There is a gloom of the soul far deeper than any gloom with which nature can ever be shrouded. It is not easy to conceive of a mortal placed in circumstances of greater mental suffering than was the proud, ambitious young monarch during the hour in which he waited, in terror and disgrace, by the side of the mill, for the return of his courier. At length the clatter of hoofs was heard, and the messenger came back, accompanied by an adjutant, to announce to the king that the Prussians still held Lowen, and that the Prussian army had gained a signal victory at Mollwitz.“What you write to me of my sister of Baireuth makes me tremble. Next to my mother, she is the one I have most tenderly loved in this world. She is a sister who has my heart and all my confidence, and whose character is of a price beyond all the crowns in the universe. From my tenderest years I was brought up with her. You can conceive how there reigns between us that indissoluble bond of mutual affection and attachment for life which in many cases were impossible. Would to Heaven that I might die before her!”Sophie Dorothee dispatched a courier with these documents, to go with the utmost speed to England. It was a long journey in those days, and the winds were often contrary. A fortnight passed. Three weeks were gone. Still there was no answer. On the 25th of January, 1730—“a day,” writes Wilhelmina, “which I shall never forget”—Finckenstein, Borck, and Grumkow again called upon the queen, with the following message from the king:
Wilhelmina had never seen the Prince of Wales. Her mother had not attempted to conceal from her that he was exceedingly plain in person, slightly deformed, weak in intellect, and debased by his debaucheries. But the ambitious queen urged these considerations, not as objections, but as incentives to the marriage. “You will be able,” she said, “to have him entirely under your direction. You will thus be virtually King of England, and can exert a powerful control over all the nations of Europe.” These considerations, however, did not influence the princess so much as they did her mother. She had never taken any special interest in her marriage with the Prince of Wales. Indeed, at times, she had said that nothing should ever induce her to marry him.The allies represented a population of ninety millions. The realms of Frederick embraced scarcely five millions of inhabitants. The allies decided that they would no longer make an exchange of prisoners. It was manifest that, by merely protracting the war, even without any signal successes on the part of the allies, Frederick would find all his resources of men exhausted. Frederick, who was never very scrupulous with regard to the means which he employed for the promotion of his ends, immediately compelled his prisoners of war, of whatever nationality, to enlist in his service.“After which the Lord’s Prayer; then rapidly and vigorously wash himself clean; dress, and powder, and comb himself. While they are combing and queuing him, he is to breakfast on tea. Prayer, washing, breakfast, and the rest to be done pointedly within fifteen minutes.
In this frame of mind, the king began to talk seriously of abdicating in favor of Frederick, and of retiring from the cares of state to a life of religious seclusion in his country seat at Wusterhausen. He matured his plan quite to the details. Wilhelmina thus describes it:
“You are a cowardly deserter,” the father exclaimed, “devoid of all feelings of honor.”
A brief account of this interview has been given by Frederick,59 and also a very minute narrative by Sir Thomas Robinson, in his official report to his government. There is no essential discrepancy between the two statements. Frederick alludes rather contemptuously to the pompous airs of Sir Thomas, saying that “he negotiated in a wordy, high, droning way, as if he were speaking in Parliament.” Mr. Carlyle seems to be entirely in sympathy with Frederick in his invasion of Silesia. The reader will peruse with interest his graphic, characteristic comments upon this interview:When they reached Strasbourg they provided themselves with French dresses. The king and his brother put up at different inns, that they might be less liable to suspicion. Frederick,200 with several of his party, took lodgings at the Raven Hotel. He sent the landlord out to invite several army officers to sup with a foreign gentleman, Count Dufour, from Bohemia, who was an entire stranger in the place. Some of the officers very peremptorily declined the invitation, considering it an imposition. Three, however, allured by the singularity of the summons, repaired to the inn. The assumed count received them with great courtesy, apologized for the liberty he had taken, thanked them for their kindness, and assured them that, being a stranger, he was very happy to make the acquaintance of so many brave officers, whose society he valued above that of all others.CHAPTER X. THE ACCESSION OF FREDERICK THE SECOND.
At parting, the king bore magnanimous testimony to the fidelity of his spiritual advisers. He said to M. Roloff, who had been the principal speaker, “You do not spare me. It is right. You do your duty like an honest Christian man.”Frederick dispatched messengers to Ohlau to summon the force there to his aid; the messengers were all captured. The Prussians were now in a deplorable condition. The roads were encumbered and rendered almost impassable by the drifted snow. The army was cut off from its supplies, and had provisions on hand but for a single day. Both parties alike plundered the poor inhabitants of their cattle, sheep, and grain. Every thing that could burn was seized for their camp-fires. We speak of the carnage of the battle-field, and often forget the misery which is almost invariably brought upon the helpless inhabitants of the region through which the armies move. The schoolmaster of Mollwitz, a kind, simple-hearted, accurate old gentleman, wrote an account of the scenes he witnessed. Under date of Mollwitz, Sunday, April 9, he writes:
“I have already,” he wrote, “given your majesty my word of honor never to wed any one but the Princess Amelia, your daughter. I here reiterate that promise, in case your majesty will consent to my sister’s marriage.”
“We are alone,” Fritz replied, “and I will conceal nothing from you. The queen, by her miserable intrigues, has been the source of our misfortunes. Scarcely were you gone when she began again with England. She wished to substitute our sister Charlotte for you, and to contrive her marriage with the Prince of Wales.
Frederick was a trig, slender young man of twenty-nine years. He was dressed in a closely-fitting blue coat, with buff breeches and high cavalry boots. He wore a plumed hat, which he courteously raised as the embassadors entered his tent. The scene276 which ensued was substantially as follows, omitting those passages which were of no permanent interest. After sundry preliminary remarks, Sir Thomas Robinson said,
“My dear General and Friend,—I was charmed to learn, by your letter, that my affairs are on so good a footing. You may depend on it I am prepared to follow your advice. I will lend myself to whatever is possible for me. And, provided I can secure the king’s favor by my obedience, I will do all that is within my power.详情
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