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The Fortunes Of Wallenstein
by [?]

Wallenstein was in power, Wallenstein the mysterious, the ambitious, the victorious; soldier of fortune and arbiter of empires; reader of the stars and ally of the powers of darkness; poor by birth and rich by marriage and imperial favor; an extraordinary man, surrounded by mystery and silence, victorious through ability and audacity, rising from obscurity to be master of the emperor, and falling at length by the hand of assassination. In person he was tall and thin, in countenance sallow and lowering, his eyes small and piercing, his forehead high and commanding, his hair short and bristling, his expression dark and sinister. Fortune was his deity, ambition ruled him with the sway of a tyrant; he was born with the conquering instinct, and in the end handed over all Germany, bound and captive, to his imperial master, and retired to brood new conquests.

Albert von Wallenstein was Bohemian by birth, Prague being his native city. His parents were Lutherans, but they died, and he was educated as a Catholic. He travelled with an astrologer, and was taught cabalistic lore and the secrets of the stars, which he ever after believed to control his destiny. His fortune began in his marriage to an aged but very wealthy widow, who almost put an end to his career by administering to him a love-potion. He had already served in the army, fought against the Turks in Hungary, and with his wife’s money raised a regiment for the wars in Bohemia. A second marriage with a rich countess added to his wealth; he purchased, at a fifth of their value, about sixty estates of the exiled Bohemian nobility, and paid for them in debased coin; the emperor, in recognition of his services, made him Duke of Friedland, in which alone there were nine towns and fifty-seven castles and villages; his wealth, through these marriages, purchases, and gifts, steadily increased till he became enormously rich, and the wealthiest man in Germany, next to the emperor.

This extraordinary man was born in an extraordinary time, a period admirably calculated for the exercise of his talents, and sadly suited to the suffering of mankind in consequence. It was the period of the frightful conflict known as the Thirty Years’ War. A century had passed since the Diet of Worms, in which Protestantism first boldly lifted its head against Catholicism. During that period the new religious doctrines had gained a firm footing in Germany. Charles V. had done his utmost to put them down, and, discouraged by his failure, had abdicated the throne. In his retreat he is said to have amused his leisure in seeking to make two watches go precisely alike. The effort proved as vain as that to make two people think alike, and he exclaimed, “Not even two watches, with similar works, can I make to agree, and yet, fool that I was, I thought I should be able to control like the works of a watch different nations, living under diverse skies, in different climes, and speaking varied languages.” Those who followed him were to meet with a similar result.

The second effort to put down Protestantism by arms began in 1618, and led to that frightful outbreak of human virulence, the Thirty Years’ War, which made Germany a desert, but left religion as it found it. The emperor, Ferdinand II., a rigid Catholic, bitterly opposed to the spread of Protestantism, had ordered the demolition of two new churches built by the Bohemian Protestants. His order led to instant hostilities. Count Thurn, a fierce Bohemian nobleman, had the emperor’s representatives, Slawata and Martinitz by name, flung out of the window of the council-chamber in Prague, a height of seventy or more feet, and their secretary Fabricius flung after them. It was a terrible fall, but they escaped, for a pile of litter and old papers lay below. Fabricius fell on Martinitz, and, polite to the last, begged his pardon for coming down upon him so rudely. This act of violence, which occurred on May 23, 1618, is looked upon as the true beginning of the dreadful war.