The next morning Frederick hastened to greet his sister. Wilhelmina was not pleased with his appearance. The cares of his new reign entirely engrossed his mind. The dignity of an absolute king did not sit gracefully upon him. Though ostentatiously demonstrative in his greeting, the delicate instincts of Wilhelmina taught her that her brother’s caresses were heartless. He was just recovering from a fit of the ague, and looked emaciate and sallow. The court was in mourning. During those funereal days no festivities could be indulged in. The queen-mother was decorously melancholy; she seems to have been not only disappointed, but excessively chagrined, to find that she was excluded by her son from the slightest influence in public affairs. The distant, arrogant, and assuming airs of the young king soon rendered him unpopular.“You have seen the paper I have sent to Vienna. Their answer is, that they have not made an offensive alliance with Russia against me. Of the assurance that I required there is not one word, so that the sword alone can cut this Gordian knot. I am innocent of this war. I have done what I could to avoid it; but, whatever be one’s love of peace, one can not, and one must not, sacrifice to that safety and honor. At present our one thought must be to wage war in such a way as may cure our enemies of their wish to break peace again too soon.”
“Now, as I hope that his present situation, and the execution which has just taken place before his eyes, will touch and soften his heart, and will lead him to better sentiments, I charge you, as you value your conscience, to do all that is humanly possible to represent forcibly to the prince these things; and particularly, in what relates to predestination, to convince him by means of passages from the Scriptures which satisfactorily prove what I wish you to advance.”Another severe fit of coughing ensued, and the king, having with difficulty got rid of the phlegm, said, “The mountain is passed; we shall be better now.” These were his last words. The expiring monarch sat in his chair, but in a state of such extreme weakness that he was continually sinking down, with his chest and neck so bent forward that breathing was almost impossible. One of his faithful valets took the king upon his knee and placed his left arm around his waist, while the king threw his right arm around the valet’s neck.
We have often spoken of the entire neglect with which the king treated his virtuous and amiable queen. Preuss relates the following incident:
“Nothing can be more elegant than this prince’s library. It has a view of the lake and gardens. A collection, not very numerous, but well chosen, of the best books in the French language are ranged in glass cases, which are ornamented with carvings and gildings in excellent taste. The portrait of M. De Voltaire occupies an honorable place in this library. He is the favorite author of the prince, who has, in general, a high esteem for good French writers both in prose and verse.“God give his blessing to it, and bless you and your posterity, and keep you as a good Christian. And have God always before your eyes, and don’t believe that damnable predestination tenet; and be obedient and faithful. So shall it here in time, and there in eternity, go well with thee. And whosoever wishes that from the heart, let him say Amen.
The victory of Sohr filled Europe with the renown of Frederick. Still his peril was great, and the difficulties before him apparently insurmountable. His treasury was exhausted. His only ally, France, would furnish him with no money, had no confidence365 in him, and was in heart exasperated against him. Not a single court in Europe expressed any friendship for Frederick. On the contrary, nearly all would have rejoiced at his downfall. There seemed to be no end to the campaigns which were opening before him. Yet Frederick knew not where to obtain the money to meet the expense even of a single campaign.In September, 1749, Madame Du Chatelet, the “divine Emilie” of Voltaire, suddenly died. The infidel philosopher seemed much grieved for a time. Frederick, who never fancied Madame Du Chatelet, was the more eager, now that she was out of the way, that Voltaire should come to Sans Souci, and aid him in his literary labors. A trivial incident occurred at this time worthy of record, as illustrative of the character of the king. At the close of the year 1749 there had been a review of Austrian troops at M?hren. It was not a very important affair, neither the empress queen nor her husband being present. Three380 Prussian officers made their appearance. It was said that they had come to inveigle soldiers to desert, and enlist under the banners of Prussia. They were peremptorily ordered by the Austrian authorities to leave the ground. Frederick, when he heard of it, said nothing, but treasured it up.
278 “That is your interpretation,” said Frederick. “But the French assert that it was an arrangement made in their favor.”
“‘Alive to it, he? Yes, with a witness, were there hope in the world!’ which threw G?rtz upon instant gallop toward Zweibrück Schloss in search of said heir, the young Duke August Christian; who, however, had left in the interim (summoned by his uncle, on Austrian urgency, to consent along with him), but whom G?rtz, by dexterity and intuition of symptoms, caught up by the road, with what a mutual joy! As had been expected, August Christian, on sight of G?rtz, with an armed Frederick looming in the distance, took at once into new courses and activities. From him no consent now; far other: treaty with Frederick; flat refusal ever to consent: application to the Reich, application even to France, and whatever a gallant young fellow could do.“Your excellency does not know that wily enemy, the King of Prussia, as well as I do. By no means get into a battle with him. Cautiously man?uvre about. Detain him there till I have got my stroke in Saxony done. Don’t try fighting him.详情
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