The Austrians retired to Dresden for winter quarters. Frederick was left in the field which he had won. Gradually he withdrew to his old camping-ground at Freiberg, where his troops had been cantoned the previous winter. On the 10th of November, 1760, he wrote from Meissen to the Marquis D’Argens at Berlin:
There they informed her that they had each received a letter the night before from the king, the contents of which they were73 forbidden, under penalty of death, from communicating to any one but to her. The king wished them to say to her majesty that he would no longer endure her disobedience in reference to the marriage of Wilhelmina; that, in case this disobedience continued, there should be an entire separation between him and his wife—a divorce—and that she and her daughter should both be banished to the chateau of Oranienburg, about twenty miles from Berlin, and there held in close imprisonment. The king was willing that Sophie Dorothee should write once more, and only once more, to her brother, George II., and demand of him a categorical answer, yes or no, whether he would consent to the immediate marriage of the Prince of Wales and Wilhelmina. The king would wait a fortnight for an answer, or, if the winds were contrary, three weeks; but not a day more. Should no answer in that time be returned, or a negative or an evasive answer, then Wilhelmina was to make her immediate choice of a husband between either the Duke of Weissenfels or the Marquis of Schwedt, and to be married without delay.9
The companions of the king were well-bred men, of engaging manners, commanding intelligence, and accustomed to authority. The entertainment was superb, with an abundance of the richest wines. The conversation took a wide range, and was interesting and exciting to a high degree. The French officers were quite bewildered by the scene. The count was perfect master of the French language, was very brilliant in his sallies, and seemed perfectly familiar with all military affairs. He was treated with remarkable deference by his companions, some of whom were far his superiors in years.“Certainly,” replied the king, in his most courteous tones; “and if he had not come, how could I have paid back the M?hren business of last year?”
At six o’clock in the evening the whole city was illuminated. Frederick entered his carriage, and, attended by his two brothers, the Prince of Prussia and Prince Henry, rode out to take the circuit of the streets. But the king had received information that one of his former preceptors, M. Duhan, lay at the point of death. He ordered his carriage to be at once driven to the residence of the dying man. The house of M. Duhan was situated in a court, blazing with the glow of thousands of lamps.But Frederick was now a full-grown man. His heirship to the throne rendered him a power among the courts of Europe. It was doubtful whether he would again submit to a caning. The infirm old king, gouty, dropsical, weakened, and lamed by ulcers, could not conceal from himself that his power, with his energies, was rapidly waning. Indeed, at times, he even talked of abdicating in favor of his son. Whenever there was a transient abatement in his maladies, he roused himself to the utmost, took short journeys, and tried to deceive himself into the belief that he was well again.
CHAPTER XXXV. LIFE’S CLOSING SCENES.It was now half past four o’clock. The sun of the short November day was rapidly sinking. Hasty preparations were made for another charge, aided by a body of Prussian cavalry which had just reached the ground. The gathering twilight was darkening hill and valley as the third assault was made. It was somewhat successful. By this time the two armies were quite intermingled. Marshal Daun was severely wounded, and was taken into Torgau to have his wounds dressed. The hour514 of six had now arrived. It was a damp, cloudy, dark night. The combatants were guided mainly by the flash of the muskets and the guns. “The night was so dark,” says Archenholtz, “that you could not see your hand before you.” Still for two hours the battle raged.
It was a dreary winter to Frederick in Breslau. Sad, silent, and often despairing, he was ever inflexibly resolved to struggle till the last possible moment, and, if need be, to bury himself beneath the ruins of his kingdom. All his tireless energies he devoted to the Herculean work before him. No longer did he affect gayety or seek recreations. Secluded, solitary, sombre, he took counsel of no one. In the possession of absolute power, he issued his commands as with the authority of a god.“I have nothing more at heart,” Frederick replied, “than to stand well with Austria. I wish always to be her ally, never her enemy. But the prince sees how I am situated. Bound by express treaty with her czarish majesty, I must go with Russia in any war. I will do every thing in my power to conciliate her majesty with the emperor—to secure such a peace at St. Petersburg as may meet the wishes of Vienna.”183
“If you then find the prince contrite and humble, you will engage him to fall on his knees with you, to ask pardon of God with tears of penitence. But you must proceed with prudence and circumspection, for the prince is cunning. You will represent to him also, in a proper manner, the error he labors under in believing that some are predestinated to one thing and some to another; and that thus he who is predestinated to evil can do nothing but evil, and he who is predestinated to good can do nothing but good, and that, consequently, we can change nothing of what is to happen—a dreadful error, especially in what regards our salvation.43
Catharine of Russia had a son, Paul, her heir to the throne. It so chanced that she died just at the time Prince Henry of Prussia was visiting St. Petersburg. Through his agency Paul was induced to take as a second wife a niece of Frederick’s, the eldest daughter of Eugene of Würtemberg. Thus the ties between Russia and Prussia were still more strengthened, so far as matrimonial alliances could strengthen them. The wedding took place in Berlin on the 18th of October, 1776.“The King of Prussia can not sleep. The officers sit up with him every night, and in his slumbers he raves and talks of spirits and apparitions.
“On Sunday he is to rise at seven o’clock, and, as soon as he has got his slippers on, shall kneel at his bedside and pray to God, so as all in the room may hear, in these words:On the 7th of July he wrote again to Wilhelmina. The letter420 reveals the anxiety of his heart, and his earnest desire to escape, if possible, from his embarrassments. Wilhelmina had written, offering her services to endeavor to secure peace. The king replied:
“I will not sing jeremiades to you, nor speak of my fears or anxieties; but I can assure you that they are great. The crisis I am in changes in appearance, but nothing decisive happens. I am consumed by a slow fire; I am like a living body losing limb after limb. May Heaven assist us, for we have much need of it.Chaplain Müller seems to have enjoyed the confidence of the king to an unusual decree. He was ordered to remain at Cüstrin, and to have daily interviews with the prince, to instruct him in religion. The king professed to be eminently a religious man. While torturing the body and the mind of the prince in every way, he expressed great anxiety for the salvation of his soul. It is not strange that the example of such a father had staggered the faith of the son. Illogically he renounced that religion which condemned, in the severest terms, the conduct of the father, and which caused the king often to tremble upon his throne, appalled by the declaration, “Know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”The next day, the 21st of August, he wrote to D’Argens to come and visit him, and bring his bed with him. “I will have you a little chamber ready.” But the next day he wrote,详情
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