The two emperors made their entry into the decorated city of Weimar amidst pealing bells, and the cheers of the people. The Duchess of Weimar, just as she had done two years before, received the French conqueror at the head of the palace staircase; this time, however, she was not alone, but her husband, whom the emperor had formerly hated and reviled so bitterly, stood at her side. Napoleon greeted the ducal couple with his most winning smile.

The events of those terrible days of the past had been well-nigh forgotten. A short time had sufficed to veil their memory, and Napoleon was a welcome and highly-honored guest two years after the battle of Jena. No vestige of the former distress remained; but the laurels of the victor had not withered.

A vast number of carriages, horsemen, and pedestrians, filled the streets. The whole country had sent its representatives to greet the emperors. All the houses were ornamented with flags, festoons, busts, and laudatory inscriptions. But no one cared to stay at home. The inhabitants and strangers hastened to the forest of Ettersburg, to witness the great chase which the Duke of Weimar had arranged in honor of the imperial guests.—Several hundred deer had been driven up and fenced in, close to the large clearing which was to be the scene of this day's festivities. In the middle rose a huge hunting-pavilion, the roof of which rested on pillars twined with flowers. Here the two emperors were to witness the chase, and the two wings of the structure were assigned to the kings, dukes, and princes. All eyes and thoughts, therefore, were turned in that direction; and yet no one noticed particularly two youthful forms, wrapped in cloaks and leaning against an oak near the gamekeepers. The merry clamor and the bugle-calls of the hunters drowned the conversation of these young men. No one was surprised at seeing rifles in their hands; they might be hunters or gamekeepers—who could tell?

"I believe," said one of them, in a whisper, "we shall accomplish nothing. My rifle does not carry far enough to hit him, and we are not allowed to approach nearer."

"It is impossible to take a sure aim from here," replied the other. "My eye does not reach so far; I could fire only at random into the pavilion."

"The order says, however, to strike him alone, and not to endanger other lives," said the first speaker. "The president said, if we kill him, it would be an act of justice; but if we are so unfortunate as to kill another, it would be murder."

"Oh, what sophistries to lull the warning voice of conscience!" murmured the second speaker; "I—"

Loud cheers interrupted him; the notes of bugles and the roll of drums mingled with the general uproar. The people seemed wild with excitement, and the deer in the enclosure huddled together in terror. The two emperors with their suites had just arrived.

"Look at him, brother," whispered the young man to his companion; "look at the weird contrast of his gloomy countenance with the merry faces around him. He stands like some incarnate spirit of evil in the midst of laughing fools."

"Yes, but he is himself merry, brother Alfred, or seems to be," said his companion.

"The groans of poor Germania are not heard in the flatteries of her princes, who are fawning around him, and guarding him so well that the hand of a true German cannot reach him."

"But the sword is hanging over him, brother Conrad," said Alfred, "and if it do not fall on him to-day, it will to-morrow. Let us wait and watch for an opportunity."

"Yes, Alfred, let us wait. We know not what favorable chance may aid us."

The chase commenced; amidst deafening shouts the game were driven from the enclosure. Whenever a deer passed near the pavilion, the two emperors fired, and when the noble animal fell at perhaps ten yards' distance, the spectators cheered, the bugles sounded, and the two imperial sportsmen congratulated each other on their skill.

"It is in vain to stand here any longer," said Conrad, impatiently. "We shall be unable to reach him, and it is repugnant to my feelings to witness this butchery."

"Let us go, brother," whispered Alfred. "We must try to find another opportunity. Let us reflect. Do you know the programme of the day's festivities?"

"I do. After the chase there will be a gala-dinner, and the sovereigns will then ride to the theatre, where the 'Death of Cæsar' will be performed. After the representation of the tragedy, there will be a grand supper and ball at the palace."

"The 'Death of Cæsar?'" asked Conrad, musingly. "Does fate intend giving us a hint thereby? Does it show us where to find him and to strike the blow? Let us be the actors in a similar play, and perform our part at the entrance of the theatre! Are you ready, brother?"

"I am ready," replied Alfred, sighing. "We have sworn to do every thing the league orders us to do—we must obey."

"Yes," said Conrad, sighing, "obey or die. Let us take our daggers to-night, and use them well. Let us place ourselves in front of the theatre, you on the right, and myself on the left. We must strike at the same time, when he alights from his carriage. While all are gazing at him, let us stealthily slip through the crowd. When you hear me shout 'One,' you will shout 'Two!' We will then simultaneously rush forward."

"At what time do we meet?"

"At seven o'clock, and if we escape death and arrest, we shall meet again at the tavern outside the gate. Farewell, brother Alfred!"

"Farewell, brother Conrad!"

On the same evening, a thousand lights illuminated Weimar. That part of the city between the palace and the theatre, where the emperors would pass, was especially brilliant. When after the chase they had withdrawn to rest a little, and the high dignitaries of the court were waiting in the large reception-halls, Grand-Marshal Duroc approached General von Müffling, who had left the Russian service; he was now vice-president in Weimar, and had been charged by the duke with the supervision of the court festivities.

"Tell me, sir," said Duroc, in a low voice, "I suppose you have a good police here?"

"Of course, we have," replied Müffling, smiling, "that is to say, we have a police to attend to sweeping the chimneys and cleaning the streets, but as to a haute police, we still live in a state of perfect innocence."

"The emperor, then, is to go to the theatre, and your police have taken no precautions for his safety?" asked Duroc, anxiously.

"I believe it is so, M. Grand Marshal. If you wish to make any arrangements, pray do so, and I shall approve them."

"Thank you," said Duroc, bowing. "I have secretly sent for a brigade of French gendarmes. Will you permit them to guard the doors of the theatre, and keep the populace from the streets along which the emperors will ride?"

"Do as you please, M. Grand Marshal," said General von Müffling, with a slightly sarcastic smile. "A detachment of the imperial guard will be drawn up in front of the theatre, and hence I deemed any further precautions entirely superfluous."

"The grenadiers are posted there only as a guard of honor," said Duroc; "I hasten to send the gendarmes thither."

Fifteen minutes afterward the whole route from the palace to the theatre was guarded by gendarmes, who pushed back all who tried to cross the narrow sidewalks, or to step into the street along which the carriages were rolling. A double line of grenadiers was drawn up in front of the theatre. An officer walked up and down, gazing anxiously along the street, in order to command the drummers to beat according to the rank of the sovereigns arriving. For the emperors they were to roll thrice, for the kings twice, and but once for the sovereign dukes and princes. The drummers had just rolled three times, for the Emperor Alexander had arrived. Another magnificent carriage approached; the coachman on the box was covered with gold lace, and two runners, entirely clad in gold brocade, accompanied. Two rolls had already been beaten, a third was about to commence, when the commanding officer waved his hand angrily, and shouted, "Silence! It is only a king!" The stout form of the King of Würtemberg appeared, and hastened into the theatre. Another carriage approached. The drummers beat louder than before. Once, twice! And then a third roll. The grenadiers presented arms, and the people rushed forward. It was the Emperor Napoleon.

At this moment a young man elbowed himself through the crowd. He was already close to the emperor. Only a single gendarme was in front of him.

"One!" he shouted in a ringing voice, pushing aside the gendarme. "One!" he repeated. No voice replied.

"Stand back!" cried the guard.

The emperor walked past. He had heard the shout. At the door he turned his stern face, while his eyes flashed for a moment searchingly over the crowd. He then slowly walked on. No accident disturbed the representation, and the daggers that had been lurking outside for the modern Cæsar had failed to strike him.

On the same evening the two conspirators met at the place agreed on. With disappointed faces they seemed to read each other's secret thoughts.

"Why did you not reply to me, brother?" asked Conrad. "Why were you silent when I gave the signal?"

"I was unable to get through the crowd," said Alfred. "The gendarmes refused to let me pass, and it appeared to me they were eying me suspiciously. It was impossible to penetrate to the spot indicated. I heard you call, but could not reply; I was too far from you."

"The work, then, must be done to-morrow," said Conrad, gravely and sadly.

"Remember, brother, that the order of the president was to strike the blow within a week. To-morrow is the last day!"

"Yes, to-morrow we must desecrate the sacred cause of the fatherland by an assassination," said Alfred, sighing. "But we have sworn not to shrink from death if the league requires it, and must obey!"

"We must obey or die," murmured Conrad. "Do you know the programme of to-morrow?"

"I do, brother. Napoleon wishes to show the battle-field of Jena to the Emperor Alexander, and to the kings and princes; and the Duke of Weimar, who participated in the battle at the head of a Prussian division, has arranged, in harmless self-irony, a hare-hunt. That will be a highly dignified celebration of the anniversary of that battle."

"Oh, Germania! how thou must suffer!" groaned Conrad. "It is time for us to place a bloody offering on thy altar! It must be done to-morrow. The road to Jena crosses the small forest of the Webicht. Let us place ourselves there close to the road, armed with our muskets. One of their balls will surely hit him. We must both shoot at the same time."

"To-morrow, then, in the forest of the Webicht!"

On the following day the imperial and royal visitors repaired to Jena, in order to hunt hares on the battle-field of Napoleon's famous victory. On the Landgrafenberg, where Napoleon two years ago had spent the night before the battle at a bivouac-fire, a magnificent tent had been erected, and the Duke of Weimar begged leave to call it henceforth "Napoleonsberg." Napoleon granted the request, smilingly, and then asked the company to take a walk with him across the battle-field, that he might explain to them the various operations of the great struggle. This request of course was received with general joy, and the party descended into the valley. Napoleon led the way; on his right Alexander, on his left Prince William of Prussia, whom he had taken care to have by his side. All listened in breathless silence to his words, which were growing more and more enthusiastic. He disclosed to his audience his own plans and motives, as well as the disastrous dispositions of his enemies. Alexander listened to him musingly; the German kings and princes, in breathless suspense. The French marshals, however, looked discontented while their sovereign was speaking. Once, when the emperor was just expatiating in glowing words on the correct mode of warfare, his eyes happened to meet the countenance of Berthier, Prince of Neufchatel, and noticed the dissatisfied expression of his features.

When Napoleon repaired to his tent, he ordered Marshal Berthier to follow him. "Berthier, why did you look so angry?"

"Sire," faltered Berthier, in confusion, "I do not know that I did."

"But I know it. Why were you dissatisfied? Speak! I command you!"

"Well, if your majesty insists, I will speak," exclaimed Berthier. "Your majesty apparently forgot what you have repeated to us so often: that we ought always to treat our allies as though they afterward might become our enemies. Is your majesty not afraid lest the sovereigns should profit hereafter by the excellent lessons given them to-day?"

The emperor smiled. "Berthier," he said, kindly, "that is truly a bold rebuke, and hence I like it. I believe you take me for a babbler. You think, then, Prince of Neufchatel," he added, bending over Berthier and pulling his ear, "that I have put whips into the hands of the German princes which they might use against us! Be not alarmed; I do not tell them every thing." And Napoleon opened the door of the tent with a laugh, and gave the signal for the hunt to begin.

Not a human voice was to be heard in the forest of Webicht, which was generally much frequented. It was but a bird's song that broke the deep silence. Suddenly there was a rustling noise in the autumnal leaves covering the ground, and quick footsteps approached the road crossing the middle of the forest.

Two young men, wrapped in cloaks, glided through the woods, and stationed themselves behind a couple of large beeches. They looked searchingly along the road; opened their cloaks, and raised their weapons to examine them, that they might make sure work.

"All right," said Conrad.

"All right," echoed Alfred.

"When I call out 'One,' we must both fire!"

"Yes, but we have been ordered to kill none but him," said Alfred, hesitatingly. "What if he does not ride alone? If one of the balls should strike an innocent man?"

"If one of his marshals or adjutants sits beside him he would not be an innocent man, for he has assisted in making our country unhappy! Let German soil drink his blood! He must not prevent us from carrying out our purpose. We cannot shrink from it, because we have sworn obedience to the league, and this is the last day. We must do or die!"

"Hush! let us listen and watch for him, brother Conrad." Soon the roll of wheels was heard. The two conspirators raised their muskets as the carriage approached. It could be seen that it contained two persons.

"It is he," whispered Alfred. "But who is seated by his side?"

"One of his adjutants," said Conrad; "no matter! Let us aim, brother." The large trunks of the beeches concealed the forms of the conspirators.

"When I command, we fire!" whispered Conrad.

So close were they now that the persons seated in the coach could be recognized. The man sitting on the right was Napoleon. But who was the young man with the fine but downcast face?

"Stop," whispered Alfred. "Do not shoot, brother! He is no Frenchman! He is a German prince, the brother of the King of Prussia! We cannot fire!"

"No, we must not fire at the brother of the unfortunate King of Prussia!" murmured Conrad, lowering his arm. As the carriage passed by, the conspirators could distinctly hear the words of Napoleon and his companion. "A fine, fragrant forest," said the former, in his sonorous voice, "just the thing for German poets and dreamers. For I suppose, prince, the Germans like to dream?"

"Sire," said Prince William, mournfully, "I believe your majesty has at last disturbed them in their visionary musings."

Napoleon burst into laughter, which resounded through the forest, and startled the pale men standing behind the trees, and gazing gloomily after him. He chatted gayly beside Prince William, without suspecting that he, the brother of the King of Prussia, whom Napoleon had humbled so often and so grievously, had just saved his life.

"We have failed again," said Alfred, when the noise of the wheels was dying away in the distance. "The last day is nearly gone. What shall we reply to the brethren when they ask us how we have carried out the order which our country sent us? What shall we reply when they call us to account?"

"We shall tell them that Heaven refused to allow the sacred cause of Germany to be desecrated by murder!" exclaimed Conrad, gravely; "that, faithful to our obligation, although with reluctant hearts, we tried to accomplish our mission, but that we were restrained and our strength was paralyzed. You will tell them so, brother—you alone. Tell them that I was not forgetful of the oath I took on the day I joined the league. Having been unable to obey, I die! Farewell, brother!" A shot reëchoed in the silent forest.

Not long after, a man, with livid cheeks and wild eyes, might have been seen hastening across the distant heath on the other side of the woods. As he ran he whispered, "Unhappy Germany!" These were the last words of his companion Conrad, who lay dead on the fallen leaves.

Two days after their return from Weimar, on the 10th of October, the emperors signed the treaty about which they had agreed, and in which Romanzoff had been obliged to acquiesce. France consented in this treaty that Russia should take possession of Moldavia and Wallachia. Russia also agreed to whatever changes Napoleon had made, and would hereafter make, in regard to the government of Spain, and engaged to assist him in a war against Austria.

On the 14th of October they left Erfurt, and returned to their states. The object of their meeting had been attained; both had derived benefit from it. Alexander had gained Moldavia and Wallachia; Napoleon, a powerful friend and ally. Europe received tremblingly the news of this alliance of the West and the East. What hopes remained to Germany!—to that dismembered country, over whose battle-fields Russia and France had joined hands and concerted measures against the most powerful of its states—Austria!

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches NAPOLEON AND THE QUEEN OF PRUSSIA