The consequence is, all countries, especially all German countries, are infested with a new species of predatory two-legged animals: Prussian recruiters. They glide about, under disguise if necessary; lynx-eyed, eager almost as the Jesuit hounds are; not hunting the souls of men, as the spiritual Jesuits do, but their bodies in a merciless carnivorous manner. Better not to be too tall, in any country, at present! Irish Kirkman could not be protected by the aegis of the British Constitution itself. In general, however, the Prussian recruiter, on British ground, reports, That the people are too well off, that there is little to be done in those parts. A tall British sailor, if we pick him up strolling about Memel or the Baltic ports, is inexorably claimed by the Diplomatists; no business do-able till after restoration of him; and he proves a mere loss to us. [Despatches in the State-Paper Office.] Germany, Holland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, these are the fruitful fields for us, and there we do hunt with some vigor.
For example, in the town of Julich there lived and worked a tall young carpenter: one day a well-dressed positive-looking gentleman ("Baron von Hompesch," the records name him) enters the shop; wants "a stout chest, with lock on it, for household purposes; must be of such and such dimensions, six feet six in length especially, and that is an indispensable point,--in fact it will be longer than yourself, I think, Herr Zimmermann: what is the cost; when can it be ready?" Cost, time, and the rest are settled. "A right stout chest, then; and see you don't forget the size; if too short, it will be of no use to me: mind;"--"JA WOHL! GEWISS!" And the positive-looking, well-clad gentleman goes his ways. At the appointed day he reappears; the chest is ready;-- we hope, an unexceptionable article? "Too short, as I dreaded!" says the positive gentleman. "Nay, your honor," says the carpenter, "I am certain it is six feet six!" and takes out his foot-rule.--"Pshaw, it was to be longer than yourself." "Well, it is."--"No it isn't!" The carpenter, to end the matter, gets into his chest; and will convince any and all mortals. No sooner is he in, rightly flat, than the positive gentleman, a Prussian recruiting officer in disguise, slams down the lid upon him; locks it; whistles in three stout fellows, who pick up the chest, gravely walk through the streets with it, open it in a safe place; and find-horrible to relate--the poor carpenter dead; choked by want of air in this frightful middle-passage of his. [Forster, ii. 305, 306; Pollnitz, ii. 518, 519.] Name of the Town is given, Julich as above; date not. And if the thing had been only a popular Myth, is it not a significant one? But it is too true; the tall carpenter lay dead, and Hompesch got "imprisoned for life" by the business.
Burgermeisters of small towns have been carried off; in one case, "a rich merchant in Magdeburg," whom it cost a large sum to get free again. [Stenzel, iii. 356.] Prussian recruiters hover about barracks, parade-grounds, in Foreign Countries; and if they see a tall soldier (the Dutch have had instances, and are indignant at them), will persuade him to desert,--to make for the country where soldier-merit is understood, and a tall fellow of parts will get his pair of colors in no-time.
But the highest stretch of their art was probably that done on the Austrian Ambassador,--tall Herr von Bentenrieder; tallest of Diplomatists; whom Fassmann, till the Fair of St. Germain, had considered the tallest of men. Bentenrieder was on his road as Kaiser's Ambassador to George I., in those Congress-of-Cambrai times; serenely journeying on; when, near by Halberstadt, his carriage broke. Carriage takes some time in mending; the tall Diplomatic Herr walks on, will stretch his long legs, catch a glimpse of the Town withal, till they get it ready again. And now, at some Guard-house of the place, a Prussian Officer inquires, not too reverently of a nobleman without carriage, "Who are you?" "Well," answered he smiling, "I am BOTSCHAFTER (Message-bearer) from his Imperial Majesty. And who may you be that ask?"--"To the Guard-house with us!" Whither he is marched accordingly. "Kaiser's messenger, why not?" Being a most tall handsome man, this Kaiser's BOTSCHAFTER, striding along on foot here, the Guard-house Officials have decided to keep him, to teach him Prussian drill-exercise;--and are thrown into a singular quandary, when his valets and suite come up, full of alarm dissolving into joy, and call him "Excellenz!" [Pollnitz, ii. 207-209.]
Tall Herr von Bentenrieder accepted the prostrate apology of these Guard-house Officials. But he naturally spoke of the matter to George I.; whose patience, often fretted by complaints on that head, seems to have taken fire at this transcendent instance of Prussian insolency. In consequence of this adventure, he commenced, says Pollnitz, a system of decisive measures; of reprisals even, and of altogether peremptory, minatory procedures, to clear Hanover of this nuisance; and to make it cease, in very fact, and not in promise and profession merely. These were the first rubs Queen Sophie met with, in pushing on the Double-Marriage; and sore rubs they were, though she at last got over them. Coming on the back of that fine Charlottenburg Visit, almost within year and day, and directly in the teeth of such friendly aspects and prospects, this conduct on the part of his Britannic Majesty much grieved and angered Friedrich Wilhelm; and in fact involved him in considerable practical troubles.
For it was the signal of a similar set of loud complaints, and menacing remonstrances (with little twinges of fulfilment here and there) from all quarters of Germany; a tempest of trouble and public indignation rising everywhere, and raining in upon Friedrich Wilhelm and this unfortunate Hobby of his. No riding of one's poor Hobby in peaoe henceforth. Friedrich Wilhelm always answered, what was only superficially the fact, That HE knew nothing of these violences and acts of ill-neighborship; he, a just King, was sorrier than any man to hear of them; and would give immediate order that they should end. But they always went on again, much the same; and never did end. I am sorry a just King, led astray by his Hobby, answers thus what is only superficially the fact. But it seems he cannot help it: his Hobby is too strong for him; regardless of curb and bridle in this instance. Let us pity a man of genius, mounted on so ungovernable a Hobby; leaping the barriers, in spite of his best resolutions. Perhaps the poetic temperament is more liable to such morbid biases, influxes of imaginative crotchet, and mere folly that cannot he cured? Friedrich Wilhelm never would or could dismount from his Hobby: but he rode him under much sorrow henceforth; under showers of anger and ridicule;--contumelious words and procedures, as it were SAXA ET FAECES, battering round him, to a heavy extent; the rider a victim of Tragedy and Farce both at once.
QUEEN SOPHIE'S TROUBLES: GRUMKOW WITH THE OLD DESSAUER, AND GRUMKOW WITHOUT HIM.
Queen Sophie had, by delicate management, got over those first rubs, aud arrived at a Treaty of Hanover, and clear ground again; far worse rubs lay ahead; but smooth travelling, towards such a goal, was not possible for this Queen. Poor Lady, her Court, as we discern from Wilhelmina and the Books, is a sad welter of intrigues, suspicions; of treacherous chambermaids, head-valets, pickthank scouts of official gentlemen and others striving to supplant one another. Satan's Invisible World very busy against Queen Sophie! Under any terms, much more under those of the Double-Marriage, her place in a kindly but suspicious Husband's favor was difficult to maintain. Restless aspirants, climbing this way or that, by ladder-steps discoverable in this abstruse element, are never wanting, and have the due eavesdropping satellites, now here, now there. Queen Sophie and her party have to walk warily, as if among precipices and pitfalls. Of all which wide welter of extinct contemptibilities, then and there so important, here and now become minus quantities, we again notice the existence, but can undertake no study or specification whatever. Two Incidents, the latter of them dating near the point where we now are, will sufficiently instruct the reader what a welter this was, in which Queen Sophie and her bright little Son, the new Major of the Potsdam Giants, had to pass their existence.