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there was something awful in this midnight feast

publish 2022-06-02,browse 14
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there was something awful in this midnight feast, held while the wind was blowing fiercely, and the capital lay wrapt in sleep.here the king was making merry.since his return from poland, such evening debauches, with a few intimate courtiers, had been more frequent.augustus the strong, defeated by charles xii., was ashamed to appear at great feasts; but as he needed some distraction from the sad thoughts that oppressed him, he gathered round him a few courtiers to whom he was attached.for these he ordered his servants to bring out the golden wine that was yearly imported from hungary for the kings private use, and of this they drank until daybreak, by which time every one had fallen from their seats.then hoffman came, and conducted the king, still laughing heartily, to bed.to these select assemblies of the priests of bacchus only a few persons were admitted, only those, in fact, in whom augustus had entire confidence; for it was said that after drinking a few bumpers the king was dangerous.his strength was the strength of hercules, and his anger the anger of jove.if he were made angry in the morning, he said nothing, but his face grew crimson, his eyes glittered, and his lips trembled.he would turn away, and would not look at the person who had offended him.but after a few draughts of wine it was a different matter; at such times he had thrown many a one through the window, who had fallen on the pavement to rise no more.his anger was rare, but it was terrible as a thunderbolt.in ordinary life there could not be found a more affable or benevolent lord.it has even been remarked that the more he disliked a man, the more sweetly he smiled on him; and the day before they were imprisoned in königstein, where his favourites had sometimes had to remain for several years, augustus would embrace them as though they were his dearest friends; so noble was his nature, so wishful was he to soften the hard lot of his people.as it was necessary for the lord to have some amusement, it was nothing remarkable that two bears should sometimes be brought to the castle, or two enemies made drunk, and then induced to fight.this was a sport in which the king especially delighted, and when two drunken vitzthums, friesens or hoyms, began to quarrel, he used to split his sides with laughing.this was such an innocent recreation.the king could make them quarrel very easily, for he knew everythinghe knew who was in love, and with whom; which man hated the other; how much money they had taken from his treasury without his permission; he even knew what each of his courtiers was thinking, and if he did not know, he guessed.who the spies were who betrayed them, the courtiers could by no means discover; and the result of this was that each one suspected his neighbour; brother was afraid of brother; the husband distrusted the wife; the father had no confidence in his son; and king augustus the strong looked on, and laughed at the mob! yes, from his exalted position he looked down on the comedy of life, not disdaining to play in it the rôle of jove, hercules, and apolloand in the evening the rôle of bacchus.on the evening in question, being very sad and weary, the king determined to make all his ministers and favourites drunk, and then make them confess for his amusement.the select companions of the kings feast were seated in a brilliantly lighted room, one side of which was occupied by an enormous sideboard, bright with silver and cut glass.amongst those present were: count taparel lagnasco, who had just arrived from rome; count wackerbarth, from vienna, watzdorf, called the peasant of mansfeld; fürstenberg, imhoff, friesen, vitzthum, and hoym; and last, but not least, friedrich wilhelm, baron kyan, famous for his wit, who made every one else laugh, whilst he remained perfectly serious.the king, with dress and vest unfastened, sat leaning on one elbowhe was very sad.his handsome face, usually so bright, was veiled in a mist of sorrow.several empty bottles bore witness to the fact that drinking had already continued for some time, yet on the kings face no results of the goodly wine were visible.the golden liquid had not been able to make his gloomy thoughts more bright.the courtiers jested with each other, endeavouring to make their lord laugh, but without avail.augustus sat silent and thoughtful, as though he heard not a word that was spoken.this was most unusual; the king was so seldom sad, indeed he was ever eager for mirth and distraction.his companions grew uneasy and looked at him askance.at the opposite end of the table sat kyan, gloomy, and unassuming.as though to mock the king, he also leaned on one elbow, stretched out his legs, and looked up at the ceiling with a deep sigh.his melancholy air gave him an absurd appearance.hark you, whispered fürstenberg, nudging wackerbarth with his elbowthey were both tipsy by this timedo you see our lord? nothing makes him smileand it is already eleven oclockhe ought to be in a good humour by now.this is our fault.i am here as a guest, replied wackerbarth, shrugging his shoulders.it is none of my business; as you know him better than i do, you should find the proper way to amuse him.he is tired of lubomirskathat is clear, added taparel.and then it is difficult to digest those swedes, whispered wackerbarth.i do not wonder at him.eh! eh! we have forgotten all about the swedes; some one else will defeat them for us, we can be sure of that, and then we will go and gather the fruits, said fürstenberg.he is not bothered about the swedes, but he has had enough of lubomirskawe must find him some other woman.is that such a difficult matter? whispered wackerbarth.then they began to whisper together, but so low that they could not be overheard, for, as though suddenly awakened from slumber, the king was looking round on his companions.his glance wandered from one to another, until it rested at length on the tragic pose of baron kyan, and on seeing this the monarch burst into a hearty laugh.this was quite sufficient to make every one else laugh.kyan, cried the king, what is the matter with you? has your sweetheart betrayed you? have you no money? you look just like prometheus, with an invisible eagle devouring your liver.kyan turned slowly round, much after the fashion of a wooden doll, and drew a deep sigh; so deep was it that it extinguished a sixlight candelabra that was standing near him.kyan, what is the matter with you? repeated the king

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