96The dying king strangely decided, at that late hour, to abdicate. All the officials were hurriedly summoned to his chamber. The poor old man, bandaged, with his night-cap on, and a mantle thrown over him, was wheeled into the anteroom where the company was assembled. As he saw P?llnitz he exclaimed, sadly, “It is all over.” Noticing one in tears, he said to him, kindly, “Nay, my friend, this is a debt we all have to pay.” The king then solemnly abdicated in favor of his “good son Frederick.” The deed was made out, signed, and sealed. But scarcely was it executed ere the king fainted, and was carried to his bed. Still the expiring lamp of life flickered in its socket. About eleven o’clock the clergyman, M. Cochius, was sent for. The king was in his bed, apparently speechless. He, however, revived a little, and was in great pain, often exclaiming, “Pray for me; pray for me; my trust is in the Savior.” He called for a mirror, and carefully examined his face for some moments, saying at intervals, “Not so worn out as I thought.” “An ugly face.” “As good as dead already.”31
In conclusion, he gives utterance to that gloomy creed of infidelity and atheism which he had adopted instead of the Christian faith. “Thus destiny with a deluge of torments fills the poisoned remnants of my days. The present is hideous to me, the future unknown. Do you say that I am the creature of a beneficent being? I see that all men are the sport of destiny. And if there do exist some gloomy and inexorable being who allows a despised herd of creatures to go on multiplying here, he values them as nothing. He looks down on our virtues, our misdeeds, on the horrors of war, and on all the cruel plagues which ravage earth, as a thing indifferent to him. Wherefore my sole refuge and only haven, loved sister, is in the arms of death.”106But there was another picture which met the eye of the king very different in its aspect. We know not whether it at all touched his heart. It was that of the poor peasants, with their mothers, their wives, their children, hurrying from their hamlets in all directions, in the utmost dismay. Grandmothers tottered beneath the burden of infant children. Fathers and mothers struggled on with the household goods they were striving to rescue from impending ruin. The cry of maidens and children reached the ear as they fled from the tramp of the war-horse and the approaching carnage of the death-dealing artillery.
The astonishment and indignation in Vienna, in view of this terrible defeat, were intense. Prince Charles was immediately relieved of his command, and General Daun appointed in his stead. It is the testimony of all military men that the battle of Leuthen was one of the most extraordinary feats of war. Napoleon, speaking of it at St. Helena, said,“The King of Prussia is thought to be dying. I am weary of the political discussions on this subject as to what effects his death must produce. He is better at this moment, but so weak he can not resist long. Physique is gone. But his force and energy of soul, they say, have often supported him, and in desperate crises have even seemed to increase. Liking to him I never had. His ostentatious immorality has much hurt public virtue, and there have been related to me barbarities which excite horror.
“Your letter, my dear brother, has made me twenty years younger. Yesterday I was sixty, to-day hardly eighteen. I bless Heaven for preserving your health, and that things have passed so happily. It is a service so important rendered by you to the state that I can not enough express my gratitude, and will wait to do it in person.”“‘The monarchic, if the king is just and enlightened.’
“My dearest Sister,—I find no other consolation but in your precious letters. May Heaven108 reward so much virtue and such427 heroic sentiments! Since I wrote you last my misfortunes have but gone on accumulating. It seems as though destiny would discharge all its wrath and fury upon the poor country which I had to rule over. I have advanced this way to fall upon a corps of the allied army, which has run off and intrenched itself among hills, whither to follow, still more to attack them, all rules of war forbid. The moment I retire toward Saxony this whole swarm will be upon my heels. Happen what may, I am determined, at all risks, to fall upon whatever corps of the enemy approaches me nearest. I shall even bless Heaven for its mercy if it grant me the favor to die sword in hand.
His garrison consisted of about fourteen thousand infantry and six hundred dragoons. General Daun was at the distance of but two marches, with a larger Austrian force than Frederick commanded. Nothing can more clearly show the dread with which the Austrians regarded their antagonist than the fact that General Daun did not march immediately upon Olmütz, and,451 with the aid of a sally from the garrison, overwhelm and crush Frederick beneath their united assaults.
FREDERICK’S INTERVIEW WITH VALORI.
As the king cast his eye over the blood-stained field, covered with the wounded and the dead, for a moment he seemed overcome with the aspect of misery, and exclaimed, “When, oh when will my woes cease?”
“About a fortnight ago the prince was in a humor of extraordinary gayety at the table. His gayety animated all the rest; and some glasses of Champagne still more enlivened our mirth. The prince, perceiving our disposition, was willing to promote it, and on rising from table, told us that he was determined that we should recommence our jollity at supper.“A royal crown was placed upon my head, together with twenty-four curls of false hair, each as big as my arm. I could not hold up my head, as it was too weak for so great a weight. My gown was a very rich silver brocade, trimmed with gold lace, and my train was twelve yards long. I thought I should have died under this dress.”“My dearest Sister,—I have the satisfaction to inform you that we have yesterday53 totally beaten the Austrians. They263 have lost more than five thousand men in killed, wounded, and prisoners. We have lost Prince Frederick, brother of Margraf Karl; General Schulenberg, Wartensleben of the Carabineers, and many other officers. Our troops did miracles, and the result shows as much. It was one of the rudest battles fought within the memory of man.详情
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