and held their words so sacred, the great Frederick well might vanquish his enemies.
Arbitrary power has now introduced the whip of slavery, and mechanic subordination has eradicated those noble and rational incitements to concord and honour. Instead of which, mistrust and slavish fear having arisen, the enthusiastic spirit of the Brandenburg warrior declines, and into this error have most of the other European States fallen.
Scarcely had I borne my friend three hundred paces before I set him down, and I looked round me, but darkness came on so fast that I could see neither town nor citadel; consequently, we ourselves could not be seen.
My presence of mind did not forsake me: death or freedom was my determination. “Where are we, Schell?” said I to my friend. “Where does Bohemia lie? on which side is the river Neiss?” The worthy man could make no answer: his mind was all confusion, and he despaired of our escape: he still, however, entreated I would not let him be taken alive, and affirmed my labour was all in vain.
After having promised, by all that was sacred, I would save him from an infamous death, if no other means were left, and thus raised his spirits, he looked round, and knew, by some trees, we were not far from the city gates. I asked him, “Where is the Neiss?” He pointed sideways—“All Glatz has seen us fly towards the Bohemian mountains; it is impossible we should avoid the hussars, the passes being all guarded, and we beset with enemies.” So saying, I took him on my shoulders, and carried him to the Neiss; here we distinctly heard the alarm sounded in the villages, and the peasants, who likewise were to form the line of desertion, were everywhere in motion, and spreading the alarm. As it may not be known to all my readers in what manner they proceed on these occasions in Prussia, I will here give a short account of it.
Officers are daily named on the parade whose duty it is to follow fugitives as soon as the alarm-guns are fired.
The peasants in the villages, likewise, are daily appointed to rim to the guard of certain posts. The officers immediately fly to these posts to see that the peasants do their duty, and prevent the prisoner’s escape. Thus does it seldom happen that a soldier can effect his escape unless he be, at the very least, an hour on the road before the alarm-guns are fired.
I now return to my story.
I came to the Neiss, which was a little frozen, entered it with my friend, and carried him as long as I could wade, and when I could not feel the bottom, which did not continue for more than a space of eighteen feet, he clung round me, and thus we got safely to the other shore.
My father taught all his sons to swim, for which I have often had to thank him; since by means of this art, which is easily learnt in childhood, I had on various occasions preserved my life, and was more bold in danger. Princes who wish to make their subjects soldiers, should have them educated so as to fear neither fire nor water. How great would be the advantage of being able to cross a river with whole battalions, when it is necessary to attack or retreat before the enemy, and when time will not permit to prepare bridges!
The reader will easily suppose swimming in the midst of December, and remaining afterwards eighteen hours in the open air, was a severe hardship. About seven o’clock the hoar-fog was succeeded by frost and moonlight. The carrying of my friend kept me warm, it is true, but I began to be tired, while he suffered everything that frost, the pain of a dislocated foot (which I in vain endeavoured to reset), and the danger of death from a thousand hands, could inflict.
We were somewhat more tranquil, however, having reached the opposite shore of the Neiss, since nobody would pursue us on the road to Silesia. I followed the course of the river for half an hour, and having once passed the first villages that formed the line of desertion, with which Schell was perfectly acquainted, we in a lucky moment found a fisherman’s boat moored to the shore; into this we leaped, crossed the river again, and soon gained the mountains.
Here being come, we sat ourselves down awhile on the snow; hope revived in our hearts, and we held council concerning how it was best to act. I cut a stick to assist Schell in hopping forward as well as he could when I was tired of carrying him; and thus we continued our route, the difficulties of which were increased by the mountain snows.
Thus passed the night; during which, up to the middle in snow, we made but little way. There were no paths to be traced in the mountains, and they were in many places impassable. Day at length appeared: we thought ourselves near the frontiers, which are twenty English miles from Glatz, when we suddenly, to our great terror, heard the city clock strike.
Overwhelmed, as we were, by hunger, cold, fatigue, and pain, it was impossible we should hold out through the day. After some consideration, and another half-hour’s labour, we came to a village at the foot of the mountain, on the side of which, about three hundred paces from us, we perceived two separate houses, which inspired us with a stratagem that was successful.
We lost our hats in leaping the ramparts; but Schell had preserved his scarf and gorget, which would give him authority among the peasants.
I then cut my finger, rubbed the blood over my face, my shirt, and my coat, and bound up my head, to give myself the appearance of a man dangerously wounded.
In this condition I carried Schell to the end of the wood not far from these houses; here he tied my hands behind my back, but so that I could easily disengage them in ease of need: and hobbled after me, by aid of his staff, calling for help.
Two old peasants appeared, and Schell commanded them to run to the village, and tell a magistrate to come immediately with a cart. “I have seized this knave,” added he, “who has killed my horse, and in the struggle I have put out my ankle; however, I have wounded and bound him; fly quickly, bring a cart, lest he should die before he is hanged.”
As for me, I suffered myself to be led, as if half-dead, into the house. A peasant was despatched to the village. An old woman and a pretty girl seemed to take great pity on me, and gave me some bread and milk: but how great was our astonishment when the aged peasant called Schell by his name, and told him he well knew we were deserters, having the night before been at a neighbouring alehouse where the officer in pursuit of us came, named and described us, and related the whole history of our flight. The peasant knew Schell, because his son served in his company, and had often spoken of him when he was quartered at Habelschwert.
Presence of mind and resolution were all that were now left. I instantly ran to the stable, while Schell detained the peasant in the chamber. He, however, was a worthy man, and directed him to the road toward Bohemia. We were still about some seven miles from Glatz, having lost ourselves among the mountains, where we had wandered many miles. The daughter followed me: I found three horses in the stable, but no bridles. I conjured her, in the most passionate manner, to assist me: she was affected, seemed half willing to follow me, and gave me two bridles. I led the horses to the door, called Schell, and helped him, with his lame leg, on horseback. The old peasant then began to weep, and beg I would not take his horses; but he luckily wanted courage, and perhaps the will to impede us; for with nothing more than a dung-fork, in our then feeble condition, he might have stopped us long enough to have called in assistance from the village.
And now behold us on horseback, without hats or saddles; Schell with his uniform scarf and gorget, and I in my red regimental coat. Still we were in danger of seeing all our hopes vanish, for my horse would not stir from the stable; however, at last, good horseman-like, I made him move: Schell led the way, and we had scarcely gone a hundred paces, before we perceived the peasants coming in crowds from the village.
As kind fortune would have it, the people were all at church, it being a festival: the peasants Schell had sent were obliged to call aid out of church. It was but nine in the morning; and had the peasants been at home, we had been lost past redemption.
We were obliged to take the road to Wunshelburg, and pass through the town where Schell had been quartered a month before, and in which he was known by everybody. Our dress, without hats or saddles, sufficiently proclaimed we were deserters: our horses, however, continued to go tolerably well, and we had the good luck to get through the town, although there was a garrison of one hundred and eighty infantry, and twelve horse, purposely to arrest deserters. Schell knew the road to Brummem, where we arrived at eleven o’clock, after having met, as I before mentioned, Captain Zerbst.
He who has been in the same situation only can imagine, though he never can describe, all the joy we felt. An innocent man, languishing in a dungeon, who by his own endeavours, has broken his chains, and regained his liberty, in despite of all the arbitrary power of princes, who vainly would oppose him, conceives in moments like these such an abhorrence of despotism, that I could not well comprehend how I ever could resolve to live under governments where wealth, content, honour, liberty, and life all depend upon a master’s will, and who, were his intentions the most pure, could not be able, singly, to do justice to a whole nation.
Never did I, during life, feel pleasure more exquisite than at this moment. My friend for me had risked a shameful death, and now, after having carried him at least twelve hours on my shoulders, I had saved both him and myself. We certainly should not have suffered any man to bring us, alive, back to Glatz. Yet this was but the first act of the tragedy of which I was doomed the hero, and the mournful incidents of which all arose out of, and depended on, each other.
Could I have read the book of fate, and have seen the forty years’ fearful afflictions that were to follow, I certainly should not have rejoiced at this my escape from Glatz. One year’s patience might have appeased the irritated monarch, and, taking a retrospect of all that has passed, I now find it would have been a fortunate circumstance, had the good and faithful Schell and I never met, since he also fell into a train of misfortunes, which I shall hereafter relate, and from which he could never extricate himself, but by death. The sufferings which I have since undergone will be read with astonishment.
It is my consolation that both the laws of honour and nature justify the action. I may serve as an example of the fortitude with which danger ought to be encountered, and show monarchs that in Germany, as well as in Rome, there are men who refuse to crouch beneath the yoke of despotism, and that philosophy and resolution are stronger than even those lords of slaves, with all their threats, whips, tortures, and instruments of death.
In Prussia, where my sufferings might have made me supposed the worst of traitors, is my innocence universally acknowledged; and instead of contempt, there have I gained the love of the whole nation, which is the best compensation for all the ills I have suffered, and for having persevered in the virtuous principles taught me in my youth, persecuted as I have been by envy and malicious power. I have not time further to moralise; the numerous incidents of my life would otherwise swell this volume to too great an extent.
Thus in freedom at Braunau, on the Bohemian frontiers, I sent the two horses, with the corporal’s sword, back to General Fouquet, at Glatz. The letter accompanying them was so pleasing to him that all the sentinels before my prison door, as well as the guard under arms, and all those we passed, were obliged to run the gauntlet, although the very day before he had himself declared my escape was now rendered impossible. He, however, was deceived; and thus do the mean revenge themselves on the miserable, and the tyrant on the innocent.
And now for the first time did I quit my country, and fly like Joseph from the pit into which his false brethren had cast him; and in this the present moment of joy for my escape, the loss even of friends and country appeared to me the excess of good fortune.
The estates which had been purchased by the blood of my forefathers were confiscated; and thus was a youth, of one of the noblest families in the land, whose heart was all zeal for the service of his King and country, and who was among those most capable to render them service, banished by his unjust and misled King, and treated like the worst of miscreants, malefactors, and traitors.
I wrote to the King, and sent him a true state of my case; sent indubitable proofs of my innocence, and supplicated justice, but received no answer.
In this the monarch may be justified, at least in my apprehension. A wicked man had maliciously and falsely accused me; Colonel Jaschinsky had made him suspect me for a traitor, and it was impossible he should read my heart. The first act of injustice had been hastily committed; I had been condemned unheard, unjudged; and the injustice that had been done me was known too late; Frederic the Great found he was not infallible. Pardon I would not ask, for I had committed no offence; and the King would not probably own, by a reverse of conduct, he had been guilty of injustice. My resolution increased his obstinacy: but, in the discussion of the cause, our power was very unequal.
The monarch once really loved me; he meant my punishment should only be temporary, and as a trial of my fidelity. That I had been condemned to no more than a year’s imprisonment had never been told me, and was a fact I did not learn till long after.
Major Doo, who, as I have said, was the creature of Fouquet, a mean and covetous man, knowing I had money, had always acted the part of a protector as he pretended to me, and continually told me I was condemned for life. He perpetually turned the conversation on the great credit of his general with the King, and his own great credit with the general. For the present of a horse, on which I rode to Glatz, he gave me freedom of walking about the fortress; and for another, worth a hundred ducats, I rescued Ensign Reitz from death, who had been betrayed when endeavouring to effect our escape. I have been assured that on that very day on which I snatched his sword from his side, desperately passed through the garrison, and leaped the walls of the rampart, he was expressly come to tell me, after some prefatory threats, that by his general’s intercession, my punishment was only to be a year’s imprisonment, and that consequently I should be released in a few days.
How vile were means like these to wrest money from the unfortunate! The King, after this my mad flight, certainly was never informed of the major’s base cunning; he could only be told that, rather than wait a few days, I had chosen, in this desperate manner, to make my escape, and go over to the enemy.
Thus deceived and strengthened in his suspicion, must he not imagine my desire to forsake my country, and desert to the enemy, was unbounded? How could he do otherwise than imprison a subject who thus endeavoured to injure him and aid his foes? Thus, by the calumnies of wicked men, did my cruel destiny daily become more severe; and at length render the deceived monarch irreconcilable and cruel.
Yet how could it be supposed that I would not willingly have remained three weeks longer in prison, to have been honourably restored to liberty, to have prevented the confiscation of my estate, and to have once more returned to my beloved mistress at Berlin.
And now was I in Bohemia, a fugitive stranger without money, protector, or friend, and only twenty years of age.
In the campaign of 1744 I had been quartered at Braunau with a weaver, whom I advised and assisted to bury his effects, and preserve them from being plundered. The worthy man received us with joy and gratitude. I had lived in this same house but two years before as absolute master of him and his fate. I had then nine horses and five servants, with the highest and most favourable hopes of futurity; but now I came a fugitive, seeking protection, and having lost all a youth like me had to lose.
I had but a single louis-d’or in my purse, and Schell forty kreutzers, or some three shillings; with this small sum, in a strange country, we had to cure his sprain, and provide for all our wants.
I was determined not to go to my cousin Trenck at Vienna, fearful this should seem a justification of all my imputed treasons; I rather wished to embark for the East Indies, than to have recourse to this expedient. The greater my delicacy was the greater became my distress. I wrote to my mistress at Berlin, but received no answer; possibly because I could not indicate any certain mode of conveyance. My mother believed me guilty, and abandoned me; my brothers were still minors, and my friend at Schweidnitz could not aid me, being gone to Königsberg.
After three weeks’ abode at Braunau, my friend recovered of his lameness. We had been obliged to sell my watch, with his scarf and gorget, to supply our necessities, and had only four florins remaining.
From the public papers I learned my cousin, the Austrian Trenck, was at this time closely confined, and under criminal prosecution. It will easily be imagined what effect this news had upon me.
Never till now had I felt any inconvenience from poverty; my wants had all been amply supplied, and I had ever lived among, and been highly loved and esteemed by, the first people of the land. I was destitute, without aid, and undetermined how to seek employment, or obtain fame.
At length I determined to travel on foot to Prussia to my mother, and obtain money from her, and afterwards enter into the Russian service. Schell, whose destiny was linked to mine, would not forsake me. We assumed false names: I called myself Knert, and Schell, Lesch; then, obtaining passports, like common deserters, we left Braunau on the 21st of January, in the evening, unseen of any person, and proceeded towards Bielitz in Poland. A friend I had at Neurode gave me a pair of pocket pistols, a musket, and three ducats; the money was spent at Braunau. Here let me take occasion to remark I had lent this friend, in urgent necessity, a hundred ducats, which he still owed me; and when I sent to request payment, he returned me three, as if I had asked charity.
Though a circumstantial description of our travels alone would fill a volume, I shall only relate the most singular accidents which happened to us; I shall also insert the journal of our route, which Schell had preserved, and gave me in 1776, when he came to see me at Aix-la-Chapelle, after an absence of thirty years.
This may be called the first scene in which I appeared as an adventurer, and perhaps my good fortune may even have overbalanced the bad, since I have escaped death full thirty times when the chances were a hundred to one against me; certain it is I undertook many things in which I seemed to have owed my preservation to the very rashness of the action, and in which others equally brave would have found death.
From Braunau, in Bohemia, through Bielitz, in Poland, to Meseritsch, and from Meseritsch, by Thorn, to Ebling; in the whole 169 miles,  performed without begging or stealing.
January 18th, 1747.—From Braunau, by Politz, to Nachod, three miles, we having three florins forty-five kreutzers in our purse.
Jan. 19.—To Neustadt. Here Schell bartered his uniform for an old coat, and a Jew gave him two florins fifteen kreutzers in exchange; from hence we went to Reichenau; in all, three miles.
Jan. 20.—We went to Leitomischl, five miles. Here I bought a loaf hot out of the oven, which eating greedily, had nearly caused my death. This obliged us to rest a day, and the extravagant charge of the landlord almost emptied our purse.
Jan. 22.—From Trübau, to Zwittau, in Moravia, four miles.
Jan. 23.—To Sternberg, six miles. This day’s journey excessively fatigued poor Schell, his sprained ankle being still extremely weak.
Jan. 24.—To Leipnik, four miles, in a deep snow, and with empty stomachs. Here I sold my stock-buckle for four florins.
Jan. 25.—To Freiberg, by Weiskirch, to Drahotusch, five miles. Early in the morning we found a violin and case on the road; the innkeeper in Weiskirch gave us two florins for it, on condition that he should return it to the owner on proving his right, it being worth at least twenty.
Jan. 26.—To Friedek, in Upper Silesia, two miles.
Jan. 27.—To a village, four miles and a half.
Jan. 28.—Through Skotschau, to Bielitz, three miles. This was the last Austrian town on the frontiers of Poland, and Captain Capi, of the regiment of Marischall, who commanded the garrison, demanded our passports. We had false names, and called ourselves common Prussian deserters; but a drummer, who had deserted from Glatz, knew us, and betrayed us to the captain, who immediately arrested us very rudely, and sent us on foot to Teschin (refusing us a hearing), four miles distant.
Here we found Lieut.-Colonel Baron Schwarzer, a perfectly worthy man, who was highly interested in our behalf, and who blamed the irregular arbitrary conduct of Captain Capi. I frankly related my adventures, and he used every possible argument to persuade me, instead of continuing my journey through Poland to go to Vienna, but in vain; my good genius, this time, preserved me—would to God it ever had! How many miseries had I then avoided, and how easily might I have escaped the snares spread for me by the powerful, who have seized on my property, and in order to secure it, have hitherto rendered me useless to the state by depriving me of all post or preferment.
I returned, therefore, a second time to Beilitz, travelling these four miles once more. Schwarzer lent us his own horse and four ducats, which I have since repaid, but which I shall never forget, as they were of signal service to me, and procured me a pair of new boots.
Irritated against Captain Capi, we passed through Beilitz without stopping, went immediately to Biala, the first town in Poland, and from thence sent Capi a challenge to fight me, with sword or pistol, but received no answer; and his non-appearance has ever confirmed him in my opinion a rascal.
And here suffer me to take a retrospective view of what was my then situation. By the orders of Capi I was sent prisoner as a contemptible common deserter, and was unable to call him to account. In Poland, indeed, I had that power, but was despised as a vagabond because of my poverty. What, alas! are the advantages which the love of honour, science, courage, or desire of fame can bestow, wanting the means that should introduce us to, and bid us walk erect in the presence of our equals? Youth depressed by poverty, is robbed of the society of those who best can afford example and instruction. I had lived familiar with the great, men of genius had formed and enlightened me; I had been enumerated among the favourites of a court; and now was I a stranger, unknown, unesteemed, nay, condemned, obliged to endure the extremes of cold, hunger, and thirst; to wander many a weary mile, suffering both in body and mind, while every step led me farther from her whom most I loved, and dearest; yet had I no fixed plan, no certain knowledge in what these my labours and sufferings should end.
I was too proud to discover myself; and, indeed, to whom could I discover myself in a strange land? My name might have availed me in Austria, but in Austria, where this name was known, would I not remain; rather than seek my fortune there, I was determined to shun whatever might tend to render me suspicious in the eyes of my country. How liable was a temper so ardent as mine, in the midst of difficulties, fatigues, and disappointments, hard to endure, to betray me into all those errors of which rash youth, unaccustomed to hardship, impatient of contrariety, are so often guilty! But I had taken my resolution, and my faithful Schell, to whom hunger or ease, contempt or fame, for my sake, were become indifferent, did whatever I desired.
Once more to my journal.
Feb. 1.—We proceeded four miles from Biala to Oswintzen, I having determined to ask aid from my sister, who had married Waldow, and lived much at her case on a fine estate at Hanmer, in Brandenburg, between Lansberg, on the Warta and Meseritsch, a frontier town of Poland. For this reason we continued our route all along the Silesian confines to Meseritsch.
Feb. 2.—To Bobrek and Elkusch, five miles. We suffered much this day because of the snow, and that the lightness of our dress was ill suited to such severe weather. Schell, negligently, lost our purse, in which were nine florins. I had still, however, nineteen grosch in my pocket (about half-a-crown).
Feb. 3.—To Crumelew, three miles; and
Feb. 4.—To Wladowiegud Joreck, three miles more; and from thence, on.
Feb. 5.—To Czenstochowa, where there is a magnificent convent, concerning which, had I room, I might write many remarkable things, much to the disgrace of its inhabitants.
We slept at an inn kept by a very worthy man, whose name was Lazar. He had been a lieutenant in the Austrian service, where he had suffered much, and was now become a poor innkeeper in Poland. We had not a penny in our purse, and requested a bit of bread. The generous man had compassion on us, and desired us to sit down and eat with himself. I then told him who we were, and trusted him with the motives of our journey. Scarcely had we supped, before a carriage arrived with three people. They had their own horses, a servant and a coachman.
This is a remarkable incident, and I must relate it circumstantially, though as briefly as possible.
We had before met this carriage at Elkusch, and one of these people had asked Schell where we were going; he had replied, to Czenstochowa; we therefore had not the least suspicion of them, notwithstanding the danger we ran.
They lay at the inn, saluted us, but with indifference, not seeming to notice us, and spoke little. We had not been long in bed, before our host came to awaken us, and told us with surprise, these pretended merchants were sent to arrest us from Prussia; that they had offered, first, fifty, afterwards, a hundred ducats, if he would permit them to take us in his house, and carry us into Silesia: that he had firmly rejected the proposal, though they had increased their promises: and that at last they had given him six ducats to engage his silence.
We clearly saw these were an officer and under-officers sent by General Fouquet, to recover us. We conjectured by what means they had discovered our route, and imagined the information they had received could only come from one Lieutenant Molinie, of the garrison of Habelschwert, who had come to visit Schell, as a friend, during our stay at Braunau. He had remained with us two days, and had asked many questions concerning the road we should take, and he was the only one who knew it. He was probably the spy of Fouquet, and the cause of what happened afterwards, which, however, ended in the defeat of our enemies.
The moment I heard of this infamous treachery, I was for entering with my pistols primed, into the enemy’s chamber, but was prevented by Schell and Lazar: the latter entreated me, in the strongest manner, to remain at his house till I should receive a supply from my mother, that I might be enabled to continue my journey with more ease and less danger: but his entreaties were ineffectual; I was determined to see her, uncertain as I was of what effect my letter had produced. Lazar assured me, we should, most infallibly, be attacked on the road. “So much the better,” retorted I; “that will give me an opportunity of despatching them, sending them to the other world, and shooting them as I would highwayman.” They departed at break of day, and took the road to Warsaw.
We would have been gone, likewise, but Lazar, in some sort, forcibly detained us, and gave us the six ducats he had received from the Prussians, with which we bought us each a shirt, another pair of pocket pistols, and other urgent necessaries; then took an affectionate leave of our host, who directed us on our way, and we testified our gratitude for the great services done us.
Feb. 6.—From Czenstochowa to Dankow, two miles. Here we expected an attack. Lazar had told us our enemies had one musket: I also had a musket, and an excellent sabre, and each of us was provided with a pair of pistols. They knew not we were so well armed, which perhaps was the cause of their panic, when they came to engage.
Feb. 7.—We took the road to Parsemechi: we had not been an hour on the road, before we saw a carriage; as we drew near, we knew it to be that of our enemies, who pretended it was set in the snow. They were round it, and when they saw us approach, began to call for help. This, we guessed, was an artifice to entrap us. Schell was not strong; they would all have fallen upon me, and we should easily have been carried off, for they wanted to take us alive.
We left the causeway about thirty paces, answering—“we had not time to give them help;” at which they all ran to their carriage, drew out their pistols, and returning full speed after us, called, “Stop, rascals!” We began to run, but I suddenly turning round, presented my piece, and shot the nearest dead on the spot. Schell fired his pistols; our oppressors did the same, and Schell received a ball in the neck at this discharge. It was now my turn; I took out my pistols, one of the assailants fled, and I enraged, pursued him three hundred paces, overtook him, and as he was defending himself with his sword, perceiving he bled, and made a feeble resistance, pressed upon him, and gave him a stroke that brought him down. I instantly returned to Schell, whom I found in the power of two others that were dragging him towards the carriage, but when they saw me at their heels, they fled over the fields. The coachman, perceiving which way the battle went, leaped on his box, and drove off full speed.
Schell, though delivered, was wounded with a ball in the neck, and by a cut in the right hand, which had made him drop his sword, though he affirmed he had run one of his adversaries through.
I took a silver watch from the man I had killed, and was going to make free with his purse, when Schell called, and showed me a coach and six coming down a hill. To stay would have exposed us to have been imprisoned as highwaymen; for the two fugitives who had escaped us would certainly have borne witness against us. Safety could only be found in flight. I, however, seized the musket and hat of him I had first killed, and we then gained the copse, and after that the forest. The road was round about, and it was night before we reached Parsemechi.
Schell was besmeared with blood; I had bound up his wound the best I could; but in Polish villages no surgeons are to be found: and he performed his journey with great difficulty. We met with two Saxon under-officers here, who were recruiting for the regiment of guards at Dresden. My six feet height and person pleased them, and they immediately made themselves acquainted with me. I found them intelligent, and entrusted them with our secret, told them who we were, related the battle we had that day had with our pursuers, and I had not reason to repent of my confidence in them. Schell had his wounds dressed, and we remained seven days with these good Saxons, who faithfully kept us company.
I learned, meantime, that of the four men by whom we had been assaulted, one only, and the coachman, returned to Glatz. The name of the officer who undertook this vile business was Gersdorf; he had a hundred and fifty ducats in his pocket when found dead. How great would our good fortune have been, had not that cursed coach and six, by its appearance, made us take to flight; since the booty would have been most just! Fortune, this time, did not favour the innocent; and though treacherously attacked, I was obliged to escape like a guilty wretch. We sold the watch to a Jew for four ducats, the hat for three florins and a half, and the musket for a ducat, Schell being unable to carry it farther. We left most of this money behind us at Parsemechi. A Jew surgeon sold us some dear plaisters, which we took with us and departed.
Feb. 15.—From Parsemechi, through Vielum, to Biala, four miles.
Feb. 16.—Through Jerischow to Misorcen, four miles and a half.
Feb. 17.—To Osterkow and Schwarzwald, three miles.
Feb. 18.—To Sdune, four miles.
Feb. 19.—To Goblin two miles.
Here we arrived wholly destitute of money. I sold my coat to a Jew, who gave me four florins and a coarse waggoner’s frock, in exchange, which I did not think I should long need, as we now drew nearer to where my sister lived, and where I hoped I should be better equipped. Schell, however, grew weaker and weaker; his wounds healed slowly, and were expensive; the cold was also injurious to him, and, as he was not by nature cleanly in his person, his body soon became the harbour of every species of vermin to be picked up in Poland. We often arrived wet and weary, to our smoky, reeking stove-room. Often were we obliged to lie on straw, or bare boards; and the various hardships we suffered are almost incredible. Wandering as we did, in the midst of winter, through Poland, where humanity, hospitality, and gentle pity, are scarcely so much as known by name; where merciless Jews deny the poor traveller a bed, and where we disconsolately strayed, without bread, and almost naked: these were sufferings, the full extent of which he only can conceive by whom they have been felt. My musket now and then procured us an occasional meal of tame geese, and cocks and hens, when these were to be had; otherwise, we never took or touched anything that was not our own. We met with Saxon and Prussian recruiters at various places; all of whom, on account of my youth and stature, were eager to inveigle me. I was highly diverted to hear them enumerate all the possibilities of future greatness, and how liable I was hereafter to become a corporal: nor was I less merry with their mead, ale, and brandy, given with an intent to make me drunk. Thus we had many artifices to guard against; but thus had we likewise, very luckily for us, many a good meal gratis.
Feb. 21.—We went from Goblin to Pugnitz, three miles and a half.
Feb. 22.—Through Storchnest to Schmiegel, four miles.
Here happened a singular adventure. The peasants at this place were dancing to a vile scraper on the violin: I took the instrument myself, and played while they continued their hilarity. They were much pleased with my playing: but when I was tired, and desired to have done, they obliged me, first by importunities, and afterwards by threats, to play on all night. I was so fatigued, I thought I should have fainted; at length they quarrelled among themselves. Schell was sleeping on a bench, and some of them fell upon his wounded hand: he rose furious: I seized our arms, began to lay about me, and while all was in confusion, we escaped, without further ill-treatment.
What ample subject of meditation on the various turns of fate did this night afford! But two years before I danced at Berlin with the daughters and sisters of kings: and here was I, in a Polish hut, a ragged, almost naked musician, playing for the sport of ignorant rustics, whom I was at last obliged to fight.
I was myself the cause of the trifling misfortune that befell me on this occasion. Had not my vanity led me to show these poor peasants I was a musician, I might have slept in peace and safety. The same vain desire of proving I knew more than other men, made me through life the continued victim of envy and slander. Had nature, too, bestowed on me a weaker or a deformed body, I had been less observed, less courted, less sought, and my adventures and mishaps had been fewer. Thus the merits of the man often become his miseries; and thus the bear, having learned to dance, must live and die in chains.
This ardour, this vanity, or, if you please, this emulation, has, however, taught me to vanquish a thousand difficulties, under which others of cooler passions and more temperate desires would have sunk. May my example remain a warning; and thus may my sufferings become somewhat profitable to the world, cruel as they have been to myself! Cruel they were, and cruel they must continue; for the wounds I have received are not, will not, cannot be healed.
Feb. 23.—From Schmiegel to Rakonitz, and from thence to Karger Holland, four miles and a half. Here we sold, to prevent dying of hunger, a shirt and Schell’s waistcoat for eighteen grosch, or nine schostacks. I had shot a pullet the day before, which necessity obliged us to eat raw. I also killed a crow, which I devoured alone, Schell refusing to taste. Youth and hard travelling created a voracious appetite, and our eighteen grosch were soon expended.
Feb. 24.—We came through Benzen to Lettel, four miles. Here we halted a day, to learn the road to Hammer, in Brandenburg, where my sister lived. I happened luckily to meet with the wife of a Prussian soldier who lived at Lettel, and belonged to Kolschen, where she was born a vassal of my sister’s husband. I told her who I was, and she became our guide.
Feb. 26.—To Kurschen and Falkenwalde.
Feb. 27.—Through Neuendorf and Oost, and afterwards through a pathless wood, five miles and a half to Hammer, and here I knocked at my sister’s door at nine o’clock in the evening.
A maidservant came to the door, whom I knew; her name was Mary, and she had been born and brought up in my father’s house. She was terrified at seeing a sturdy fellow in a beggar’s dress; which perceiving, I asked, “Molly, do not you know me?” She answered, “No;” and I then discovered myself to her. I asked whether my brother-in-law was at home. Mary replied, “Yes; but he is sick in bed.” “Tell my sister, then,” said I, “that I am here.” She showed me into a room, and my sister presently came.
She was alarmed at seeing me, not knowing that I had escaped from Glatz, and ran to inform her husband, but did not return.
A quarter of an hour after the good Mary came weeping, and told us her master commanded us to quit the premises instantly, or he should be obliged to have us arrested, and delivered up as prisoners. My sister’s husband forcibly detained her, and I saw her no more.
What my feelings must be, at such a moment, let the reader imagine. I was too proud, too enraged, to ask money; I furiously left the house, uttering a thousand menaces against its inhabitants, while the kind-hearted Mary, still weeping, slipped three ducats into my hand, which I accepted.
And, now behold us once more in the wood, which was not above a hundred paces from the house, half dead with hunger and fatigue, not daring to enter any habitation, while in the states of Brandenburg, and dragging our weary steps all night through snow and rain, until our guide at length brought us back, at daybreak, once again to the town of Lettel.
She herself wept in pity at our fate, and I could only give her two ducats for the danger she had run; but I bade her hope more in future; and I afterwards sent for her to Vienna, in 1751, where I took great care of her. She was about fifty years of age, and died my servant in Hungary, some weeks before my unfortunate journey to Dantzic, where I fell into my enemies’ hands, and remained ten years a prisoner at Magdeburg.
We had scarcely reached the wood, before, in the anguish of my heart, I exclaimed to Schell, “Does not such a sister, my friend, deserve I should fire her house over her head?” The wisdom of moderation, and calm forbearance, was in Schell a virtue of the highest order; he was my continual mentor; my guide, whenever my choleric temperament was disposed to violence. I therefore honour his ashes; he deserved a better fate.
“Friend,” said he, on this occasion, “reflect that your sister may be innocent, may be withheld by her husband; besides, should the King discover we had entered her doors, and she had not delivered us again into his power, she might become as miserable as we were. Be more noble minded, and think that even should your sister be wrong, the time may come when her children may stand in need of your assistance, and you may have the indescribable pleasure of returning good for evil.”
I never shall forget this excellent advice, which in reality was a prophecy. My rich brother-in-law died, and, during the Russian war, his lands and houses were laid desolate and in ruins; and, nineteen years afterwards, when released from my imprisonment at Magdeburg, I had an opportunity of serving the children of my sister. Such are the turns of fate; and thus do improbabilities become facts.
My sister justified her conduct; Schell had conjectured the truth; for ten years after I was thus expelled her house, she showed, during my imprisonment, she was really a sister. She was shamefully betrayed by Weingarten, secretary to the Austrian ambassador at Berlin; lost a part of her property, and at length her life fell an innocent sacrifice to her brother.
This event, which is interwoven with my tragical history, will be related hereafter: my heart bleeds, my very soul shudders, when I recollect this dreadful scene.
I have not the means fully to recompense her children; and Weingarten, the just object of vengeance, is long since in the grave; for did he exist, the earth should not hide him from my sword.
I shall now continue my journal: deceived in the aid I expected, I was obliged to change my plan, and go to my mother, who lived in Prussia, nine miles beyond Königsberg.
Feb. 28.—We continued, tired, anxious, and distressed, at Lettel.
March 1.—We went three miles to Pleese, and on the 2nd, a mile and a half farther to Meseritz.
March 3.—Through Wersebaum to Birnbaum, three miles.
March 4.—Through Zircke, Wruneck, Obestchow, to Stubnitz, seven miles, in one day, three of which we had the good fortune to ride.
March 5.—Three miles to Rogosen, where we arrived without so much as a heller to pay our lodgings. The Jew innkeeper drove us out of his house; we were obliged to wander all night, and at break of day found we had strayed two miles out of the road.
We entered a peasant’s cottage, where an old woman was drawing bread hot out of the oven. We had no money to offer, and I felt, at this moment, the possibility even of committing murder, for a morsel of bread, to satisfy the intolerable cravings of hunger. Shuddering, with torment inexpressible, at the thought, I hastened out of the door, and we walked on two miles more to Wongrofze.
Here I sold my musket for a ducat, which had procured us many a meal: such was the extremity of our distress. We then satiated our appetites, after having been forty hours without food or sleep, and having travelled ten miles in sleet and snow.
March 6.—We rested, and came, on the 7th, through Genin, to a village in the forest, four miles.
Here we fell in with a gang of gipsies (or rather banditti) amounting to four hundred men, who dragged me to their camp. They were mostly French and Prussian deserters, and thinking me their equal, would force me to become one of their hand. But, venturing to tell my story to their leader, he presented me with a crown, gave us a small provision of bread and meat, and suffered us to depart in peace, after having been four and twenty hours in their company.
March 9.—We proceeded to Lapuschin, three miles and a half; and the 10th to Thorn, four miles.
A new incident here happened, which showed I was destined, by fortune, to a variety of adventures, and continually to struggle with new difficulties.
There was a fair held at Thorn on the day of our arrival. Suspicions might well arise, among the crowd, on seeing a strong tall young man, wretchedly clothed, with a large sabre by his side, and a pair of pistols in his girdle, accompanied by another as poorly apparelled as himself, with his hand and neck bound up, and armed likewise with pistols, so that altogether he more resembled a spectre than a man.
We went to an inn, but were refused entertainment: I then asked for the Jesuits’ college, where I inquired for the father rector. They supposed at first I was a thief, come to seek an asylum. After long waiting and much entreaty his jesuitical highness at length made his appearance, and received me as the Grand Mogul would his slave. My case certainly was pitiable: I related all the events of my life, and the purport of my journey; conjured him to save Schell, who was unable to proceed further, and whose wounds grew daily worse; and prayed him to entertain him at the convent till I should have been to my mother, have obtained money, and returned to Thorn, when I would certainly repay him whatever expense he might have been at, with thanks and gratitude.
Never shall I forget the haughty insolence of this priest. Scarcely would he listen to my humble request; thou’d and interrupted me continually, to tell me, “Be brief, I have more pressing affairs than thine.” In fine, I was turned away without obtaining the least aid; and here I was first taught jesuitical pride; God help the poor and honest man who shall need the assistance of Jesuits! They, like all other monks, are seared to every sentiment of human pity, and commiserate the distressed by taunts and irony.
Four times in my life I have sought assistance and advice from convents, and am convinced it is the duty of every honest man to aid in erasing them from the face of the earth.
They succour rascals and murderers, that their power may be idolised by the ignorant, and ostentatiously exert itself to impede the course of law and justice; but in vain do the poor and needy virtuous apply to them for help.
The reader will pardon my native hatred of hypocrisy and falsehood, especially when he hears I have to thank the Jesuits for the loss of all my great Hungarian estates. Father Kampmuller, the bosom friend of the Count Grashalkowitz, was confessor to the court of Vienna, and there was no possible kind of persecution I did not suffer from priestcraft. Far from being useful members of society, they take advantage of the prejudices of superstition, exist for themselves alone, and sacrifice every duty to the support of their own hierarchy, and found a power, on error and ignorance, which is destructive of all moral virtue.
Let us proceed. Mournful and angry, I left the college, and went to my lodging-house, where I found a Prussian recruiting-officer waiting for me, who used all his arts to engage me to enlist; offering me five hundred dollars, and to make me a corporal, if I could write. I pretended I was a Livonian, who had deserted from the Austrians, to return home, and claim an inheritance left me by my father. After much persuasion, he at length told me in confidence, it was very well known in the town that I was a robber; that I should soon be taken before a magistrate, but that if I would enlist he would ensure my safety.
This language was new to me; my passion rose instantaneously; I remembered my name was Trenck, I struck him, and drew my sword; but, instead of defending himself, he sprang out of the chamber, charging the host not to let me quit the house. I knew the town of Thorn had agreed with the King of Prussia, secretly, to deliver up deserters, and began to fear the consequences. Looking through the window, I presently saw two under Prussian officers enter the house. Schell and I instantly flew to our arms, and met the Prussians at the chamber door. “Make way,” cried I, presenting my pistols. The Prussian soldiers drew their swords, but retired with fear. Going out of the house, I saw a Prussian lieutenant, in the street, with the town-guard. These I overawed, likewise, by the same means, and no one durst oppose me, though every one cried, “Stop thief!” I came safely, however, to the Jesuits’ convent; but poor Schell was taken, and dragged to prison like a malefactor.
Half mad at not being able to rescue him, I imagined he must soon be delivered up to the Prussians. My reception was much better at the convent than it had been before, for they no longer doubted but I was really a thief, who sought an asylum. I addressed myself to one of the fathers, who appeared to be a good kind of a man, relating briefly what had happened, and entreated he would endeavour to discover why they sought to molest us.
He went out, and returning in an hour after, told me, “Nobody knows you: a considerable theft was yesterday committed at the fair: all suspicious persons are seized; you entered the town accoutred like banditti. The man where you put up is employed as a Prussian enlister, and has announced you as suspicious people. The Prussian lieutenant therefore laid complaint against you, and it was thought necessary to secure your persons.”
My joy, at hearing this, was great. Our Moravian passport, and the journal of our route, which I had in my pocket, were full proofs of our innocence. I requested they would send and inquire at the town where we lay the night before. I soon convinced the Jesuit I spoke truth; he went, and presently returned with one of the syndics, to whom I gave a more full account of myself. The syndic examined Schell, and found his story and mine agreed; besides which, our papers that they had seized, declared who we were. I passed the night in the convent without closing my eyes, revolving in my mind all the rigours of my fate. I was still more disturbed for Schell, who knew not where I was, but remained firmly persuaded we should be conducted to Berlin; and, if so, determined to put a period to his life.
My doubts were all ended at ten in the morning when my good Jesuit arrived, and was followed by my friend Schell. The judges, he said, had found us innocent, and declared us free to go where we pleased; adding, however, that he advised us to be upon our guard, we being watched by the Prussian enlisters; that the lieutenant had hoped, by having us committed as thieves, to oblige me to enter, and that he would account for all that had happened.
I gave Schell a most affectionate welcome, who had been very ill-used when led to prison, because he endeavoured to defend himself with his left hand, and follow me. The people had thrown mud at him, and called him a rascal that would soon be hanged. Schell was little able to travel farther. The father-rector sent us a ducat, but did not see us; and the chief magistrate gave each of us a crown, by way of indemnification for false imprisonment. Thus sent away, we returned to our lodging, took our bundles, and immediately prepared to leave Thorn.
As we went, I reflected that, on the road to Elbing, we must pass through several Prussian villages, and inquired for a shop where we might purchase a map. We were directed to an old woman who sat at the door across the way, and were told she had a good assortment, for that her son was a scholar. I addressed myself to her, and my question pleased her, I having added we were unfortunate travellers, who wished to find, by the map, the road to Russia. She showed us into a chamber, laid an atlas on the table, and placed herself opposite me, while I examined the map, and endeavoured to hide a bit of a ragged ruffle that had made its appearance. After steadfastly looking at me, she at length exclaimed, with a sad and mournful tone—“Good God! who knows what is now become of my poor son! I can see, sir, you too are of a good family. My son would go and seek his fortune, and for these eight years have I had no tidings of him. He must now be in the Austrian cavalry.” I asked in what regiment. “The regiment of Hohenhem; you are his very picture.” “Is he not of my height?” “Yes, nearly.” “Has he not light hair?” “Yes, like yours, sir.” “What is his name?” “His name is William.” “No, my dear mother,” cried I, “William is not dead; he was my best friend when I was with the regiment.” Here the poor woman could not contain her joy. She threw herself round my neck, called me her good angel who brought her happy tidings: asked me a thousand questions which I easily contrived to make her answer herself, and thus, forced by imperious necessity, bereft of all other means, did I act the deceiver.
The story I made was nearly as follows:—I told her I was a soldier in the regiment of Hohenhem, that I had a furlough to go and see my father, and that I should return in a month, would then take her letters, and undertake that, if she wished it, her son should purchase his discharge, and once more come and live with his mother. I added that I should be for ever and infinitely obliged to her, if she would suffer my comrade, meantime, to live at her house, he being wounded by the Prussian recruiters, and unable to pursue his journey; that I would send him money to come to me, or would myself come back and fetch him, thankfully paying every expense. She joyfully consented, told me her second husband, father-in-law to her dear William, had driven him from home, that he might give what substance they had to the younger son; and that the eldest had gone to Magdeburg. She determined Schell should live at the house of a friend, that her husband might know nothing of the matter; and, not satisfied with this kindness, she made me eat with her, gave me a new shirt, stockings, sufficient provisions for three days, and six Lunenburg florins. I left Thorn, and my faithful Schell, the same night, with the consolation that he was well taken care of; and having parted from him with regret, went on the 13th two miles further to Burglow.
I cannot describe what my sensations were, or the despondence of my mind, when I thus saw myself wandering alone, and leaving, forsaking, as it were, the dearest of friends. These may certainly be numbered among the bitterest moments of my life. Often was I ready to return, and drag him along with me, though at last reason conquered sensibility. I drew near the end of my journey, and was impelled forward by hope.
March 14.—I went to Schwetz, and
March 15.—To Neuburg and Mowe. In these two days I travelled thirteen miles. I lay at Mowe, on some straw, among a number of carters, and, when I awoke, perceived they had taken my pistols, and what little money I had left, even to my last penny. The gentlemen, however, were all gone.
What could I do? The innkeeper perhaps was privy to the theft. My reckoning amounted to eighteen Polish grosch. The surly landlord pretended to believe I had no money when I entered his house, and I was obliged to give him the only spare shirt I had, with a silk handkerchief, which the good woman of Thorn had made me a present of, and to depart without a single holler.
March 16.—I set off for Marienburg, but it was impossible I should reach this place, and not fall into the hands of the Prussians, if I did not cross the Vistula, and, unfortunately, I had no money to pay the ferry, which would cost two Polish schellings.
Full of anxiety, not knowing how to act, I saw two fishermen in a boat, went to them, drew my sabre, and obliged them to land me on the other side; when there, I took the oars from these timid people, jumped out of the boat, pushed it off the shore, and left it to drive with the stream.
To what dangers does not poverty expose man! These two Polish schellings were not worth more than half a kreutzer, or some halfpenny, yet was I driven by necessity to commit violence on two poor men, who, had they been as desperate in their defence as I was obliged to be in my attack, blood must have been spilled and lives lost; hence it is evident that the degrees of guilt ought to be strictly and minutely inquired into, and the degree of punishment proportioned. Had I hewn them down with my sabre, I should surely have been a murderer; but I should likewise surely have been one of the most innocent of murderers. Thus we see the value of money is not to be estimated by any specific sum, small or great, but according to its necessity and use. How little did I imagine when at Berlin, and money was treated by me with luxurious neglect, I may say, with contempt, I should be driven to the hard necessity, for a sum so apparently despicable, of committing a violence which might have had consequences so dreadful, and have led to the commission of an act so atrocious!
I found Saxon and Prussian recruiters at Marion-burgh, with whom, having no money, I ate, drank, listened to their proposals, gave them hopes for the morrow, and departed by daybreak.
March 17.—To Elbing, four miles.
Here I met with my former worthy tutor, Brodowsky, who was become a captain and auditor in the Polish regiment of Golz. He met me just as I entered the town. I followed triumphantly to his quarters; and here at length ended the painful, long, and adventurous journey I had been obliged to perform.
This good and kind gentleman, after providing me with immediate necessaries, wrote so affectionately to my mother, that she came to Elbing in a week, and gave me every aid of which I stood in need.
The pleasure I had in meeting once more this tender mother, whose qualities of heart and mind were equally excellent, was inexpressible. She found a certain mode of conveying a letter to my dear mistress at Berlin, who a short time after sent me a bill of exchange for four hundred ducats upon Dantzic. To this my mother added a thousand rix-dollars, and a diamond cross worth nearly half as much, remained a fortnight with me, and persisted, in spite of all remonstrance, in advising me to go to Vienna. My determination had been fixed for Petersburg; all my fears and apprehensions being awakened at the thought of Vienna, and which indeed afterwards became the source of all my cruel sufferings and sorrows. She would not yield in opinion, and promised her future assistance only in case of my obedience; it was my duty not to continue obstinate. Here she left me, and I have never seen her since. She died in 1751, and I have ever held her memory in veneration. It was a happiness for this affectionate mother that she did not hive to be a witness of my afflictions in the year 1754.
An adventure, resembling that of Joseph in Egypt, happened to me in Elbing. The wife of the worthy Brodowsky, a woman of infinite personal attraction, grew partial to me; but I durst not act ungratefully by my benefactor. Never to see me more was too painful to her, and she even proposed to follow me, secretly, to Vienna. I felt the danger of my situation, and doubted whether Potiphar’s wife offered temptations so strong as Madame Brodowsky. I owned I had an affection for this lady, but my passions were overawed. She preferred me to her husband, who was in years, and very ordinary in person. Had I yielded to the slightest degree of guilt, that of the present enjoyment, a few days of pleasure must have been followed by years of bitter repentance.
Having once more assumed my proper name and character, and made presents of acknowledgment to the worthy tutor of my youth, I became eager to return to Thorn.
How great was my joy at again meeting my honest Schell! The kind old woman had treated him like a mother. She was surprised, and half terrified, at seeing me enter in an officer’s uniform, and accompanied by two servants. I gratefully and rapturously kissed her hand, repaid, with thankfulness, every expense (for Schell had been nurtured with truly maternal kindness), told her who I was, acknowledged the deceit I had put upon her concerning her son, but faithfully promised to give a true, and not fictitious account of him, immediately on my arrival at Vienna. Schell was ready in three days, and we left Thorn, came to Warsaw, and passed thence, through Crakow, to Vienna.
I inquired for Captain Capi, at Bilitz, who had before given me so kind a reception, and refused me satisfaction; but he was gone, and I did not meet with him till some years after, when the cunning Italian made me the most humble apologies for his conduct. So goes the world.
My journey from Dantzic to Vienna would not furnish me with an interesting page, though my travels on foot thither would have afforded thrice as much as I have written, had I not been fearful of trifling with the reader’s patience.
In poverty one misfortune follows another. The foot-passenger sees the world, becomes acquainted with it, converses with men of every class. The lord luxuriously lolls and slumbers in his carriage, while his servants pay innkeepers and postillions, and passes rapidly over a kingdom, in which he sees some dozen houses, called inns; and this he calls travelling. I met with more adventures in this my journey of 169 miles, than afterwards in almost as many thousand, when travelling at ease, in a carriage.
Here, then, ends my journal, in which, from the hardships therein related, and numerous others omitted, I seem a kind of second Robinson Crusoe, and to have been prepared, by a gradual increase and repetition of sufferings, to endure the load of affliction which I was afterwards destined to bear.
Arrived at Vienna in the month of April, 1747.
And now another act of the tragedy is going to begin.
After having defrayed the expenses of travelling for me and my friend Schell, for whose remarkable history I will endeavour to find a few pages in due course, I divided the three hundred ducats which remained with him, and, having stayed a month at Vienna, he went to join the regiment of Pallavicini, in which he had obtained a lieutenant-colonel’s commission, and which was then in Italy.
Here I found my cousin, Baron Francis Trenck, the famous partisan and colonel of pandours, imprisoned at the arsenal, and involved in a most perplexing prosecution.
This Trenck was my father’s brother’s son. His father had been a colonel and governor of Leitschau, and had possessed considerable lordships in Sclavonia, those of Pleternitz, Prestowacz, and Pakratz. After the siege of Vienna, in 1683, he had left the Prussian service for that of Austria, in which he remained sixty years.
That I may not here interrupt my story, I shall give some account of the life of my cousin Baron Francis Trenck, so renowned in the war of 1741, in another part, and who fell, at last, the shameful sacrifice of envy and avarice, and received the reward of all his great and faithful services in the prison of the Spielberg.
The vindication of the family of the Trencks requires I should speak of him; nor will I, in this, suffer restraint from the fear of any man, however powerful. Those indeed who sacrificed a man most ardent in his country’s service to their own private and selfish views, are now in their graves.
I shall insert no more of his history here than what is interwoven with my own, and relate the rest in its proper place.
A revision of his suit was at this time instituted. Scarcely was I arrived in Vienna before his confidential agent, M. Leber, presented me to Prince Charles and the Emperor; both knew the services of Trenck, and the malice of his enemies; therefore, permission for me to visit him in his prison, and procure him such assistance as he might need, was readily granted. On my second audience, the Emperor spoke so much in my persecuted cousin’s favour that I became highly interested; he commanded me to have recourse to him on all occasions; and, moreover, owned the president of the council of war was a man of a very wicked character, and a declared enemy of Trenck. This president was the Count of Lowenwalde, who, with his associates, had been purposely selected as men proper to oppress the best of subjects.
The suit soon took another face; the good Empress Queen, who had been deceived, was soon better informed, and Trenck’s innocence appeared, on the revision of the process most evidently. The trial, which had cost them twenty-seven thousand florins, and the sentence which followed, were proved to have been partial and unjust; and that sixteen of Trenck’s officers, who most of them had been broken for different offences, had perjured themselves to insure his destruction.
It is a most remarkable circumstance that public notice was given, in the Vienna Gazette, to the following purport.
“All those who have any complaints to make against Trenck, let them appear, and they shall receive a ducat per day, so long as the prosecution continues.”
It will readily be imagined how fast his accusers would increase, and what kind of people they were. The pay of these witnesses alone amounted to fifteen thousand florins. I now began the labour in concurrence with Doctor Gerhauer, and the cause soon took another turn; but such was the state of things, it would have been necessary to have broken all the members of the council of war, as well as counsellor Weber, a man of great power. Thus, unfortunately, politics began to interfere with the course of justice.
The Empress Queen gave Trenck to understand she required he should ask her pardon; and on that condition all proceedings should be stopped, and he immediately set at liberty. Prince Charles, who knew the court of Vienna, advised me also to persuade my cousin to comply; but nothing could shake his resolution. Feeling his right and innocence, he demanded strict justice; and this made ruin more swift.
I soon learned Trenck must fall a sacrifice—he was rich—his enemies already had divided among them more than eighty thousand florins of his property, which was all sequestered, and in their hands. They had treated him too cruelly, and knew him too well, not to dread his vengeance the moment he should recover his freedom.
I was moved to the soul at his sufferings, and as he had vented public threats, at the prospect of approaching victory over his enemies, they gained over the Court Confessor: and, dreading him as they did, put every wily art in practice to insure his destruction. I therefore, in the fulness of my heart, made him the brotherly proposition of escaping, and, having obtained his liberty, to prove his innocence to the Empress Queen. I told him my plan, which might easily have been put in execution, and which he seemed perfectly decided to follow.
Some days after, I was ordered to wait on field-marshal Count Konigseck, governor of Vienna. This respectable old gentleman, whose memory I shall ever revere, behaved to me like a father and the friend of humanity, advised me to abandon my cousin, who he gave me clearly to understand had betrayed me by having revealed my proposed plan of escape, willing to sacrifice me to his ambition in order to justify the purity of his intentions to the court, and show that, instead of wishing to escape, he only desired justice.
Confounded at the cowardly action of one for whom I would willingly have sacrificed my life, and whom I only sought to deliver, I resolved to leave him to his fate, and thought myself exceedingly happy that the worthy field-marshal would, after a fatherly admonition, smother all farther inquiry into this affair.
I related this black trait of ingratitude to Prince Charles of Lorraine, who prevailed on me to again see my cousin, without letting him know I knew what had passed, and still to render him every service in my power.
Before I proceed I will here give the reader a per-’trait of this Trenck.
He was a man of superior talents and unbounded ambition; devoted, even fanatically, to his sovereign; his boldness approached temerity; he was artful of mind, wicked of heart, vindictive and unfeeling. His cupidity equalled the utmost excess of avarice, even in his thirty-third year, in which he died. He was too proud to receive favours or obligations from any man, and was capable of ridding himself of his best friend if he thought he had any claims on his gratitude or could get possession of his fortune.
He knew I had rendered him very important services, supposed his cause already won, having bribed the judges, who were to revise the sentence, with thirty thousand florins, which money I received from his friend Baron Lopresti, and conveyed to these honest counsellors. I knew all his secrets, and nothing more was necessary to prompt his suspicious and bad heart to seek my destruction.
Scarcely had a fortnight elapsed, after his having first betrayed me, before the following remarkable event happened.
I left him one evening to return home, taking under my coat a bag with papers and documents relating to the prosecution, which I had been examining for him, and transcribing. There were at this time about five-and-twenty officers in Vienna who had laid complaints against him, and who considered me as their greatest enemy because I had laboured earnestly in his defence. I was therefore obliged, on all occasions, to be upon my guard. A report had been propagated through Vienna that I was secretly sent by the King of Prussia to free my cousin from imprisonment; he, however, constantly denied, to the hour of his death, his ever having written to me at Berlin; hence also it will follow the letter I received had been forged by Jaschinsky.
Leaving the Arsenal, I crossed the court, and perceived I was closely followed by two men in grey roquelaures, who, pressing upon my heels, held loud and insolent conversation concerning the runaway Prussian Trenck. I found they sought a quarrel, which was a thing of no great difficulty at that moment, for a man is never more disposed to duelling than when he has nothing to lose, and is discontented with his condition. I supposed they were two of the accusing officers broken by Trenck, and endeavoured to avoid them, and gain the Jew’s place.
Scarcely had I turned down the street that leads thither before they quickened their pace. I turned round, and in a moment received a thrust with a sword in the left side, where I had put my bag of papers, which accident alone saved my life; the sword pierced through the papers and slightly grazed the skin. I instantly drew, and the heroes ran. I pursued, one of them tripped and fell. I seized him; the guard came up: he declared he was an officer of the regiment of Kollowrat, showed his uniform, was released, and I was taken to prison. The Town Major came the next day, and told me I had intentionally sought a quarrel with two officers, Lieutenants F---g and K---n. These kind gentlemen did not reveal their humane intention of sending me to the other world.
I was alone, could produce no witness, they were two. I must necessarily be in the wrong, and I remained six days in prison. No sooner was I released, than these my good friends sent to demand satisfaction for the said pretended insult. The proposal was accepted, and I promised to be at the Scotch gate, the place appointed by them, within an hour. Having heard their names, I presently knew them to be two famous swaggerers, who were daily exercising themselves in fencing at the Arsenal, and where they often visited Trenck. I went to my cousin to ask his assistance, related what had happened, and, as the consequences of this duel might be very serious, desired him to give me a hundred ducats, that I might be able to fly if either of them should fall.
Hitherto I had expended my own money on his account, and had asked no reimbursement; but what was my astonishment when this wicked man said to me, with a sneer, “Since, good cousin, you have got into a quarrel without consulting me, you will also get out of it without my aid!” As I left him, he called me back to tell me, “I will take care and pay your undertaker;” for he certainly believed I should never return alive.
I ran now, half-despairing, to Baron Lopresti, who gave me fifty ducats and a pair of pistols, provided with which I cheerfully repaired to the field of battle.
Here I found half a dozen officers of the garrison. As I had few acquaintances in Vienna, I had no second, except an old Spanish invalid captain, named Pereyra, who met me going in all haste, and, having learned whither, would not leave me.
Lieutenant K---n was the first with whom I fought, and who received satisfaction by a deep wound in the right arm. Hereupon I desired the spectators to prevent farther mischief; for my own part I had nothing more to demand. Lieutenant F---g next entered the lists, with threats, which were soon quieted by a lunge in the belly. Hereupon Lieutenant M-f, second to the first wounded man, told me very angrily—“Had I been your man, you would have found a very different reception.” My old Spaniard of eighty proudly and immediately advanced, with his long whiskers and tottering frame, and cried—“Hold! Trenck has proved himself a brave fellow, and if any man thinks proper to assault him further, he must first take a breathing with me.” Everybody laughed at this bravado from a man who scarcely could stand or hold a sword. I replied—“Friend, I am safe, unhurt, and want not aid; should I be disabled, you then, if you think proper, may take my place; but, as long as I can hold a sword, I shall take pleasure in satisfying all these gentlemen one after another.” I would have rested myself a moment, but the haughty M-f, enraged at the defeat of his friend, would not give me time, but furiously attacked me, and, having been wounded twice, once in the hand and again in the groin, he wanted to close and sink me to the grave with himself, but I disarmed and threw him.
None of the others had any desire to renew the contest. My three enemies were sent bleeding to town; and, as M---f appeared to be mortally wounded, and the Jesuits and Capuchins of Vienna refused me an asylum, I fled to the convent of Keltenberg.
I wrote from the convent to Colonel Baron Lopresti, who came to me. I told him all that had passed, and by his good offices had liberty, in a week, to appear once more at Vienna.
The blood of Lieutenant F---g was in a corrupt state, and his wound, though not in itself dangerous, made his life doubtful. He sent to entreat I would visit him, and, when I went, having first requested I would pardon him, gave me to understand I ought to beware of my cousin. I afterwards learned the traitorous Trenck had promised Lieutenant F---g a company and a thousand ducats if he would find means to quarrel with me and rid the world of me. He was deeply in debt, and sought the assistance of Lieutenant K-n; and had not the papers luckily preserved me, I had undoubtedly been despatched by his first lunge. To clear themselves of the infamy of such an act, these two worthy gentlemen had pretended I had assaulted them in the streets.
I could no more resolve to see my ungrateful and dangerous kinsman, who wished to have me murdered because I knew all his secrets, and thought he should be able to gain his cause without obligation to me or my assistance. Notwithstanding all his great qualities, his marked characteristic certainly was that of sacrificing everything to his private views, and especially to his covetousness, which was so great that, even at his time of life, though his fortune amounted to a million and a half, he did not spend per day more than thirty kreutzers.
No sooner was it known that I had forsaken Trenck than General Count Lowenwalde, his most ardent enemy, and president of the first council of war, by which he had been condemned, desired to speak to me, promised every sort of good fortune and protection, if I would discover what means had secretly been employed in the revision of the process; and went so far as to offer me four thousand florins if I would aid the prosecution against my cousin. Here I learned the influence of villains in power, and the injustice of judges at Vienna. The proposal I rejected with disdain, and rather determined to seek my fortune in the East Indies than continue in a country where, under the best of Queens, the most loyal of subjects, and first of soldiers, might be rendered miserable by interested, angry, and corrupt courtiers. Certain it is, as I now can prove, though the bitterest of my enemies, and whose conduct towards me merited my whole resentment, he was the best soldier in the Austrian army, had been liberal of his blood and fortune in the Imperial service, and would still so have continued had not his wealth, and his contempt for Weber and Lowenwalde put him in the power of those wretches who were the avowed enemies of courage and patriotism, and who only could maintain their authority, and sate their thirst of gain, by the base and wicked arts of courts. Had my cousin shared the plunder of the war among these men, he had not fallen the martyr of their intrigues, and died in the Spielberg. His accusers were, generally, unprincipled men of ruined fortunes, and so insufficient were their accusations that a useful member of society ought not, for any or all of them, to have suffered an hour’s imprisonment. Being fully informed, both of all the circumstances of the prosecution and the inmost secrets of his heart, justice requires I should thus publicly declare this truth and vindicate his memory. While living he was my bitterest enemy, and even though dead, was the cause of all my future sufferings; therefore the account I shall give of him will certainly be the less liable to suspicion, where I shall show that he, as well as myself, deserved better of Austria.
I was resolved forever to forsake Vienna. The friends of Trenck all became distrustful of him because of his ingratitude to me. Prince Charles still endeavoured to persuade me to a reconciliation, and gave me a letter of recommendation to General Brown, who then commanded the Imperial army in Italy. But more anxious of going to India, I left Vienna in August, 1748, desirous of owing no obligation to that city or its inhabitants, and went for Holland. Meantime, the enemies of Trenck found no one to oppose their iniquitous proceedings, and obtained a sentence of imprisonment, in the Spielberg, where he too late repented having betrayed his faithful adviser, and prudent friend. I pitied him, and his judges certainly deserved the punishment they inflicted: yet to his last moments he showed his hatred towards me was rooted, and, even in the grave, strove by his will to involve me in misfortune, as will hereafter be seen.
I fled from Vienna, would to God it had been for ever; but fate by strange ways, and unknown means, brought me back where Providence thought proper I should become a vessel of wrath and persecution: I was to enact my part in Europe, and not in Asia. At Nuremberg I met with a body of Russians, commanded by General Lieuwen, my mother’s relation, who were marching to the Netherlands, and were the peace-makers of Europe. Major Buschkow, whom I had known when Russian resident at Vienna, prevailed on me to visit him, and presented me to the General. I pleased him, and may say, with truth, he behaved to me like a friend and a father. He advised me to enter into the Russian service, and gave me a company of dragoons, in the regiment of Tobolski, on condition I should not leave him, but employ myself in his cabinet: and his confidence and esteem for me were unbounded.
Peace followed; the army returned to Moravia, without firing a musket, and the head-quarters were fixed at Prosnitz.
In this town a public entertainment was given, by General Lieuwen, on the coronation day of the Empress Elizabeth; and here an adventure happened to me, which I shall ever remember, as a warning to myself, and insert as a memento to others.
The army physician, on this day, kept a Faro bank for the entertainment of the guests. My stock of money consisted of two and twenty ducats. Thirst of gain, or perhaps example, induced me to venture two of these, which I immediately lost, and very soon, by venturing again to regain them, the whole two and twenty. Chagrined at my folly, I returned home: I had nothing but a pair of pistols left, for which, because of their workmanship, General Woyekow had offered me twenty ducats. These I took, intending by their aid to attempt to retrieve my loss. Firing of guns and pistols was heard throughout the town, because of the festival, and I, in imitation of the rest, went to the window and fired mine. After a few discharges, one of my pistols burst, and endangered my own hand, and wounded my servant. I felt a momentary despondency, stronger than I ever remember to have experienced before; insomuch that I was half induced, with the remaining pistol, to shoot myself through the head. I however, recovered my spirits, asked my servant what money he had, and received from him three ducats. With these I repaired, like a desperate gamester, once more to the Faro table, at the General’s, again began to play, and so extraordinary was my run of luck, I won at every venture. Having recovered my principal, I played on upon my winnings, till at last I had absolutely broke the Doctor’s bank: a new bank was set up, and I won the greatest part of this likewise, so that I brought home about six hundred ducats.
Rejoiced at my good fortune, but recollecting my danger, I had the prudence to make a solemn resolution never more to play at any game of chance, to which I have ever strictly adhered.
It were to be wished young men would reflect upon the effects of gaming, remembering that the love of play has made the most promising and virtuous, miserable; the honest, knaves; and the sincere, deceivers and liars. Officers, having first lost all their own money, being entrusted with the soldiers’ pay, have next lost that also; and thus been cashiered, and eternally disgraced. I might, at Prosnitz, have been equally rash and culpable. The first venture, whether the gamester wins or loses, ensures a second; and, with that, too often destruction. My good fortune was almost miraculous, and my subsequent resolution very uncommon; and I entreat and conjure my children, when I shall no longer be living to advise and watch for their welfare, most determinedly to avoid play. I seemed preserved by Providence from this evil but to endure much greater.
General Lieuwen, my kind patron, sent me, from Crakow, to conduct a hundred and forty sick men down the Vistula to Dantzic, where there were Russian vessels to receive and transport them to Riga.
I requested permission of the General to proceed forward and visit my mother and sister, whom I was very desirous to see: at Elbing, therefore, I resigned the command to Lieutenant Platen, and, attended by a servant, rode to the bishopric of Ermeland, where I appointed an interview with them in a frontier village.
Here an incident happened that had nearly cost me my life. The Prussians, some days before, had carried off a peasant’s son from this village, as a recruit. The people were all in commotion. I wore leathern breeches, and the blue uniform of the Russian cavalry. They took me for a Prussian, at the door, and fell upon me with every kind of weapon. A chasseur, who happened to be there, and the landlord, came to my assistance, while I, battling with the peasants, had thrown two of them down. I was delivered, but not till I had received two violent bruises, one on the left arm, and another which broke the bridge of my nose. The landlord advised me to escape as fast as possible, or that the village would rise and certainly murder me; my servant, therefore, who had retired for defence, with a pair of pistols, into the oven, got ready the horses and we rode off.
I had my bruises dressed at the next village; my hand and eyes were exceedingly swelled, but I was obliged to ride two miles farther, to the town of Ressel, before I could find an able surgeon, and here I so far recovered in a week, that I was able to return to Dantzic. My brother visited me while at Ressel, but my good mother had the misfortune, as she was coming to me, to be thrown out of her carriage, by which her arm was broken, so that she and my sister were obliged to return, and I never saw her more.
I was now at Dantzic, with my sick convoy, where another most remarkable event happened, which I, with good reason, shall ever remember.
I became acquainted with a Prussian officer, whose name I shall conceal out of respect to his very worthy family; he visited me daily, and we often rode out together in the neighbourhood of Dantzic.
My faithful servant became acquainted with his, and my astonishment was indeed great when he one day said to me, with anxiety, “Beware, sir, of a snare laid for you by Lieutenant N-; he means to entice you out of town and deliver you up to the Prussians.” I asked him where he learned this. “From the lieutenant’s servant,” answered he, “who is my friend, and wishes to save me from misfortune.”
I now, with the aid of a couple of ducats, discovered the whole affair, and learned it was agreed, between the Prussian resident, Reimer, and the lieutenant, that the latter should entice me into the suburb of Langfuhr, where there was an inn on the Prussian territories. Here eight recruiting under-officers were to wait concealed, and seize me the moment I entered the house, hurry me into a carriage, and drive away for Lauenberg in Pomerania. Two under-officers were to escort me, on horseback, as far as the frontiers, and the remainder to hold and prevent me from calling for help, so long as we should remain on the territories of Dantzic.
I farther learned my enemies were only to be armed with sabres, and that they were to wait behind the door. The two officers on horseback were to secure my servant, and prevent him from riding off and raising an alarm.
These preparations might easily have been rendered fruitless, by my refusing to accept the proposal of the lieutenant, but vanity gave me other advice, and resentment made me desirous of avenging myself for such detestable treachery.
Lieutenant N--- came, about noon, to dine with me as usual, was more pensive and serious than I had ever observed him before, and left me at four in the afternoon, after having made a promise to ride early next day with him as far as Langfuhr. I observed my consent gave him great pleasure, and my heart then pronounced sentence on the traitor. The moment he had left me I went to the Russian resident, M. Scheerer, an honest Swiss, related the whole conspiracy, and asked whether I might not take six of the men under my command for my own personal defence. I told him my plan, which he at first opposed; but seeing me obstinate, he answered at last, “Do as you please; I must know nothing of the matter, nor will I make myself responsible.”
I immediately joined my soldiers, selected six men, and took them, while it was dark, opposite the Prussian inn, hid them in the corn, with an order to run to my help with their firelocks loaded the first discharge they should hear, to seize all who should fall into their power, and only to fire in case of resistance. I provided them with fire-arms, by concealing them in the carriage which brought them to their hiding-place.
Notwithstanding all these precautions, I still thought it necessary to prevent surprise, by informing myself what were the proceedings of my enemies, lest my intelligence should have been false; and I learned from my spies that, at four in the morning, the Prussian resident, Reimer, had left the city with post horses.
I loaded mine and my servant’s horse and pocket pistols, prepared my Turkish sabre, and, in gratitude to the lieutenant’s man, promised to take him into my service, being convinced of his honesty.
The lieutenant cheerfully entered about six in the morning, expatiated on the fineness of the weather, and jocosely told me I should be very kindly received by the handsome landlady of Langfuhr.
I was soon ready; we mounted, and left the town, attended by our servants. Some three hundred paces from the inn, my worthy friend proposed that we should alight and let our servants lead the horses, that we might enjoy the beauty of the morning. I consented, and having dismounted, observed his treacherous eyes sparkle with pleasure.
The resident, Reimer, was at the window of the inn, and called out, as soon as he saw me, “Good-morrow, captain, good-morrow; come, come in, your breakfast is waiting.” I, sneering, smiled, and told him I had not time at present. So saying, I continued my walk, but my companion would absolutely force me to enter, took me by the arm, and partly struggled with me, on which, losing all patience, I gave him a blow which almost knocked him down, and ran to my horses as if I meant to fly.
The Prussians instantly rushed from behind their door, with clamour, to attack me. I fired at the first; my Russians sprang from their hiding-place, presented their pieces, and called, Stuy, stuy, yebionnamat.
The terror of the poor Prussians may well be supposed. All began to run. I had taken care to make sure of my lieutenant, and was next running to seize the resident, but he had escaped out of the back door, with the loss only of his white periwig. The Russians had taken four prisoners, and I commanded them to bestow fifty strokes upon each of them in the open street. An ensign, named Casseburg, having told me his name, and that he had been my brother’s schoolfellow, begged remission, and excused himself on the necessity which he was under to obey his superiors. I admitted his excuses and suffered him to go. I then drew my sword and bade the lieutenant defend himself; but he was so confused, that, after drawing his sword, he asked my pardon, laid the whole blame upon the resident, and had not the power to put himself on his guard. I twice jerked his sword out of his hand, and, at last, taking the Russian corporal’s cane, I exhausted my strength with beating him, without his offering the least resistance. Such is the meanness of detected treachery. I left him kneeling, saying to him, “Go, rascal, now, and tell your comrades the manner in which Trenck punishes robbers on the highway.”
The people had assembled round us during the action, to whom I related the affair, and the attack having happened on the territories of Dantzic, the Prussians were in danger of being stoned by the populace. I and my Russians marched off victorious, proceeded to the harbour, embarked, and three or four days after, set sail for Riga.
It is remarkable that none of the public papers took any notice of this affair; no satisfaction was required. The Prussians, no doubt, were ashamed of being defeated in an attempt so perfidious.
I since have learnt that Frederic, no doubt by the false representations of Reimer, was highly irritated, and what afterwards happened proves his anger pursued me through every corner of the earth, till at last I fell into his power at Dantzic, and suffered a martyrdom most unmerited and unexampled.
The Prussian envoy, Goltz, indeed, made complaints to Count Bestuchef, concerning this Dantzic skirmish, but received no satisfaction. My conduct was justified in Russia, I having defended myself against assassins, as a Russian captain ought.
Some dispassionate readers may blame me for not having avoided this rencontre, and demanded personal satisfaction of Lieutenant N---. But I have through life rather sought than avoided danger. My vanity and revenge were both roused. I was everywhere persecuted by the Prussians, and I was therefore determined to show that, far from fearing, I was able to defend myself.
I hired the servant of the lieutenant, whom I found honest and faithful, and whom I comfortably settled in marriage, at Vienna, in 1753. After my ten years’ imprisonment, I found him poor, and again took him into my service, in which he died, at Zwerbach, in 1779.
And now behold me at sea, on my voyage to Riga. I had eaten heartily before I went on board; a storm came on; I worked half the night, to aid the crew, but at length became sea-sick, and went to lie down. Scarcely had I closed my eyes before the master came with the joyful tidings, as he thought, that we were running for the port of Pillau. Far from pleasing, this, to me, was dreadful intelligence. I ran on deck, saw the harbour right before me, and a pilot coming off. The sea must now be either kept in a storm, or I fall into the hands of the Prussians; for I was known to the whole garrison of Pillau.
I desired the captain to tack about and keep the sea, but he would not listen to me. Perceiving this, I flew to my cabin, snatched my pistols, returned, seized the helm, and threatened the captain with instant death if he did not obey. My Russians began to murmur; they were averse to encountering the dangers of the storm, but luckily they were still more averse to meet my anger, overawed, as they were, by my pistols, and my two servants, who stood by me faithfully.
Half an hour after, the storm began to subside, and we fortunately arrived the next day in the harbour of Riga. The captain, however, could not be appeased, but accused me before the old and honourable Marshal Lacy, then governor of Riga. I was obliged to appear, and reply to the charge by relating the truth. The governor answered, my obstinacy might have occasioned the death of a hundred and sixty persons; I, smiling, retorted, “I have brought them all safe to port, please your Excellency; and, for my part, my fate would have been much more merciful by falling into the hands of my God than into the hands of my enemies. My danger was so great that I forgot the danger of others; besides, sir, I knew my comrades were soldiers, and feared death as little as I do.” My answer pleased the fine grey-headed general, and he gave me a recommendation to the chancellor Bestuchef at Moscow.
General Lieuwen had marched from Moravia, for Russia, with the army, and was then at Riga. I went to pay him my respects; he kindly received me, and took me to one of his seats, named Annaburg, four miles from Riga. Here I remained some days, and he gave me every recommendation to Moscow, where the court then was. It was intended I should endeavour to obtain a company in the regiment of cuirassiers, the captains of which then ranked as majors, and he advised me to throw up my commission in the Siberian regiment of Tobolski dragoons. Peace be to the names and the memory of this worthy man! May God reward this benevolence! From Riga I departed, in company with M. Oettinger, lieutenant-colonel of engineers, and Lieutenant Weismann, for Moscow. This is the same Weismann who rendered so many important services to Russia, during the last war with the Turks.
On my arrival, after delivering in my letters of recommendation, I was particularly well received by Count Bestuchef. Oettinger, whose friendship I had gained, was exceedingly intimate with the chancellor, and my interest was thereby promoted.
I had not been long at Moscow before I met Count Hamilton, my former friend during my abode at Vienna. He was a captain of cavalry, in the regiment of General Bernes, who had been sent as imperial ambassador to Russia.
Bernes had been ambassador at Berlin in 1743, where he had consequently known me during the height of my favour at the court of Frederic. Hamilton presented me to him, and I had the good fortune so far to gain his friendship, that, after a few visits, he endeavoured to detach me from the Russian service, offering me the strongest recommendations to Vienna, and a company in his own regiment. My cousin’s misfortunes, however, had left too deep an impression on my mind to follow his advice. The Indies would then have been preferred by me to Austria.
Bernes invited me to dine with him in company with his bosom friend, Lord Hyndford, the English ambassador. How great was the pleasure I that day received! This eminent statesman had known me at Berlin, and was present when Frederic had honoured me with saying, C’est un matador de ma jeunesse. He was well read in men, conceived a good opinion of my abilities, and became a friend and father to me. He seated me by his side at table, and asked me, “Why came you here, Trenck?” “In search of bread and honour, my lord,” answered I, “having unmeritedly lost them both in my own country.” He further inquired the state of my finances; I told him my whole store might be some thirty ducats.
“Take my counsel,” said he; “you have the necessary qualifications to succeed in Russia, but the people here despise poverty, judge from the exterior only, and do not include services or talents in the estimate; you must have the appearance of being wealthy. I and Bernes will introduce you into the best families, and will supply you with the necessary means of support. Splendid liveries, led horses, diamond rings, deep play, a bold front, undaunted freedom with statesmen, and gallantry among the ladies, are the means by which foreigners must make their way in this country. Avail yourself of them, and leave the rest to us.” This lesson lasted some time. Bernes entered in the interim, and they determined mutually to contribute towards my promotion.
Few of the young men who seek their fortune in foreign countries meet incidents so favourable. Fortune for a moment seemed willing to recompense my past sufferings, and again to raise me to the height from which I had fallen. These ambassadors, here again by accident met, had before been witnesses of my prosperity when at Berlin. The talents I possessed, and the favour I then enjoyed, attracted the notice of all foreign ministers. They were bosom friends, equally well read in the human heart, and equally benevolent and noble-minded; their recommendation at court was decisive; the nations they represented were in alliance with Russia, and the confidence Bestuchef placed in them was unbounded.
I was now introduced into all companies, not as a foreigner who came to entreat employment, but as the heir of the house of Trenck, and its rich Hungarian possessions, and as the former favourite of the Prussian monarch.
I was also admitted to the society of the first literati, and wrote a poem on the anniversary of the coronation of the Empress Elizabeth. Hyndford took care she should see it, and, in conjunction with the chancellor, presented me to the sovereign. My reception was most gracious. She herself recommended me to the chancellor, and presented me with a gold-hilted sword, worth a thousand roubles. This raised me highly in the esteem of all the houses of the Bestuchef party.
Manners were at that time so rude in Russia, that every foreigner who gave a dinner, or a ball, must send notice to the chancellor Bestuchef, that he might return a list of the guests allowed to be invited. Faction governed everything; and wherever Bestuchef was, no friend of Woranzow durst appear. I was the intimate of the Austrian and English ambassadors; consequently, was caressed and esteemed in all companies. I soon became the favourite of the chancellor’s lady, as I shall hereafter notice; and nothing more was wanting to obtain all I could wish.
I was well acquainted with architectural design, had free access to the house and cabinet of the chancellor, where I drew in company with Colonel Oettinger, who was then the head architect of Russia, and made the perspective view of the new palace, which the chancellor intended to build at Moscow, by which I acquired universal honour. I had gained more acquaintance in, and knowledge of, Russia in one month, than others, wanting my means, have done in twelve.
As I was one day relating my progress to Lord Hyndford, he, like a friend, grown grey in courts, kindly took the trouble to advise me. From him I obtained a perfect knowledge of Russia; he was acquainted with all the intrigues of European courts, their families, party cabals, the foibles of the monarchs, the principles of their government, the plots of the great Peter, and had also made the peace of Breslau. Thus, having been the confidential friend of Frederic, he was intimately acquainted with his heart, as well as the sources of his power. Hyndford was penetrating, noble-minded, had the greatness of the Briton, without his haughtiness; and the principles, by which he combined the past, the present, and the future, were so clear, that I, his scholar, by adhering to them, have been enabled to foretell all the most remarkable revolutions that have happened, during the space of six-and-thirty years, in Europe. By these I knew, when any minister was disgraced, who should be his successor. I daily passed some hours improving by his kind conversation; and to him I am indebted for most of that knowledge of the world I happen to possess.
He took various opportunities of cautioning me against the effects of an ardent, sanguine temper; and my hatred of arbitrary power warned me to beware of the determined persecution of Frederic, of his irreconcilable anger, his intrigues and influence in the various courts of Europe, which he would certainly exert to prevent my promotion, lest I should impede his own projects, and lamented my future sufferings, which he plainly foresaw. “Despots,” said he, “always are suspicious, and abhor those who have a consciousness of their own worth, of the rights of mankind, and hold the lash in detestation. The enlightened are by them called the restless spirits, turbulent and dangerous; and virtue there, where virtue is unnecessary for the humbling and trampling upon the suffering subject, is accounted a crime, of all others the most to be dreaded.”
Hyndford taught me to know, and highly to value freedom: to despise tyrants, to endure the worst of miseries, to emulate true greatness of mind, to despise danger, and to honour only those whose elevation of soul had taught them equally to oppose bigotry and despotism.
Bernes was a philosopher; but with the penetration of an Italian, more cautious than Hyndford, yet equally honest and worthy. His friendship for me was unbounded, and the time passed in their company was esteemed by me most precious. The liberality of my sentiments, thirst after knowledge and scientific acquirements gained their favour; our topics of conversation were inexhaustible, and I acquired more real information at Moscow than at Berlin, under the tuition of La Metri, Maupertuis, and Voltaire.
Scarcely had I been six weeks in this city before I had an adventure which I shall here relate; for, myself excepted, all the persons concerned in it are now dead. Intrigues properly belong to novels. This book is intended for a more serious purpose, and they are therefore here usually suppressed. It cannot be supposed I was a woman-hater. Most of the good or bad fortune I experienced originated in love. I was not by nature inconstant, and was incapable of deceit even in amours. In the very ardour of youth I always shunned mere sensual pleasures. I loved for more exalted reasons, and for such sought to be beloved again. Love and friendship were with me always united; and these I was capable of inciting, maintaining, and deserving. The most difficult of access, the noblest, and the fairest, were ever my choice: and my veneration for these always deterred me from grosser gratifications. By woman I was formed; by the faith of woman supported under misfortunes; in the company of woman enjoyed the few hours of delight my life of sorrows has experienced. Woman, beautiful and well instructed, even now, lightens the burden of age, the world’s tediousness and its woes; and, when these are ended, I would rather wish mine eyes might be closed by fair and virgin hands, than, when expiring, fixed on a hypocritical priest.
My adventures with women would amply furnish a romance: but enough of this, I should not relate the present, were it not necessary to my story.
Dining one public day with Lord Hyndford, I was seated beside a charming young lady of one of the best families in Russia, who had been promised in marriage, though only seventeen, to an old invalid minister. Her eyes soon told me she thought me preferable to her intended bridegroom. I understood them, lamented her hard fate, and was surprised to hear her exclaim, “Oh, heavens! that it were possible you could deliver me from my misfortune: I would engage to do whatever you would direct.”
The impression such an appeal must make on a man of four and twenty, of a temperament like mine, may easily be supposed. The lady was ravishingly beautiful; her soul was candour itself, and her rank that of a princess; but the court commands had already been given in favour of the marriage; and flight, with all its inseparable dangers, was the only expedient. A public table was no place for long explanations. Our hearts were already one. I requested an interview, and the next day was appointed, the place the Trotzer garden, where I passed three rapturous hours in her company: thanks to her woman, who was a Georgian.
To escape, however, from Moscow, was impossible. The distance thence to any foreign country was too great. The court was not to remove to Petersburg till the next spring, and her marriage was fixed for the first of August. The misfortune was not to be remedied, and nothing was left us but patience perforce. We could only resolve to fly from Petersburg when there, the soonest possible, and to take refuge in some corner of the earth, where we might remain unknown of all. The marriage, therefore, was celebrated with pomp, though I, in despite of forms, was the true husband of the princess. Such was the state of the husband imposed upon her, that to describe it, and not give disgust, were impossible.
The princess gave me her jewels, and several thousand roubles, which she had received as a nuptial present, that I might purchase every thing necessary for flight; my evil destiny, however, had otherwise determined. I was playing at ombre with her, one night, at the house of the Countess of Bestuchef, when she complained of a violent headache, appointed me to meet her on the morrow, in the Trotzer gardens, clasped my hand with inexpressible emotion, and departed. Alas! I never beheld her more, till stretched upon the bier!
She grew delirious that very night, and so continued till her death, which happened on the sixth day, when the small-pox began to appear. During her delirium she discovered our love, and incessantly called on me to deliver her from her tyrant. Thus, in the flower of her age, perished one of the most lovely women I ever knew, and with her fled all I held most dear.
All my plans were now to be newly arranged. Lord Hyndford alone was in the secret, for I hid no secrets from him: he strengthened me in my first resolution, and owned that he himself, for such a mistress, might perhaps have been weak enough to have acted as I had done. Almost as much moved as myself, he sympathised with me as a friend, and his advice deterred me from ending my miseries, and descending with her, whom I have loved and lost, to the grave. This was the severest trial I had ever felt. Our affection was unbounded, and such only as noble hearts can feel. She being gone, the whole world became a desert. There is not a man on earth, whose life affords more various turns of fate than mine. Swiftly raised to the highest pinnacle of hope, as suddenly was I cast headlong down, and so remarkable were these revolutions that he who has read my history will at last find it difficult to say whether he envies or pities me most. And yet these were, in reality, but preparatory to the evils that hovered over my devoted head. Had not the remembrance of past joys soothed and supported me under my sufferings, I certainly should not have endured the ten years’ torture of the Magdeburg dungeon, with a fortitude that might have been worthy even of Socrates.
Enough of this. My blood again courses swifter through my veins as I write! Rest, gentle maiden, noble and lovely as thou wert! For thee ought Heaven to have united a form so fair, animated as it was, by a soul so pure, to ever-blooming youth and immortality.
My love for this lady became well-known in Moscow; yet her corpulent overgrown husband had not understanding enough to suppose there was any meaning in her rhapsodies during her delirium.
Her gifts to me amounted in value to about seven thousand ducats. Lord Hyndford and Count Bernes both adjudged them legally mine, and well am I assured her heart had bequeathed me much more.
To this event succeeded another, by which my fortune was greatly influenced. The Countess of Bestuchef was then the most amiable and witty woman at Court. Her husband, cunning, selfish, and shallow, had the name of minister, while she, in reality, governed with a genius, at once daring and comprehensive. The too pliant Elizabeth carelessly left the most important things to the direction of others. Thus the Countess was the first person of the Empire, and on whom the attention of the foreign ministers was fixed.
Haughty and majestic in her demeanour, she was supposed to be the only woman at court who continued faithful to her husband; which supposition probably originated in her art and education, she being a German born: for I afterwards found her virtue was only pride, and a knowledge of the national character. The Russian lover rules despotic over his mistress: requires money, submission, and should he meet opposition, threatens her with blows, and the discovery of her secret.
During Elizabeth’s reign foreigners could neither appear at court, nor in the best company, without the introduction of Bestuchef. I and Sievers, gentlemen of the chamber, were at that time the only Germans who had free egress and regress in all houses of fashion; my being protected by the English and Austrian ambassadors gave me very peculiar advantages, and made my company everywhere courted.
Bestuchef had been resident, during the late reign, at Hamburg, in which inferior station he married the countess, at that time, though young and handsome, only the widow of the merchant Boettger. Under Elizabeth, Bestuchef rose to the summit of rank and power, and the widow Boettger became the first lady of the empire. When I knew her she was eight and thirty, consequently no beauty, though a woman highly endowed in mind and manners, of keen discernment, disliking the Russians, protecting the Prussians, and at whose aversions all trembled.
Her carriage towards the Russians was, what it must be in her situation, lofty, cautious, and ironical, rather than kind. To me she showed the utmost esteem on all occasions, welcomed me at her table, and often admitted me to drink coffee in company with herself alone and Colonel Oettinger. The countess never failed giving me to understand she had perceived my love for the princess N---; and, though I constantly denied the fact, she related circumstances which she could have known, as I thought, only from my mistress herself; my silence pleased her; for the Russians, when a lady had a partiality for them, never fail to vaunt of their good fortune. She wished to persuade me she had observed us in company, had read the language of our eyes, and had long penetrated our secret. I was ignorant at that time that she had then, and long before, entertained the maid of my mistress as a spy in her pay.
About a week after the death of the princess, the countess invited me to take coffee with her, in her chamber; lamented my loss, and the violence of that passion which had deprived me of all my customary vivacity, and altered my very appearance. She seemed so interested in my behalf, and expressed so many wishes, and so ardent to better my fate, that I could no longer doubt. Another opportunity soon happened, which confirmed these my suspicions: her mouth confessed her sentiments. Discretion, secrecy, and fidelity, were the laws she imposed, and never did I experience a more ardent passion from woman. Such was her understanding and penetration, she knew how to rivet my affections.
Caution was the thing most necessary. She contrived, however, to make opportunity. The chancellor valued, confided in me, and employed me in his cabinet; so that I remained whole days in his house. My captainship of cavalry was now no longer thought of: I was destined to political employment. My first was to be gentleman of the chamber, which in Russia is an office of importance, and the prospect of futurity became to me most resplendent. Lord Hyndford, ever the repository of my secrets, counselled me, formed plans for my conduct, rejoiced at my success, and refused to be reimbursed the expense he had been at, though now my circumstances were prosperous.
The degree of credit I enjoyed was soon noticed: foreign ministers began to pay their court to me: Goltz, the Prussian minister, made every effort to win me, but found me incorruptible.
The Russian alliance was at this time highly courted by foreign powers; the humbling of Prussia was the thing generally wished and planned: and nobody was better informed than myself of ministerial and family factions at this court.
My mistress, a year after my acquaintance with her, fell into her enemies’ power, and with her husband, was delivered over to the executioner. Chancellor Bestuchef, in the year 1756, was forced to confession by the knout. Apraxin, minister of war, had a similar fate. The wife of his brother, then envoy in Poland, was, by the treachery of a certain Lieutenant Berger, with three others of the first ladies of the court, knouted, branded, and had their tongues cut out. This happened in the year 1741, when Elizabeth ascended the throne. Her husband, however, faithfully served: I knew him as Russian envoy, at Vienna, 1751. This may indeed be called the love of our country, and thus does it happen to the first men of the state: what then can a foreigner hope for, if persecuted, and in the power of those in authority?
No man, in so short a space of time, had greater opportunities than I, to discover the secrets of state; especially when guided by Hyndford and Bernes, under the reign of a well-meaning but short-sighted Empress, whose first minister was a weak man, directed by the will of an able and ambitious wife, and which wife loved me, a stranger, an acquaintance of only a few months, so passionately that to this passion she would have sacrificed every other object. She might, in fact, be considered as Empress of Russia, disposing of peace or war, and had I been more prudent or less sincere, I might in such a situation, have amassed treasures, and deposited them in full security. Her generosity was boundless; and, though obliged to pay above a hundred thousand roubles, in one year, to discharge her son’s debts, yet might I have saved a still larger sum; but half of the gifts she obliged me to receive, I lent to this son, and lost. So far was I from selfish, and so negligent of wealth, that by supplying the wants of others, I often, on a reverse of fortune, suffered want myself.
This my splendid success in Russia displeased the great Frederic, whose persecution everywhere attended me, and who supposed his interest injured by my success in Russia. The incident I am going to relate was, at the time it happened, well known to, and caused much agitation among all the foreign ambassadors.
Lord Hyndford desired I would make him a fair copy of a plan of Cronstadt, for which he furnished the materials, with three additional drawings of the various ships in the harbour, and their names. There was neither danger nor suspicion attending this; the plan of Cronstadt being no secret, but publicly sold in the shops of Petersburg. England was likewise then in the closest alliance with Russia. Hyndford showed the drawing to Funk, the Saxon envoy, his intimate friend, who asked his permission to copy it himself. Hyndford gave him the plan signed with my name; and after Funk had been some days employed copying it, the Prussian minister, Goltz, who lived in his neighbourhood, came in, as he frequently paid him friendly visits. Funk, unsuspectingly, showed him my drawing, and both lamented that Frederic had lost so useful a subject. Goltz asked to borrow it for a couple of days, in order to correct his own; and Funk, one of the worthiest, most honest, and least suspicious of men, who loved me like a brother, accordingly lent the plan.
No sooner was Goltz in possession of it than he hurried to the chancellor, with whose weakness he was well acquainted, told him his intent in coming was to prove that a man, who had once been unfaithful to his king and country, where he had been loaded with favours, would certainly betray, for his own private interest, every state where he was trusted. He continued his preface, by speaking of the rapid progress I had made in Russia, and the free entrance I had found in the chancellor’s house, where I was received as a son, and initiated in the secrets of the cabinet.
The chancellor defended me: Goltz then endeavoured to incite his jealousy, and told him my private interviews with his wife, especially in the palace-garden, were publicly spoken of. This he had learned from his spies, he having endeavoured, by the snares he laid, to make my destruction certain.
He likewise led Bestuchef to suspect his secretary, S-n, was a party in the intrigue; till at last the chancellor became very angry; Goltz then took my plan of Cronstadt from his pocket, and added, “Your excellency is nourishing a serpent in your bosom. This drawing have I received from Trenck, copied from your cabinet designs, for two hundred ducats.” He knew I was employed there sometimes with Oettinger, whose office it was to inspect the buildings and repairs of the Russian fortifications. Bestuchef was astonished; his anger became violent, and Goltz added fuel to the flame, by insinuating, I should not be so powerfully protected by Bernes, the Austrian ambassador, were it not to favour the views of his own court. Bestuchef mentioned prosecution and the knout; Goltz replied my friends were too powerful, my pardon would be procured, and the evil this way increased. They therefore determined to have me secretly secured, and privately conveyed to Siberia.
Thus, while I unsuspectingly dreamed of nothing but happiness, the gathering storm threatened destruction, which only was averted by accident, or God’s good providence.
Goltz had scarcely left the place triumphant, when the chancellor entered, with bitterness and rancour in his heart, into his lady’s apartment, reproached her with my conduct, and while she endeavoured to soothe him, related all that had passed. Her penetration was much deeper than her husband’s: she perceived there was a plot against me: she indeed knew my heart better than any other, and particularly that I was not in want of a poor two hundred ducats. She could not, however, appease him, and my arrest was determined. She therefore instantly wrote me a line to the following purport.
“You are threatened, dear friend, by a very imminent danger. Do not sleep to-night at home, but secure yourself at Lord Hyndford’s till you hear farther from me.”
Secretary S-n, her confidant (the same who, not long since, was Russian envoy at Ratisbon) was sent with the note. He found me, after dinner, at the English ambassador’s, and called me aside. I read the billet, was astonished at its contents, and showed it Lord Hyndford. My conscience was void of reproach, except that we suspected my secret with the countess had been betrayed to the chancellor, and fearing his jealousy, Hyndford commanded me to remain in his house till we should make further discovery.
We placed spies round the house where I lived; I was inquired for after midnight, and the lieutenant of the police came himself and searched the house.
Lord Hyndford went, about ten in the morning, to visit the chancellor, that he might obtain some intelligence, who immediately reproached him for having granted an asylum to a traitor. “What has this traitor done?” said Hyndford. “Faithlessly copied a plan of Cronstadt, from my cabinet drawings,” said the chancellor; “which he has sold to the Prussian minister for two hundred ducats.”
Hyndford was astonished; he knew me well, and also knew that he had then in money and jewels, more than eight thousand ducats of mine in his own hands: nor was he less ignorant of the value I set on money, or of the sources whence I could obtain it, when I pleased. “Has your excellency actually seen this drawing of Trenck’s?”—“Yes, I have been shown it by Goltz.”—“I wish I might likewise be permitted to see it; I know Trenck’s drawing, and make myself responsible that he is no traitor. Here is some mystery; be so kind as to desire M. Goltz will come and bring his plan of Cronstadt. Trenck is at my house, shall be forthcoming instantly, and I will not protect him if he proves guilty.”
The Chancellor wrote to Goltz; but he, artful as he was, had no doubt taken care to be informed that the lieutenant of the police had missed his prey. He therefore sent an excuse, and did not appear. In the meantime I entered; Hyndford then addressed me, with the openness of an Englishman, and asked, “Are you a traitor, Trenck? If so, you do not merit my protection, but stand here as a state prisoner. Have you sold a plan of Cronstadt to M. Goltz?” My answer may easily be supposed. Hyndford rehearsed what the chancellor had told him; I was desired to leave the room, and Funk was sent for. The moment he came in, Hyndford said, “Sir, where is that plan of Cronstadt which Trenck copied?” Funk, hesitating, replied, “I will go for it.” “Have you it,” continued Hyndford, “at home? Speak, upon your honour.”—“No, my Lord, I have lent it, for a few days, to M. Goltz, that he may take a copy.”
Hyndford immediately then saw the whole affair, told the chancellor the history of this plan, which belonged to him, and which he had lent to Funk, and requested a trusty person might be sent with him to make a proper search. Bestuchef named his first secretary, and to him were added Funk and the Dutch envoy, Schwart, who happened then to enter. All went together to the house of Goltz. Funk demanded his plan of Cronstadt; Goltz gave it him, and Funk returned it to Lord Hyndford.
The secretary and Hyndford both then desired he would produce the plan of Cronstadt which he had bought of Trenck for two hundred ducats. His confusion now was great, and Hyndford firmly insisted this plan should be forthcoming, to vindicate the honour of Trenck, whom he held to be an honest man. On this, Goltz answered, “I have received my king’s commands to prevent the preferment of Trenck in Russia, and I have only fulfilled the duty of a minister.”
Hyndford spat on the ground, and said more than I choose to repeat; after which the four gentlemen returned to the chancellor, and I was again called. Everybody complimented me, related to me what had passed, and the chancellor promised I should be recompensed; strictly, however, forbidding me to take any revenge on the Prussian ambassador, I having sworn, in the first transports of anger, to punish him wherever I should find him, even were it at the altar’s foot.
The chancellor soothed me, kept me to dine with him, and endeavoured to assuage my boiling passions. The countess affected indifference, and asked me if suchlike actions characterised the Prussian nation. Funk and Schwart were at table. All present congratulated me on my victory, but none knew to whom I was indebted for my deliverance from the hasty and unjust condemnation of the chancellor, although my protectress was one of the company. I received a present of two thousand roubles the next day from the chancellor, with orders to thank the Empress for this mark of her bounty, and accept it as a sign of her special favour. I paid these my thanks some days after. The money I disregarded, but the amiable Empress, by her enchanting benevolence, made me forget the past. The story became public, and Goltz appeared neither in public, nor at court. The manner in which the countess personally reproached him, I shall out of respect pass over. Bernes, the crafty Piedmontese, assured me of revenge, without my troubling myself in the matter, and—what happened after I know not; Goltz appeared but little in company, fell ill when I had left Russia, and died soon after of a consumption.
This vile man was, no doubt, the cause of all the calamities which fell upon me. I should have become one of the first men in Russia: the misfortune that befel Bestuchef and his family some years afterward might have been averted: I should never have returned to Vienna, a city so fatal to the name of Trenck: by the mediation of the Russian Court, I should have recovered my great Sclavonian estates; my days of persecution at Vienna would have passed in peace and pleasure: nor should I have entered the dungeon of Magdeburg.
How little did the Great Frederic know my heart. Without having offended, he had rendered me miserable, had condemned me to imprisonment at Glatz on mere suspicion, and on my flying thence, naked and destitute, had confiscated my paternal inheritance. Not contented with inflicting all these calamities, he would not suffer me peaceably to seek my fortune in a foreign land.
Few are the youths who, in so short a time, being expelled their native country with disgrace, by their own efforts, merits, and talents, have obtained honour and favour so great, acquired such powerful friends, or been entrusted with confidence equally unlimited in transactions so important. Enraged as I was at the treachery of Goltz, had opportunity offered, I might have been tempted even to turn my native country into a desert; nor do I deny that I afterwards promoted the views of the Austrian envoy, who knew well how to cherish the flame that had been kindled, and turn it to his own use. Till this moment I never felt the least enmity either to my country or king, nor did I suffer myself, on any occasion, to be made the agent of their disadvantage.
No sooner was I entrusted more intimately with cabinet secrets, than I discovered the state of factions, and that Bestuchef and Apraxin were even then in Prussian pay; that a counterpoise, by their means, might be formed to the prevalence of the Austrian party.
Hence we may date the change of Russian politics in the year 1762. Here also we may find a clue to the contradictory orders, artifices, positions, retreats and disappointments of the Russian army, in the seven years’ war, beginning in 1756. The countess, who was obliged to act with greater caution, foresaw the consequence of the various intrigues in which her husband was engaged: her love for me naturally drew her from her former party; she confided every secret to me, and ever remained till her fall, which happened in 1758, during my imprisonment, my best friend and correspondent. Hence was I so well informed of all the plans against Prussia, to the years 1754 and 1756; much more so than many ministers of the interested courts, who imagined they alone were in the secret. How many after events could I then have foretold! Such was the perverseness of my destiny, that where I should most have been sought for, and best known, there was I least valued.
No man, in my youth, would have believed I should live to my sixtieth year, untitled and obscure. In Berlin, Petersburg, London, and Paris, have I been esteemed by the greatest statesmen, and now am I reduced to the invalid list. How strange are the caprices of fortune! I ought never to have left Russia: this was my great error, which I still live to repent.
I have never been accustomed to sleep more than four or five hours, so that through life I have allowed time for paying visits and receiving company. I have still had sufficient for study and improvement. Hyndford was my instructor in politics; Boerhaave, then physician to the court, my bosom friend, my tutor in physic and literary subjects. Women formed me for court intrigues, though these, as a philosopher, I despised.
The chancellor had greatly changed his carriage towards me since the incident of the plan. He observed my looks, showed he was distrustful, and desirous of revenge. His lady, as well as myself, remarked this, and new measures became necessary. I was obliged to act an artful, but, at the same time, a very dangerous part.
My cousin, Baron Trenck, died in the Spielberg, October 4, 1749, and left me his heir, on condition I should only serve the house of Austria. In March, 1750, Count Bernes received the citation sent me to enter on this inheritance. I would hear nothing of Vienna; the abominable treatment of my cousin terrified me. I well knew the origin of his prosecution, the services he had rendered his country, and had been an eye-witness of the injustice by which he was repaid. Bernes represented to me that the property left me was worth much above a million: that the empress would support me in pursuit of justice, and that I had no personal enemy at Vienna, that a million of certain property in Hungary was much superior to the highest expectations in Russia, where I myself had beheld so many changes of fortune, and the effects of family cabals. Russia he painted as dangerous, Vienna as secure, and promised me himself effectual assistance, as his embassy would end within the year. Were I once rich, I might reside in what country I pleased; nor could the persecutions of Frederic anywhere pursue me so ineffectually as in Austria. Snares would be laid for me everywhere else, as I had experienced in Russia. “What,” said he, “would have been the consequence, had not the countess warned you of the impending danger? You, like many other honest and innocent men, would have been sent to Siberia. Your innocence must have remained untested, and yourself, in the universal opinion, a villain and a traitor.”
Hyndford spoke to me in the same tone, assured me of his eternal protection, and described London as a certain asylum, should I not find happiness at Vienna. He spoke of slavery as a Briton ought to speak, reminded me of the fate of Munich and Osterman, painted the court such as I knew it to be, and asked me what were my expectations, even were I fortunate enough to become general or minister in such a country.
These reasonings at length determined me; but having plenty of money, I thought proper to take Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Holland in my way, and Barnes was in the meantime to prepare me a favourable reception at Vienna. He desired, also, I would give him authority to get possession of the estates to which I was heir. My mistress strongly endeavoured to detain me, but yielded at length to the force of reason. I tore myself away, and promised, on my honour, to return as soon as I had arranged my affairs at Vienna. She made the proposition of investing me within some foreign embassy, by which I might render the most effectual services to the court at Vienna. In this hope we parted with heavy hearts: she presented me with her portrait, and a snuffbox set with diamonds; the first of these, three years after was torn from my bosom by the officers in my first dungeon at Magdeburg, as I shall hereafter relate. The chancellor embraced me, at parting, with friendship. Apraxin wept, and clasped me in his arms, prophesying at the same time, I should never be so happy as in Russia. I myself foreboded misfortune, and quitted Russia with regret, but still followed the advice of Hyndford and Bernes.
From Moscow I travelled to Petersburg, where I found a letter, at the house of Baron Wolf, the banker, from the countess, which rent my very heart, and almost determined me to return. She endeavoured to terrify me from proceeding to Vienna, yet inclosed a bill for four thousand roubles, to aid me on my journey, were I absolutely bent to turn my back on fortune.
My effects, in money and jewels, amounted to about thirty-six thousand florins; I therefore returned the draft, intreated her eternal remembrance, and that she would reserve her favour and support to times in which they might become needful. After remaining a few days at Petersburg, I journeyed, by land, to Stockholm; taking with me letters of recommendation from all the foreign envoys.
I forgot to mention that Funk was inconsolable for my departure; his imprudence had nearly plunged me into misery, and destroyed all my hopes in Russia. Twenty-two years after this I met the worthy man, once more in Dresden. He, there, considered himself as the cause of all the evils inflicted on me, and assured me the recital of my sufferings had been so many bitter reproaches to his soul. Our recapitulation of former times gave us endless pleasure, and it was the sweetest of joys to meet and renew my friendship with such a man, after having weathered so many storms of fate.
At Stockholm I wanted for no recommendation; the Queen, sister to the great Frederic, had known me at Berlin, when I had the honour, as an officer of the body guard, of accompanying her to Stettin. I related my whole history to her without reserve. She, from political motives, advised me not to make any stay at Stockholm, and to me continued till death, an ever-gracious lady. I proceeded to Copenhagen, where I had business to transact for M. Chaise, the Danish envoy at Moscow: from whom also I had letters of recommendation. Here I had the pleasure of meeting my old friend, Lieutenant Bach, who had aided me in my escape from my imprisonment at Glatz. He was poor and in debt, and I procured him protection, by relating the noble manner in which he behaved I also presented him with five hundred ducats, by the aid of which he pushed his fortune. He wrote to me in the year 1776, a letter of sincere thanks, and died a colonel of hussars in the Danish service in 1776.
I remained in Copenhagen but a fortnight, and then sailed in a Dutch ship, from Elsineur to Amsterdam. Scarcely had we put to sea, before a storm arose, by which we lost a mast and bowsprit, had our sails shattered, and were obliged to cast anchor among the rocks of Gottenburg, where our deliverance was singularly fortunate.
Here we lay nine days before we could make the open sea, and here I found a very pleasant amusement, by going daily in the ship’s boat from rock to rock, attended by two of my servants, to shoot wild ducks, and catch shell-fish; whence I every evening returned with provisions, and sheep’s milk, bought of the poor inhabitants, for the ship’s crew.
There was a dearth among these poor people. Our vessel was laden with corn; some of this I purchased, to the amount of some hundreds of Dutch florins, and distributed wherever I went. I also gave one of their ministers a hundred florins for his poor congregation, who was himself in want of bread, and whose annual stipend amounted to one hundred and fifty florins.
Here in the sweet pleasure of doing good, I left behind me much of that money I had so easily acquired in Russia; and perhaps had we stayed much longer should myself have left the place in poverty. A thousand blessings followed me, and the storm-driven Trenck was long remembered and talked of at Gottenburg.
In this worthy employment, however, I had nearly lost my life. Returning from carrying corn, the wind rose, and drove the boat to sea. I not understanding the management of the helm, and the servants awkwardly handling the sails, the boat in tacking was overset. The benefit of learning to swim, I again experienced, and my faithful servant, who had gained the rock, aided me when almost spent. The good people who had seen the shallop overset, came off in their boats to my assistance. An honest Calmuc, whom I had brought from Russia, and another of my servants perished. I saw the first sink after I had reached the shore.
The kind Swedes brought me on board, and also righted and returned with the shallop. For some days I was sea-sick. We weighed anchor, and sailed for the Texel, the mouth of which we saw, and the pilots coming off, when another storm arose, and drove us to the port of Bahus, in Norway, into which we ran, without farther damage. In some few days we again set sail, with a fair wind, and at length reached Amsterdam.
Here I made no long stay; for the day after my arrival, an extraordinary adventure happened, in which I was engaged chiefly by my own rashness.
I was a spectator while the harpooners belonging to the whale fishery were exercising themselves in darting their harpoons, most of whom were drunk. One of them, Herman Rogaar by name, a hero among these people, for his dexterity with his snickasnee, came up, and passed some of his coarse jests upon my Turkish sabre, and offered to fillip me on the nose. I pushed him from me, and the fellow threw down his cap, drew his snickasnee, challenged me, called me monkey-tail, and asked whether I chose a straight, a circular, or a cross cut.
Thus here was I, in this excellent company, with no choice but that of either fighting or running away. The robust, Herculean fellow grew more insolent, and I, turning round to the bystanders, asked them to lend me a snickasnee. “No, no,” said the challenger, “draw your great knife from your side, and, long as it is, I will lay you a dozen ducats you get a gash in the cheek.” I drew; he confidently advanced with his snickasnee, and, at the first stroke of my sabre, that, and the hand that held it, both dropped to the ground, and the blood spouted in my face.
I now expected the people would, indubitably, tear me to pieces; but my fear was changed into astonishment at hearing a universal shout applauding the vanquisher of the redoubted Herman Rogaar who, so lately feared for his strength and dexterity, became the object of their ridicule. A Jew spectator conducted me out of the crowd, and the people clamorously followed me to my inn. This kind of duel, by which I gained honour, would anywhere else have brought me to the highest disgrace. A man who knew the use of the sabre, in a single day, might certainly have disabled a hundred Herman Rogaars. This story may instruct and warn others. He that is quarrelsome shall never want an enemy. My temerity often engaged me in disputes which, by timely compliance and calmness, might easily have been avoided; but my evil genius always impelled me into the paths of perplexity, and I seldom saw danger till it was inevitable
I left Amsterdam for the Hague, where I had been recommended to Lord Holderness, the English ambassador, by Lord Hyndford; to Baron Reisbach, by Bernes; to the Grand Pensionary Fagel, by Schwart; and from the chancellor I had a letter to the Prince of Orange himself I could not, therefore, but be everywhere received with all possible distinction. Within these recommendations, and the knowledge I possessed, had I had the good fortune to have avoided Vienna, and gone to India, where my talents would have insured me wealth, how many tears of affliction had I been spared! My ill fortune, however, had brought me letters from Count Bernes, assuring me that heaven was at Vienna, and including a citation from the high court, requiring me to give in my claim of inheritance. Bernes further informed me the Austrian court had assured him I should meet with all justice and protection, and advised me to hasten my journey, as the executorship of the estates of Trenck was conducted but little to my advantage.
This advice I took, proceeded to Vienna, and from that moment all my happiness had an end. I became bewildered in lawsuits, and the arts of wicked men, and all possible calamities assaulted me at once, the recital of which would itself afford subject matter for a history. They began by the following incidents:—
One M. Schenck sought my acquaintance at the Hague. I met with him at my hotel, where he intreated I would take him to Nuremberg, whence he was to proceed to Saxony. I complied, and bore his expenses; but at Hanau, waking in the morning, I found my watch, set with diamonds, a ring worth two thousand roubles, a diamond snuff-box, with my mistress’s picture, and my purse, containing about eighty ducats, stolen from my bed-side, and Schenck become invisible. Little affected by the loss of money, at any time, I yet was grieved for my snuff-box. The rascal, however, had escaped, and it was fortunate that the remainder of my ready money, with my bills of exchange, were safely locked up.
I now pursued my journey without company, and arrived in Vienna. I cannot exactly recollect in what month, but I had been absent about two years; and the reader will allow that it was barely possible for any man, in so short a time, to have experienced more various changes of fate, though many smaller incidents have been suppressed. The places, where my pledged fidelity required discretion will be easily supposed, as likewise will the concealment of court intrigues, and artifices, the publication of which might even yet subject me to more persecutions. All writers are not permitted to speak truth of monarchs and ministers. I am the father of eight children, and parental love and duty vanquish the inclination of the author; and this duty, this affection, have made me particularly cautious in relating what happened to me at Vienna, that I might, thereby, serve them more effectually than by indulging the pride of the writer, or the vengeance of the man.
Since accounts so various, contradictory, and dishonourable to the name of Trenck, have been circulated in Vienna, concerning facts which happened thirty-seven years ago, I will here give a short abstract of them, and such as may he verified by the records of the court. I pledge my honour to the truth of the statement, and were I so allowed, would prove it, to the conviction of any unprejudiced court of justice: but this I cannot hope, as princes are much more disposed to bestow unmerited favours than to make retribution to those whom they have unjustly punished.
Francis Baron Trenck died in the Spielberg, October 4th, 1749. It has been erroneously believed in Vienna that his estates were confiscated by the sentence which condemned him to the Spielberg. He had committed no offence against the state, was accused of none, much less convicted. The court sentence was that the administration of his estate should be committed to Counsellor Kempf and Baron Peyaczewitz, who were selected by himself, and the accounts of his stewards and farmers were to be sent him yearly. He continued, till his death, to have the free and entire disposal of his property.
Although, before his death, he sent for his advocate, Doctor Berger, and by him petitioned the Empress she would issue the necessary orders to the Governor of the Spielberg, to permit the entrance of witnesses, and all things necessary to make a legal will, it by no means follows that he petitioned her for permission to make this will. The case is too clear to admit of doubt. The royal commands were given, that he should enjoy all freedom of making his will. Permission was also given that, during his sickness, he might be removed to the capuchin convent, which was equal to liberty, but this he refused to accept.
Neither was his ability to make a will questioned. The advocate was only to request the Queen’s permission to supply some formalities, which had been neglected, when he purchased the lordships of Velika and Nustar, which petition was likewise granted. The royal mandate still exists, which commissioned the persons therein named as trustees to the estate and effects of Trenck, and this mandate runs thus: “Let the last will of Trenck be duly executed: let dispatch be used, and the heir protected in all his rights.” Confiscation, therefore, had never been thought of, nor his power to make a will questioned.
I will now show how I have been deprived of this valuable inheritance, while I have been obliged to pay above sixty thousand florins, to defray legacies he had left; and when this narrative is read, it will no longer be affirmed at Vienna, that by the favours of the court I inherited seventy-six thousand florins, or the lordship of Zwerbach from Trenck, I shall proceed to my proofs.
The father of Baron Trenck, who died in the year 1743, governor of Leitschau, in Hungary, named me in his will the successor of his son, should he die without heirs male.
This will was sent to be proved, according to form, at Vienna, after having been authenticated in the most legal manner in Hungary. The court called Hofkriegsrath, at Vienna, neglected to provide a curator for the security of the next heir; yet this could not annul my right of succession. When Trenck succeeded his father, he entered no protest to this, his father’s will; therefore, dying without children, in the year 1749, my claim was indisputable. I was heir had he made no will: and even in case of confiscation, my title to his father’s estates still remained valid.
Trenck knew this but too well: he, as I have before related, was my worst enemy, and even attempted my life. I will therefore proceed to show the real intent of this his crafty testament.
Determined no longer to live in confinement, or to ask forgiveness, by which, it is well known, he might have obtained his freedom, having lost all hopes of reimbursing his losses, his avarice was reduced to despair. His desire of fame was unbounded, and this could no way be gratified but by having himself canonized for a saint, after spending his life in committing all the ravages of a pandour. Hence originated the following facts:—
He knew I was the legal claimant to his father’s estates. His father had bought with the family money, remitted from Prussia, the lordships of Prestowacz and Pleternitz, in Sclavonia, and he himself, during his father’s life, and with his father’s money, had purchased the lordship of Pakratz, for forty thousand florins: this must therefore descend also to me, he having no more power to will this from me, than he had the remainder of his paternal inheritance. The property he himself had gained was consigned to administrators, but a hundred thousand florins had been expended in lawsuits, and sixty-three suits continued actually pending against him in court; the legacies he bequeathed amounted to eighty thousand florins. These, he saw, could not be paid, should I claim nothing more than the paternal inheritance; he, therefore, to render me unfortunate after his death, craftily named me his universal heir, without mentioning his father’s will, but endeavoured, by his mysterious death, and the following conditions, to enforce the execution of his own will.
First,—I was to become a Catholic.
Secondly,—I was to serve only the house of Austria; and,
Lastly,—He made his whole estate, without excepting the paternal inheritance, a Fidei commissum.
Hence arose all my misfortunes, as indeed was his intention; for, but a short time before his death, he said to the Governor, Baron Kottulinsky, “I shall now die contented, since I have been able to trick my cousin, and render him wretched.”
His death, believed in Vienna to be miraculous, happened after the following manner; and by this he had induced many weak people, who really believed him a saint, to further his views.
Three days before his death, while in perfect health, he desired the governor of the Spielberg would send for his confessor, for that St. Francis had revealed to him he should be removed into life everlasting on his birth-day at twelve o’clock. The capuchin was sent for, but the prediction laughed at.
The day, however, after the departure of his confessor, he said, “Praise be to God, my end approaches; my confessor is dead, and has appeared to me.” Strange as it may seem; it was actually found to be true that the priest was dead. He now had all the officers of the garrison of Brunn assembled, tonsured his head like a capuchin, took the habit of the order, publicly confessed himself in a sermon of an hour’s length, exhorted them all to holiness, acted the part of a most exemplary penitent, embraced all present, spoke with a smile of the insignificance of all earthly possessions, took his leave, knelt down to prayers, slept calmly, rose, prayed again, and about eleven in the forenoon, October 4th, taking his watch in his hand, said, “Thanks be to my God, my last hour approaches.” All laughed at such a farce from a man of such a character; yet they remarked that the left side of his face grew pale. He then leaned his arm on the table, prayed, and remained motionless, with his eyes closed. The clock struck twelve—no signs of life or motion could be discovered; they spoke to him, and found he was really dead.
The word miracle was echoed through the whole country, and the transmigration of the Pandour Trenck, from earth to heaven, by St. Francis, proclaimed. The clue to this labyrinth of miracles, known only to me, is truly as follows:—He possessed the secret of what is called the aqua tofana, and had determined on death. His confessor had been entrusted with all his secrets, and with promissory notes, which he wished to invalidate. I am perfectly certain that he had returned a promissory note of a great prince, given for two hundred thousand florins, which has never been brought to account. The confessor, therefore, was to be provided for, that Trenck might not be betrayed, and a dose of poison was given him before he set off for Vienna: his death was the consequence. He took similar means with himself, and thus knew the hour of his exit; finding he could not become the first on earth, he wished to be adored as a saint in heaven. He knew he should work miracles when dead, because he ordered a chapel to be built, willed a perpetual mass, and bequeathed the capuchins sixty thousand florins.
Thus died this most extraordinary man, in the thirty-fourth year of his age, to whom nature had denied none of her gifts; who had been the scourge of Bavaria; the terror of France; and who had, with his supposed contemptible pandours, taken above six thousand Prussian prisoners. He lived a tyrant and enemy of men, and died a sanctified impostor.
Such was the state of affairs, as willed by Trenck, when I came to Vienna, in 1759, where I arrived with money and jewels to the amount of twenty thousand florins.
Instead of profiting by the wealth Trenck had acquired, I expended a hundred and twenty thousand florins of my own money, including what devolved to me from my uncle, his father, in the prosecution of his suits. Trenck had paid two hundred ducats to the tribunal of Vienna, in the year 1743, to procure its very reprehensible silence concerning a curator, to which I was sacrificed, as the new judges of this court refused to correct the error of their predecessors. Such are the proceedings of courts of justice in Vienna!
On my first audience, no one could be received more kindly than I was, by the Empress Queen. She spoke of my deceased cousin with much emotion and esteem, promised me all grace and favour, and informed me of the particular recommendations she had received, on my behalf, from Count Bernes. Finding sixty-three cases hang over my head, in consequence of the inheritance of Trenck, to obtain justice in any one of which in Vienna, would have employed the whole life of an honest man, I determined to renounce this inheritance, and claim only under the will and as the heir of my uncle.
With this view I applied for and obtained a copy of that will, with which I personally appeared, and declared to the court that I renounced the inheritance of Francis Trenck, would undertake none of his suits, nor be responsible for his legacies, and required only his father’s estates, according to the legal will, which I produced; that is to say, the three lordships of Pakratz, Prestowacz, and Pleneritz, without chattels or personal effects. Nothing could be more just or incontrovertible than this claim. What was my astonishment, to be told, in open court, that Her Majesty had declared I must either wholly perform the articles of the will of Trenck, or be excluded the entire inheritance, and have nothing further to hope. What could be done? I ventured to remonstrate, but the will of the court was determined and absolute: I must become a Roman Catholic.
In this extremity I bribed a priest, who gave me a signed attestation, “That I had abjured the accursed heresy of Lutheranism.” My religion, however, remained what it had ever been. General Bernes about this time returned from his embassy, and I related to him the lamentable state in which I found my affairs. He spoke to the Empress in my behalf, and she promised everything. He advised me to have patience, to perform all that was required of me, and to make myself responsible for the depending suits. Some family concerns obliged him, as he informed me, to make a journey to Turin, but his return would be speedy: he would then take the management of my affairs upon himself, and insure my good fortune in Austria. Bernes loved me as his son, and I had reason to hope, from his assurance, I should be largely remembered in his will, which was the more probable, as he had neither child nor relations. He parted from me, like a father, with tears in his eyes; but he had scarcely been absent six weeks before the news arrived of his death, which, if report may be credited, was effected by poison, administered by a friend. Ever the sport of fortune, thus were my supporters snatched from me at the very moment they became most necessary.
The same year was I, likewise, deprived by death of my friend and protector, Field-marshal Konigseck, Governor of Vienna, when he had determined to interest himself in my behalf. I have been beloved by the greatest men Austria ever produced, but unfortunately have been persecuted by the chicanery of pettifoggers, fools, fanatics, and priests, who have deprived me of the favour of my Empress, guiltless as I was of crime or deceit, and left my old age in poverty.
My ills were increased by a new accident. Soon after the departure of Bernes, the Prussian minister, taking me aside, in the house of the Palatine envoy, M. Becker, proposed my return to Berlin, assured me the King had forgotten all that was past, was convinced of my innocence, that my good fortune would there be certain, and be pledged his honour to recover the inheritance of Trenck. I answered, the favour came too late; I had suffered injustice too flagrant, in my own country, and that I would trust no prince on earth whose will might annihilate all the rights of men. My good faith to the King had been too ill repaid; my talents might gain me bread in any part of the world, and I would not again subject myself to the danger of unmerited imprisonment.
His persuasions were strong, but ineffectual. “My dear Trenck,” said he, “God is my judge that my intentions are honest; I will pledge myself, that my sovereign will insure your fortune: you do not know Vienna; you will lose all by the suits in which you are involved, and will be persecuted because you do not carry a rosary.”
How often have I repented I did not then return to Berlin! I should have escaped ten years’ imprisonment; should have recovered the estates of Trenck: should not have wasted the prime of life in the litigation of suits, and the writing of memorials; and should have certainly been ranked among the first men in my native country. Vienna was no place for a man who could not fawn and flatter: yet here was I destined to remain six-and-thirty years, unrewarded, unemployed; and through youth and age, to continue on the list of invalid majors.
Having rejected the proposition of the Prussian envoy, all my hopes in Vienna were ruined; for Frederic, by his residents and emissaries, knew how to effect whatever he pleased in foreign courts, and determined that the Trenck who would no longer serve or confide in him should at least find no opportunity of serving against him: I soon became painted to the Empress as an arch heretic who never would be faithful to the house of Austria, and only endeavoured to obtain the inheritance of Trenck that he might devote himself to Prussia. This I shall hereafter prove; and display a scene that shall be the disgrace of many, by whom the Empress was induced to harbour unjust suspicions of an able and honest man. I here stand erect and confident before the world; publish the truth, and take everlasting shame to myself, if any man on earth can prove me guilty of one treacherous thought. I owe no thanks; but so far from having received favours, I have six and thirty years remained unable to obtain justice, though I have all the while been desirous of shedding my blood in defence of the monarchy where I have thus been treated. Till the year 1746, I was equally zealous and faithful to Prussia; yet my estates there, though confiscated, were liable to recovery: in Hungary, on the contrary, the sentence of confiscation is irrevocable. This is a remarkable proof in favour of my honour, and my children’s claims.
Surely no reader will be offended at these digressions; my mind is agitated, my feelings roused, remembering that my age and grey hairs deprive me of the sweet hope of at length vanquishing opposition, either by patience, or forcing justice, by eminent services, or noble efforts.
This my history will never reach a monarch’s eye, consequently no monarch, by perceiving, will be induced to protect truth. It may, indeed, be criticised by literati; it will certainly be decried by my persecutors, who, through life, have been my false accusers, and will probably, therefore, be prohibited by the priests. All Germany, however, will read, and posterity perhaps may pity, should my book escape the misfortune of being classed among improbable romances; to which it is the more liable, because that the biographers of Frederic and Maria Theresa, for manifest reasons, have never so much as mentioned the name of Trenck.
Once more to my story: I was now obliged to declare myself heir, but always cum reservatione juris mei, not as simply claiming under the will of Francis Trenck I was obliged to take upon myself the management of the sixty-three suits, and the expenses attending any one of these are well known in Vienna. My situation may be imagined, when I inform the reader I only received, from the whole estate of Trenck, 3,600 florins in three years, which were scarcely sufficient to defray the expenses of new year’s gifts to the solicitors and masters in chancery. How did I labour in stating and transcribing proofs for the court! The money I possessed soon vanished. My Prussian relations supported me, and the Countess Bestuchef sent me the four thousand roubles I had refused at Petersburg. I had also remittances from my faithful mistress in Prussia; and, in addition, was obliged to borrow money at the usurious rate of sixty per cent. Bewildered as I was among lawyers and knaves, my ambition still prompted me to proceed, and all things are possible to labour and perseverance; but my property was expended: and, at length, I could only obtain that the contested estates should be made a Fidei commissum, or put under trust; whereby, though they were protected from being the further prey of others, I did not inherit them as mine. In this pursuit was my prime of life wasted, which might have been profitably and honourably spent.
In three years, however, I brought my sixty-three suits to a kind of conclusion; the probabilities were this could not have been effected in fifty. Exclusive of my assiduity, the means I took must not be told; it is sufficient that I here learnt what judges were, and thus am enabled to describe them to others.
For a few ducats, the president’s servant used to admit me into a closet where I could see everything as perfectly as if I had myself been one of the council. This often was useful, and taught me to prevent evil; and often was I scarcely able to refrain bursting in upon this court.
Their appointed hour of meeting was nine in the morning, but they seldom assembled before eleven. The president then told his beads, and muttered his prayers. Someone got up and harangued, while the remainder, in pairs, amused themselves with talking instead of listening, after which the news of the day became the common topic of conversation, and the council broke up, the court being first adjourned some three weeks, without coming to any determination. This was called judicium delegatum in causis Trenkiansis; and when at last they came to a conclusion, the sentence was such as I shall ever shudder at and abhor.
The real estates of Trenck consisted in the great Sclavonian manors, called the lordships of Pakratz, Prestowatz, and Pleternitz, which he had inherited from his father, and were the family property, together with Velika and Nustak, which he himself had purchased: the annual income of these was 60,000 florins, and they contained more than two hundred villages and hamlets. The laws of Hungary require—
1st. That those who purchase estates shall obtain the consensus regius (royal consent).
2nd. That the seller shall possess, and make over the right of property, together with that of transferring or alienating, and
3dly. That the purchaser shall be a native born, or have bought his naturalisation.
In default of all, or any of these, the Fiscus, on the death of the purchaser, takes possession, repaying the summa emptitia, or purchase-money, together within what can be shown to have been laid out in improvements, or the summa inscriptitia, the sum at which it stands rated in the fiscal register.
Without form or notice, the Hungarian Fiscal President, Count Grassalkowitz, took possession of all the Trenck estates on his decease, in the name of the Fiscus. The prize was great, not so much because of the estates themselves, as of the personal property upon them. Trenck had sent loads of merchandise to his estates, of linen, ingots of gold and silver from Bavaria, Alsatia, and Silesia. He had a vast storehouse of arms, and of saddles; also the great silver service of the Emperor Charles VII., which he had brought from Munich, with the service of plate of the King of Prussia; and the personal property on these estates was affirmed considerably to exceed in value the estates themselves.
I was not long since informed by one of the first generals, whose honour is undoubted, that several waggons were laden with these rich effects and sent to Mihalefze. His testimony was indubitable; he knew the two pandours, who were the confidants of Trenck, and the keepers of his treasures; and these, during the general plunder, each seized a bag of pearls, and fled to Turkey, where they became wealthy merchants. His rich stud of horses were taken, and the very cows driven off the farms. His stand of arms consisted of more than three thousand rare pieces. Trenck had affirmed he had sent linen to the amount of fifty thousand florins, in chests from Dunnhausen and Cersdorf, in the county of Glatz, to his estates. The pillage was general; and when orders came to send all the property of Trenck and deliver it to his universal heir, nothing remained that any person would accept. I have myself seen, in a certain Hungarian nobleman’s house, some valuable arms, which I knew I had been robbed of! and I bought at Esseck some silver plates on which were the arms of Prussia, that had been sold by Counsellor D-n, who had been empowered to take possession of these estates, and had thus rendered himself rich. Of this I procured an attestation, and proved the theft: I complained aloud at Vienna, but received an order from the court to be silent, under pain of displeasure, and also to go no more into Sclavonia. The principal reason of my loss of the landed property in Hungary was my having dared to make inquiries concerning the personal, not one guinea of which was ever brought to account. I then proved my right to the family estates, left by my uncle, beyond all dispute, and also of those purchased by my cousin. The commissions appointed to inquire into these rights even confirmed them; yet after they had been thus established, I received the following order from the court, in the hand of the Empress herself:—“The president, Count Grassalkowitz, takes it upon his conscience that the Sclavonian estates do not descend to Trenck, in natura; he must therefore receive the summa emptitia et inscriptitia, together with the money he can show to have been expended in improvements.”
And herewith ended my pleadings and my hopes. I had sacrificed my property, laboured through sixty-three inferior suits, and lost this great cause without a trial. I could have remained satisfied with the loss of the personal property: the booty of a soldier, like the wealth amassed by a minister, appears to me little better than a public robbery; but the acquirements of my ancestors, my birth-right by descent, of these I could not be deprived without excessive cruelty. Oh patience! patience!—Yet shall my children never become the footmen, nor grooms, of those who have robbed them of their inheritance; and to them I bequeathed my rights in all their power: nor shall any man prevent my crying aloud, so long as justice shall not be done.
The president, it is true, did not immediately possess himself of the estates, but he took good care his friends should have them at such rates that the sale of them did not bring the fiscal treasury 150,000 florins, while I, in real and personal property, lost a million and a half; nay, probably a sum equal to this in personal property alone.
The summa inscriptitia et emptitia for all these great estates only amounted to 149,000 florins, and this was to be paid by the chamber, but the president thought proper to deduct 10,000 on pretence the cattle had been driven off the estate of Pakratz; and, further, 36,000 more, under the shameful pretence that Trenck, to recruit his pandours, had drained the estates of 3,600 vassals, who had never returned; the estates, therefore, must make them good at the rate of thirty florins per head, which would have amounted to 108,000 florins; but, with much difficulty, this sum was reduced, as above stated, to 36,000 florins, each vassal reckoned at ten florins per head. Thus was I obliged, from the property of my family, to pay for 3,600 men who had gloriously died in war, in defence of the contested rights of the great Maria Theresa; who had raised so many millions of contributions for her in the countries of her enemies; who, sword in hand, had stormed and taken so many towns, and dispersed, or taken prisoners, so many thousands of her foes. Would this be believed by listening nations?
All deductions made for legacies, fees, and formalities, there remained to me 63,000 florins, with which I purchased the lordship of Zwerbach, and I was obliged to pay 6,000 florins for my naturalisation. Thus, when the sums are enumerated which I expended on the suits of Trenck, received from my friends at Berlin and Petersburg, it will be found that I cannot, at least, have been a gainer by having been made the universal heir of the immensely rich Trenck. With regret I write these truths in support of my children’s claims, that they may not, in my grave, reproach me for having neglected the duty of a father.
I will mere add a few particulars which may afford the reader matter for meditation, cause him to commiserate my fate, and give a picture of the manner in which the prosecution was carried on against Trenck.
One Schygrai, a silly kind of beggarly baron, who was treated as a buffoon, was invited in the year 1743 to dine with Baron Pejaczewitz, when Trenck happened to be present. The conversation happened to turn on a kind of brandy made in this country, and Trenck jocularly said he annually distilled this sort of brandy from cow-dung to the value of thirty thousand florins. Schygrai supposed him serious, and wished to learn the art, which Trenck promised to teach him Pejaczewitz told him he could give him thirty thousand load of dung.
“But where shall I get the wood?” said Schygrai. “I will give you thirty thousand klafters,” answered Trenck. The credulous baron, thinking himself very fortunate, desired written promises, which they gave him; and that of Trenck ran thus:
“I hereby permit and empower Baron Schygrai to sell gratis, in the forest of Tscherra Horra, thirty thousand klafters of wood.
“Witness my hand,
Trenck was no sooner dead than the Baron brought his note, and made application to the court. His attorney was the noted Bussy, and the court decreed the estates of Trenck should pay at the rate of one form thirty kreutzers per klafter, or forty-five thousand florins, with all costs, and an order was given to the administrators to pay the money.
Just at this time I arrived at Vienna, from Petersburg. Doctor Berger, the advocate of Trenck, told me the affair would admit of no delay. I hastened to the Empress, and obtained an order to delay payment. An inquiry was instituted, and this forest of Tscherra Horra was found to be situated in Turkey. The absurdity and injustice were flagrant, and it was revoked. I cannot say how much of these forty-five thousand florins the Baron had promised to the noble judge and the attorney. I only know that neither of them was punished. Had not some holidays luckily intervened, or had the attorney expected my arrival, the money would have been paid, and an ineffectual attempt to obtain retribution would have been the consequence, as happened in many similar instances.
I have before mentioned the advertisement inviting all who had any demands or complaints against Trenck to appear, with the promise of a ducat a day; and it is mere proper to add that the sum of fifteen thousand florins was brought to account, and paid out of the estates of Trenck. For this shameful purpose some thousand of florins were paid besides to this species of claimants and though, after examination, their pretensions all proved to be futile, and themselves were cast in damages, yet was none of this money ever refunded, or the false claimants punished. Among these the pretended daughter of General Schwerin received two thousand florins, notorious as was her character. Again, Trenck was accused of having appropriated the money to his own use, and treated as if convicted. After his death a considerable demand was accordingly made. I happening, however, to meet with Ruckhardt, his quarter-master, he with asseverations declared that, instead of being indebted to the regiment, the regiment was more than a hundred thousand florins indebted to him, advised me to get attestations from the captains, and assured me he himself would give in a clear statement of the regiment’s accounts.
I followed his advice, hastened to the regiment, and obtained so many proofs, that the quarter-master of the regiment, who, with the major, had in reality pocketed the money, was imprisoned and put in irons. What became of the thief or the false witness afterward I know not; I only know that nothing was refunded, that the quarter-master found protectors, detained the money, and, some years after this vile action, purchased a commission. One instance more.
Trenck, to the corps of infantry he commanded, added a corps of hussars, which he raised and provided with horses and accoutrements sold by auction. My demand on this account was upwards of sixty thousand florins, to which I received neither money nor reply. He had also expended a hundred thousand florins for the raising and equipping his three thousand pandours; in consequence of which a signed agreement had been given by the Government that these hundred thousand florins should be repaid to his heir, or he, the heir, should receive the command of the regiment. The regiment, however, at his decease, was given to General Simschen; and as for the agreement, care was taken it should never come into my hands. Thus these hundred thousand florins were lost.
Yet it has been wickedly affirmed he was imprisoned in the Spielberg for having embezzled the regiment’s money; whereas, I would to God I only was in possession of the sums he expended on this regiment; for he considered the regiment as his own; and great as was his avarice, still greater was his desire of fame, and greater still his love for his Empress, for whom he would gladly have yielded both property and life.
Within respect to the money that was to have been repaid for improvement of the estates, I must add, these estates were bought at a time when the country had been left desolate by the Turks, and the reinstalment of such places as had fallen into their hands, and the erecting of farmhouses, mills, stocking them with horses, cattle, and seed corn, according to my poor estimate, could not amount to less than eighty thousand florins; but I was forbidden to go into Sclavonia, and the president offered, as an indemnification, four thousand florins. Everybody was astonished, but he, within the utmost coolness, told me I must either accept this or nothing. The hearers of this sentence cast their eyes up to heaven and pitied me. I remonstrated, and thereby only made the matter worse. Grief and anxiety occasioned me to take a journey into Italy, passing through Venice, Rome, and Florence.
On my return to Vienna, I, by a friendly interference in behalf of a woman whose fears rather than guilt had brought her into danger, became suspected myself; and the very officious officers of the police had me imprisoned as a coiner without the least grounds for any such accusation except their own surmises. I was detained unheard nine days, and when, having been heard, I had entirely justified myself, was again restored to liberty; public declaration was then made in the Gazette that the officers of the police had acted too precipitately.
This was the satisfaction granted, but this did not content me. I threatened the counsellor by whom my character had been so aspersed, and the Empress, condescending to mediate, bestowed on me a captainship of cavalry in the Cordova cuirassiers.
Such was the recompense I received for wounds so deep, and such the neglect into which I was thrown at Vienna. Discontent led me to join my regiment in Hungary.
Here I gained the applause of my colonel, Count Bettoni, who himself told the Empress I, more than any other, had contributed to the forming of the regiment. It may well be imagined how a man like me, accustomed, as I had been, to the first company of the first courts, must pass my time among the Carpathian mountains, where neither society nor good books were to be found, nor knowledge, of which I was enamoured, improved. The conversation of Count Bettoni, and the chase, together with the love of the general of the regiment, old Field-marshal Cordova, were my only resources; the persecutions, neglect, and even contempt, I received at Vienna, were still the same.
In the year 1754, in the month of March, my mother died in Prussia, and I requested the permission of the court that held the inheritance of Trenck, as a fidei commissum, to make a journey to Dantzic to settle some family affairs with my brothers and sister, my estates being confiscated. This permission was granted, and thither I went in May, where I once more fell into the hands of the Prussians; which forms the second great and still more gloomy epoch in my life. All who read what follows will shudder, will commiserate him who, feeling himself innocent, relates afflictions he has miserably encountered and gloriously overcome.
I left Hungary, where I was in garrison, for Dantzic, where I had desired my brothers and sister to meet me that we might settle our affairs. My principal intent, however, was a journey to Petersburg, there to seek the advice and aid of my friends, for law and persecution were not yet ended at Vienna; and my captain’s pay and small income scarcely sufficed to defray charges of attorneys and counsellors.
It is here most worthy of remark that I was told by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, governor of Magdeburg, he had received orders to prepare my prison at Magdeburg before I set out from Hungary.
Nay, more; it had been written from Vienna to Berlin that the King must beware of Trenck, for that he would be at Dantzic at the time when the King was to visit his camp in Prussia.
What thing more vile, what contrivance more abominable, could the wickedest wretch on earth find to banish a man his country, that he might securely enjoy the property of which the other had been robbed? That this was done I have living witnesses in his highness Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick and the Berlin ministry, from whose mouths I learned this artifice of villainy. It is the more necessary to establish this truth, because no one can comprehend why the Great Frederic should have proceeded against me in a manner so cruel that, when it comes to be related, must raise the indignation of the just, and move hearts of iron to commiserate.
Men so vile, so wicked, as I have described them, in conjunction with one Weingarten, secretary to Count Puebla, then Austrian minister at Berlin, have brought on me these my misfortunes.
This was the Weingarten who, as is now well known, betrayed all the secrets of the Austrian court to Frederic, who at length was discovered in the year 1756, and who, when the war broke out, remained in the service of Prussia. This same Weingarten, also, not only caused my wretchedness, but my sister’s ruin and death, as he likewise did the punishment and death of three innocent men, which will hereafter be shown.
It is an incontrovertible truth that I was betrayed and sold by men in Vienna whose interest it was that I should be eternally silenced.
I was immediately visited by my brothers and sister on my arrival at Dantzic, where we lived happy in each other’s company during a fortnight, and an amicable partition was made of my mother’s effects; my sister perfectly justified herself concerning the manner in which I was obliged to fly from her house an the year 1746: our parting was kind, and as brother and sister ought to part.
Our only acquaintance in Dantzic was the Austrian resident, M. Abramson, to whom I brought letters of recommendation from Vicuna, and whose reception of us was polite even to extravagance.
This Abramson was a Prussian born, and had never seen Vienna, but obtained his then office by the recommendation of Count Bestuchef, without security for his good conduct, or proof of his good morals, heart, or head. He was in close connection with the Prussian resident, Reimer; and was made the instrument of my ruin.
Scarcely had my brothers and sister departed before I determined to make a voyage by sea to Russia. Abramson contrived a thousand artifices, by which he detained me a week longer in Dantzic, that, he in conjunction with Reimer, might make the necessary preparations.
The King of Prussia had demanded that the magistrates of Dantzic should deliver me up; but this could not be done without offending the Imperial court, I being a commissioned officer in that service, with proper passports; it was therefore probable that this negotiation required letters should pass and repass; and for this reason Abramson was employed to detain me some days longer, till, by the last letters from Berlin, the magistrates of Dantzic were induced to violate public safety and the laws of nations. Abramson, I considered as my best friend, and my person as in perfect security; he had therefore no difficulty in persuading me to stay.
The day of supposed departure on board a Swedish ship for Riga approached, and the deceitful Abramson promised me to send one of his servants to the port to know the hour. At four in the afternoon he told me he had himself spoken to the captain, who said he would not sail till the next day; adding that he, Abramson, would expect me to breakfast, and would then accompany me to the vessel. I felt a secret inquietude which made me desirous of leaving Dantzic, and immediately to send all my luggage, and to sleep on board. Abramson prevented me, dragging me almost forcibly along with him, telling me he had much company, and that I must absolutely dine and sup at his house; accordingly I did not return to my inn till eleven at night.
I was but just in bed when I heard a tremendous knocking at my chamber door, which was not shut, and two of the city magistrates with twenty grenadiers entered my chamber, and surrounded my bed so suddenly that I had not time to take to my arms and defend myself. My three servants had been secured and I was told that the most worthy magistracy of Dantzic was obliged to deliver me up as a delinquent to his majesty the King of Prussia.
What were my feelings at seeing myself thus betrayed! They silently conducted me to the city prison, where I remained twenty-four hours. About noon Abramson came to visit me, affected to be infinitely concerned and enraged, and affirmed he had strongly protested against the illegality of this proceeding to the magistracy, as I was actually in the Austrian service; but that they had answered him the court of Vienna had afforded them a precedent, for that, in 1742, they had done the same by the two sons of the burgomaster Rutenberg, of Dantzic, and that, therefore, they were justified in making reprisal; and likewise, they durst not refuse the most earnest request accompanied with threats, of the King of Prussia.
Their plea of retaliation originated as follows:—There was a kind of club at Vienna, the members of which were seized for having committed the utmost extravagance and debauchery, two of whom were the sons of the burgomaster Rutenberg, and who were sentenced to the pillory. Great sums were offered by the father to avoid this public disgrace, but ineffectually—they were punished, their punishment was legal, and had no similarity whatever to my case, nor could it any way justly give pretence of reprisal.
Abramson, who had in reality entered no protest whatever, but rather excited the magistracy, and acted in concert with Reimer, advised me to put my writings and other valuable effects into his hands, otherwise they would be seized. He knew I had received letters of exchange from my brothers and sister, about seven thousand florins, and these I gave him, but kept my ring, worth about four thousand, and some sixty guineas, which I had in my purse. He then embraced me, declared nothing should be neglected to effect my immediate deliverance; that even he would raise the populace for that purpose; that I could not be given up to the Prussians in less than a week, the magistracy being still undetermined in an affair so serious, and he left me, shedding abundance of crocodile tears, like the most affectionate of friends.
The next night two magistrates, with their posse, came to my prison, attended by resident Reimer, a Prussian officer and under officers, and into their hands I was delivered. The pillage instantly began; Reimer tore off my ring, seized my watch, snuff-box, and all I had, not so much as sending me a coat or shirt from my effects; after which, they put me into a close coach with three Prussians. The Dantzic guard accompanied the carriage to the city gate, that was opened to let me pass; after which the Dantzic dragoons escorted me as far as Lauenburg in Pomerania.
I have forgotten the date of this miserable day; but to the best of my memory, it must have been in the beginning of June. Thirty Prussian hussars, commanded by a lieutenant, relieved the dragoons at Lauenburg, and thus was I escorted from garrison to garrison, till I arrived at Berlin.
Hence it was evidently falsely affirmed, by the magistracy of Dantzic, and the conspirator Abramson, who wrote in his own excuse to Vienna, that my seizure must be attributed wholly to my own imprudence, and that I had exposed myself to this arrest by going without the city gates, where I was taken and carried off; nor was it less astonishing that the court of Vienna should not have demanded satisfaction for the treachery of the Dantzickers toward an Austrian officer. I have incontrovertibly proved this treachery, after I had regained my liberty Abramson indeed they could not punish, for during my imprisonment he had quitted the Austrian for the Prussian service, where he gradually became so contemptible, that in the year 1764, when I was released from my imprisonment, he was himself imprisoned in the house of correction; and his wife, lately so rich, was obliged to beg her bread. Thus have I generally lived to see the fall of my betrayers; and thus have I found that, without indulging personal revenge, virtue and fortitude must at length triumph over the calumniator and the despot.
This truth will be further proved hereafter, nor can I behold, unmoved, the open shame in which my persecutors live, and how they tremble in my presence, their wicked deeds now being known to the world Nay, monarchs may yet punish their perfidy:—Yet not so!—May they rather die in possession of wealth they have torn from me! I only wish the pity and respect of the virtuous and the wise.
But, though Austria has never resented the affront commenced on the person of an officer in its service, still have I a claim on the city of Dantzic, where I was thus treacherously delivered up, for the effects I there was robbed of, the amount of which is between eleven and twelve thousand florins. This is a case too clear to require argument, and the publication of this history will make it known to the world. This claim also, among others, I leave to the children of an unfortunate father.
Enough of digression; let us attend to the remarkable events which happened on the dismal journey to Berlin. I was escorted from garrison to garrison, which were distant from each other two, three, or at most five miles; wherever I came, I found compassion and respect. The detachment of hussars only attended me two days; it consisted of twelve men and an officer, who rode with me in the carriage.
The fourth day I arrived at ---, where the Duke of Wirtemberg, father of the present Grand Duchess of Russia, was commander, and where his regiment was in quarters. The Duke conversed with me, was much moved, invited me to dine, and detained me all the day, where I was not treated as a prisoner. I so far gained his esteem that I was allowed to remain there the next day; the chief persons of the place were assembled, and the Duchess, whom he had lately married, testified every mark of pity and consideration. I dined with him also on the third day, after which I departed in an open carriage, without escort, attended only by a lieutenant of his regiment.
I must relate this, event circumstantially for it not only proves the just and noble character of the Duke, but likewise that there are moments in which the brave may appear cowards, the clear-sighted blind, and the wise foolish; nay, one might almost be led to conclude, from this, that my imprisonment at Magdeburg, was the consequence of predestination, since I remained riveted in stupor, in despite of suggestions, forebodings, and favourable opportunities. Who but must be astonished, having read the daring efforts I made at Glatz, at this strange insensibility now in the very crisis of my fate? I afterwards was convinced it was the intention of the noble-minded Duke that I should escape, and that he must have given particular orders to the successive officers. He would probably have willingly subjected himself to the reprimands of Frederic if I would have taken to fight. The journey through the places where his regiment was stationed continued five days, and I everywhere passed the evenings in the company of the officers, the kindness of whom was unbounded I slept in their quarters without sentinel, and travelled in their carriages, without other guard than a single officer in the carriage. In various places the high road was not more than two, and sometimes one mile from the frontier road; therefore nothing could have been easier than to have escaped; yet did the same Trenck, who in Glatz had cut his way through thirty men to obtain his freedom, that Trenck, who had never been acquainted with fear, now remain four days bewildered, and unable to come to any determination.
In a small garrison town, I lodged in the house of a captain of cavalry, and continually was treated by him with every mark of friendship. After dinner he rode at the head of his squadron to water the horse, unsaddled. I remained alone in the house, entered the stable, saw three remaining horses, with saddles and bridles; in my chamber was my sword and a pair of pistols. I had but to mount one of the horses and fly to the opposite gate. I meditated on the project, and almost resolved to put it in execution, but presently became undetermined by some secret impulse. The captain returned some time after, and appeared surprised to find me still there. The next day he accompanied me alone in his carriage; we came to a forest, he saw some champignons, stopped, asked me to alight, and help him to gather them; he strayed more than a hundred paces from me, and gave me entire liberty to fly; yet notwithstanding all this, I voluntarily returned, suffering myself to be led like a sheep to the slaughter.
I was treated so well, during my stay at this place, and escorted with so much negligence, that I fell into a gross error. Perceiving they conveyed me straight to Berlin, I imagined the King wished to question me concerning the plan formed for the war, which was then on the point of breaking out. This plan I perfectly knew, the secret correspondence of Bestuchef having all passed through my hands, which circumstance was much better known at Berlin than at Vienna. Confirmed in this opinion, and far from imagining the fate that awaited me, I remained irresolute, insensible, and blind to danger. Alas, how short was this hope! How quickly was it succeeded by despair! when, after four days’ march, I quitted the district under the command of the Duke of Wirtemberg, and was delivered up to the first garrison of infantry at Coslin! The last of the Wirtemberg officers, when taking leave of me, appeared to be greatly affected; and from this moment till I came to Berlin, I was under a strong escort, and the given orders were rigorously observed.
Arrived here, I was lodged over the grand guardhouse, with two sentinels in my chamber, and one at the door. The King was at Potzdam, and here I remained three days; on the third, some staff-officers made their appearance, seated themselves at a table, and put the following questions to me:—
First. What was my business at Dantzic?
Secondly. Whether I was acquainted with M. Goltz, Prussian ambassador to Russia?
Thirdly. Who was concerned with me in the conspiracy at Dantzic?
When I perceived their intention, by these interrogations, I absolutely refused to reply, only saying I had been imprisoned in the fortress of Glatz, without hearing, or trial by court-martial; that, availing myself of the laws of nature, I had by my own exertions procured my liberty, and that I was now a captain of cavalry in the imperial service; that I demanded a legal trial for my first unknown offence, after which I engaged to answer all interrogatories, and prove my innocence; but that at present, being accused of new crimes, without a hearing concerning my former punishment, the procedure was illegal. I was told they had no orders concerning this, and I remained dumb to all further questions.
They wrote some two hours, God knows what; a carriage came up; I was strictly searched, to find whether I had any weapons; thirteen or fourteen ducats, which I had concealed, were taken from me, and I was conducted under a strong escort, through Spandau to Magdeburg. The officer here delivered me to the captain of the guard at the citadel; the town major came, and brought me to the dungeon, expressly prepared for me; a small picture of the Countess of Bestuchef, set with diamonds, which I had kept concealed in my bosom, was now taken from me; the door was shut, and here was I left.
My dungeon was in a casemate, the fore part of which, six feet wide and ten feet long, was divided by a party wall. In the inner wall were two doors, and a third at the entrance of the casemate itself. The window in the seven-feet-thick wall was so situated that, though I had light, I could see neither heaven nor earth; I could only see the roof of the magazine; within and without this window were iron bars, and in the space between an iron grating, so close and so situated, by the rising of the walls, that it was impossible I should see any parson without the prison, or that any person should see me. On the outside was a wooden palisade, six feet from the wall, by which the sentinels were prevented from conveying anything to me. I had a mattress, and a bedstead, but which was immovably ironed to the floor, so that it was impossible I should drag it, and stand up to the window; beside the door was a small iron stove and a night table, in like manner fixed to the floor. I was not yet put in irons, and my allowance was a pound and a half per day of ammunition bread, and a jug of water.
From my youth I had always had a good appetite, and my bread was so mouldy I could scarcely at first eat the half of it. This was the consequence of Major Reiding’s avarice, who endeavoured to profit even by this, so great was the number of unfortunate prisoners; therefore, it is impossible I should describe to my readers the excess of tortures that, during eleven months, I felt from ravenous hunger. I could easily every day have devoured six pounds of bread; and every twenty-four hours after having received and swallowed my small portion, I continued as hungry as before I began, yet must wait another twenty-four hours for a new morsel. How willingly would I have signed a bill of exchange for a thousand ducats, on my property at Vienna, only to have satiated my hunger on dry bread! For, so extreme was it, that scarcely had I dropt into a sweet sleep. Therefore I dreamed I was feasting at some table luxuriously loaded, where, eating like a glutton, the whole company were astonished to see me, while my imagination was heated by the sensation of famine. Awakened by the pains of hunger, the dishes vanished, and nothing remained but the reality of my distress; the cravings of nature were but inflamed, my tortures prevented sleep, and, looking into futurity, the cruelty of my fate suffered, if possible, increase, from imagining that the prolongation of pangs like these was insupportable. God preserve every honest man from sufferings like mine! They were not to be endured by the villain most obdurate. Many have fasted three days, many have suffered want for a week, or more; but certainly no one, beside myself, ever endured it in the same excess for eleven months. Some have supposed that to eat little might become habitual, but I have experienced the contrary. My hunger increased every day; and of all the trials of fortitude my whole life has afforded, this, of eleven months, was the most bitter.
Petitions, remonstrances, were of no avail; the answer was—“We must give no more, such is the King’s command.” The Governor, General Borck, born the enemy of man, replied, when I entreated, at least, to have my fill of bread, “You have feasted often enough out of the service of plate taken from the King, by Trenck, at the battle of Sorau; you must now eat ammunition bread in your dirty kennel. Your Empress makes no allowance for your maintenance, and you are unworthy of the bread you eat, or the trouble taken about you.” Judge, reader, what pangs such insolence, added to such sufferings must inflict. Judge what were my thoughts, foreseeing, as I did, an endless duration to this imprisonment and these torments.
My three doors were kept ever shut, and I was left to such meditations as such feelings and such hopes might inspire. Daily, about noon, once in twenty-four hours, my pittance of bread and water was brought. The keys of all the doors were kept by the governor; the inner door was not opened, but my bread and water were delivered through an aperture. The prison doors were opened only once a week, on a Wednesday, when the governor and town major, my hole having been first cleaned, paid their visit.
Having remained thus two months, and observed this method was invariable, I began to execute a project I had formed, of the possibility of which I was convinced.
Where the night-table and stove stood, the floor was bricked, and this paving extended to the wall that separated my casemate from the adjoining one, in which was no prisoner. My window was only guarded by a single sentinel; I therefore soon found, among those who successively relieved guard, two kind-hearted fellows, who described to me the situation of my prison; hence I perceived I might effect my escape, could I but penetrate into the adjoining casemate, the door of which was not shut. Provided I had a friend and a boat waiting for me at the Elbe, or could I swim across that river, the confines of Saxony were but a mile distant.
To describe my plan at length would lead to prolixity, yet I must enumerate some of its circumstances, as it was remarkably intricate and of gigantic labour.
I worked through the iron, eighteen inches long, by which the night-table was fastened, and broke off the clinchings of the nails, but preserved their heads, that I might put them again in their places, and all might appear secure to my weekly visitors. This procured me tools to raise up the brick floor, under which I found earth. My first attempt was to work a hole through the wall, seven feet thick behind, and concealed by the night-table. The first layer was of brick. I afterwards came to large hewn stones. I endeavoured accurately to number and remember the bricks, both of the flooring and the wall, so that I might replace them and all might appear safe. This having accomplished, I proceeded.
The day preceding visitation all was carefully replaced, and the intervening mortar as carefully preserved; the whole had, probably, been whitewashed a hundred times; and, that I might fill up all remaining interstices, I pounded the white stuff this afforded, wetted it, made a brush of my hair, then applied this plaster, washed it over, that the colour might be uniform, and afterwards stripped myself, and sat with my naked body against the place, by the heat of which it was dried.
While labouring, I placed the stones and bricks upon my bedstead, and had they taken the precaution to come at any other time in the week, the stated Wednesday excepted, I had inevitably been discovered; but, as no such ill accident befell me, in six months my Herculean labours gave me a prospect of success.
Means were to be found to remove the rubbish from my prison; all of which, in a wall so thick, it was impossible to replace; mortar and stone could not be removed. I therefore took the earth, scattered it about my chamber, and ground it under my feet the whole day, till I had reduced it to dust; this dust I strewed in the aperture of my window, making use of the loosened night-table to stand upon, I tied splinters from my bedstead together, with the ravelled yarn of an old stocking, and to this I affixed a tuft of my hair. I worked a large hole under the middle grating, which could not be seen when standing on the ground, and through this I pushed my dust with the tool I had prepared in the outer window, then, waiting till the wind should happen to rise, during the night I brushed it away, it was blown off, and no appearance remained on the outside. By this simple expedient I rid myself of at least three hundred weight of earth, and thus made room to continue my labours; yet, this being still insufficient, I had recourse to another artifice, which was to knead up the earth in the form of sausages, to resemble the human fæces: these I dried, and when the prisoner came to clean my dungeon, hastily tossed them into the night-table, and thus disencumbered myself of a pound or two more of earth each week. I further made little balls, and, when the sentinel was walking, blew them, through a paper tube, out of the window. Into the empty space I put my mortar and stones, and worked on successfully.
I cannot, however, describe my difficulties after having penetrated about two feet into the hewn stone. My tools were the irons I had dug out, which fastened may bedstead and night-table. A compassionate soldier also gave me an old iron ramrod and a soldier’s sheath knife, which did me excellent service, more especially the latter, as I shall presently more fully show. With these two I cut splinters from my bedstead, which aided me to pick the mortar from the interstices of the stone; yet the labour of penetrating through this seven-feet wall was incredible; the building was ancient, and the mortar occasionally quite petrified, so that the whole stone was obliged to be reduced to dust. After continuing my work unremittingly for six months, I at length approached the accomplishment of my hopes, as I knew by coming to the facing of brick, which now was only between me and the adjoining casemate.
Meantime I found opportunity to speak to some of the sentinels, among whom was an old grenadier called Gelfhardt, whom I here name because he displayed qualities of the greatest and most noble kind. From him I learned the precise situation of my prison, and every circumstance that might best conduce to my escape.
Nothing was wanting but money to buy a boat, and crossing the Elbe with Gelfhardt, to take refuge in Saxony. By Gelfhardt’s means I became acquainted with a kind-hearted girl, a Jewess, and a native of Dessau, Esther Heymannin by name, and whose father had been ten years in prison. This good, compassionate maiden, whom I had never seen, won over two other grenadiers, who gave her an opportunity of speaking to me every time they stood sentinel. By tying my splinters together, I made a stick long enough to reach beyond the palisades that were before my window, and thus obtained paper, another knife, and a file.
I now wrote to my sister, the wife of the before-mentioned only son of General Waldow; described my awful situation, and entreated her to remit three hundred rix-dollars to the Jewess, hoping, by this means, I might escape from my prison. I then wrote another affecting letter to Count Puebla, the Austrian ambassador at Berlin, in which was enclosed a draft for a thousand florins on my effects at Vienna, desiring him to remit these to the Jewess, having promised her that sum as a reward for her fidelity. She was to bring the three hundred rix-dollars my sister should send to me, and take measures with the grenadiers to facilitate my flight, which nothing seemed able to prevent, I having the power either to break into the casemate or, aided by the grenadiers and the Jewess’ to cut the locks from the doors and that way escape from my dungeon. The letters were open, I being obliged to roll them round the stick to convey them to Esther.
The faithful girl diligently proceeded to Berlin, where she arrived safe, and immediately spoke to Count Puebla. The Count gave her the kindest reception, received the letter, with the letter of exchange, and bade her go and speak to Weingarten, the secretary of the embassy, and act entirely as he should direct. She was received by Weingarten in the most friendly manner, who, by his questions, drew from her the whole secret, and our intended plan of flight, aided by the two grenadiers, and also that she had a letter for my sister, which she must carry to Hammer, near Custrin. He asked to see this letter; read it, told her to proceed on her Journey, gave her two ducats to bear her expenses, ordered her to come to him on her return, said that during this interval he would endeavour to obtain her the thousand florins for my draft, and would then give her further instructions.
Esther cheerfully departed for Hammer, where my sister, then a widow, and no longer, as in 1746, in dread of her husband, joyful to hear I was still living, immediately gave her three hundred rix-dollars, exhorting her to exert every possible means to obtain my deliverance. Esther hastened back with the letter from my sister to Berlin, and told all that passed to Weingarten, who read the letter, and inquired the names of the two grenadiers. He told her the thousand florins from Vienna were not yet come, but gave her twelve ducats; bade her hasten back to Magdeburg, to carry me all this good news, and then return to Berlin, where he would pay her the thousand florins. Esther came to Magdeburg, went immediately to the citadel, and, most luckily, met the wife of one of the grenadiers, who told her that her husband and his comrade had been taken and put in irons the day before. Esther had quickness of perception, and suspected we had been betrayed; she therefore instantly again began her travels, and happily came safe to Dessau.
Here I must interrupt my narrative, that I may explain this infernal enigma to my readers, an account of which I received after I had obtained my freedom, and still possess, in the handwriting of this Jewess. Weingarten, as was afterwards discovered, was a traitor, and too much trusted by Count Puebla, he being a spy in the pay of Prussia, and one who had revealed, in the court of Berlin, not only the secrets of the Imperial embassy, but also the whole plan of the projected war. For this reason he afterwards, when war broke out, remained at Berlin in the Prussian service. His reason for betraying me was that he might secure the thousand florins which I had drawn for on Vienna; for the receipt of the 24th of May, 1755, attests that the sum was paid, by the administrators of my effects, to Count Puebla, and has since been brought to account; nor can I believe that Weingarten did not appropriate this sum to himself, since I cannot be persuaded the ambassador would commit such an action, although the receipt is in his handwriting, as may easily be demonstrated, it being now in my possession. Thus did Weingarten, that he might detain a thousand florins with impunity, bring new evils upon me and upon my sister, which occasioned her premature death; caused one grenadier to run the gauntlet three successive days, and another to be hung.
Esther alone escaped, and since gave me an elucidation of the whole affair. The report at Magdeburg was, that a Jewess had obtained money from my sister and bribed two grenadiers, and that one of these had trusted and been betrayed by his comrade. Indeed, what other story could be told at Magdeburg, or how could it be known I had been betrayed to the Prussian ministry by the Imperial secretary? The truth, however, is as I have stated: my account-book exists, and the Jewess is still alive.
Her poor imprisoned father was punished with more than a hundred blows to make him declare whether his daughter had entrusted him with the plot, or if he knew whither she was fled, and miserably died in fetters. Such was the mischief occasioned by a rascal! And who might be blamed but the imprudent Count Puebla?
In the year 1766, this said Jewess demanded of me a thousand florins; and I wrote to Count Puebla, that, having his receipt for the sum, which never had been repaid, I begged it might be restored. He received my agent with rudeness, returned no answer, and seemed to trouble himself little concerning my loss. Whether the heirs of the Count be, or be not, indebted to me these thousand florins and the interest, I leave the world to determine. Thrice have I been betrayed at Vienna and sold to Berlin, like Joseph to the Egyptians. My history proves the origin of my persuasion that residents, envoys, and ambassadors must be men of known worth and honesty, and not the vilest of rascals and miscreants. But, alas! the effects and money they have robbed me of have never been restored; and for the miseries they have brought upon me, they could not be recompensed by the wealth of any or all the monarchs on earth. Estates they may, but truth they cannot confiscate; and of the villainy of Abramson and Weingarten I have documents and proofs that no court of justice could disannul. Stop, reader, if thou hast a heart, and in that heart compassion for the unfortunate! Stop and imagine what my sensations are while I remember and recount a part only of the injustice that has been done me, a part only of the tyranny I have endured! By this last act of treachery of Weingarten was I held in chains, the most horrible, for nine succeeding years! By him was an innocent man brought to the gallows! By him, too, my sister, my beloved, my unfortunate sister, was obliged to build a dungeon at her own expense! besides being amerced in a fine, the extent of which I never could learn. Her goods were plundered, her estates made a desert, her children fell into extreme poverty, and she herself expired in her thirty-third year, the victim of cruelty, persecution, her brother’s misfortunes, and the treachery of the Imperial embassy!
 A common expression with Frederic when he was angry, and which has since become proverbial among the Prussian and other German officers. See Critical Review, April, 1755.
 The same Doo who was governor of Glatz during the Seven Years’ war, and who, having been surprised by General Laudohu, was made prisoner, which occasioned the loss of Glatz. The King broke him with infamy, and banished him with contempt. In 1764 he came to Vienna, where I gave him alms. He was, by birth, an Italian, a selfish, wicked man; and, while major under the government of Fouquet, at Glatz, brought many people to misery. He was the creature of Fouquet, without birth or merit; crafty, malignant, but handsome, and, having debauched his patron’s daughter, afterwards married her; whence at first his good, and at length his ill fortune. He wanted knowledge to defend a fortress against the enemy, and his covetousness rendered him easy to corrupt.
 The German mile contains from four to seven English miles, and this variation appears to depend on the ignorance of the people and on the roads being in some places but little frequented. It seems probable the Baron and his friend might travel about 809 English miles.—Translator.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF BARON TRENCK***