Still Wusterhausen was but a hunting-lodge, which was occupied by the king only during a few weeks in the autumn. Fritz had many playmates—his brothers and sisters, his cousins, and the children of General Finkenstein. To most boys, the streams, and groves, and ponds of Wusterhausen, abounding with fish and all kinds of game, with ponies to drive and boats to row, with picturesque walks and drives, would have been full of charms. But the tastes of Fritz did not lie in that direction. He does not seem to have become strongly attached to any of his young companions, except to his sister Wilhelmina. The affection and confidence which united their hearts were truly beautiful. They encountered together some of the severest of life’s trials, but heartfelt sympathy united them. The nickname which these children gave their unamiable father was Stumpy.After the battle of Chotusitz, Frederick called upon General Pallant, an Austrian officer, who was wounded and a prisoner. In the course of the conversation, General Pallant stated that France was ready at any moment to betray his Prussian majesty, and that, if he would give him six days’ time, he would furnish him with documentary proof. A courier was instantly dispatched to Vienna. He soon returned with a letter from Cardinal Fleury, the prime minister of Louis XV., addressed to Maria Theresa, informing her that, if she would give up Bohemia to the emperor, France would guarantee to her Silesia. Frederick, though guilty of precisely the same treachery himself, read the document with indignation, and assumed to be as much amazed at the perfidy as he could have been had he been an honest man.
On the 10th of August there was a magnificent review of the Prussian army on the plain of Strehlin, to which all the foreign embassadors were invited. During the night of the 9th, General Schwerin and Prince Leopold, with eight thousand Prussian troops, horse and foot, arrived in the southwestern suburbs of Breslau, and, at six o’clock in the morning, demanded simply a passage through the city for their regiments and baggage, on the march to attack a marauding band of the Austrians on the other side of the Oder.
And notwithstanding our impatience,Frederick wrote to Wilhelmina: “Voltaire picks Jews’ pockets, but he will get out of it by some somersault.”
But 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.
“So saying, he seized me with one hand, striking me several blows in the face with the other fist. One of the blows struck me on the temple, so that I fell back, and should have split my head against a corner of the wainscot had not Madam Sonsfeld caught me by the head-dress and broken the fall. I lay on the floor without consciousness. The king, in his frenzy, proceeded to kick me out of a window which opened to the floor. The queen, my sisters, and the rest, ran between, preventing him. They all ranged themselves around me, which gave Mesdames De Kamecke and Sonsfeld time to pick me up. They put me in a chair in an embrasure of a window. Madam Sonsfeld supported my head, which was wounded and swollen with the blows I had received. They threw water upon my face to bring me to life, which care I lamentably reproached them with, death being a thousand times better in the pass things had come to. The queen was shrieking. Her firmness had entirely abandoned her. She ran wildly about the room, wringing her hands in despair. My brothers and sisters, of whom the youngest was not more than four years old, were on their knees begging for me. The king’s face was so disfigured with rage that it was frightful to look upon.This despondency lasted, however, but a moment. Concealing his emotions, he smoothed his furrowed brow, dressed his face in smiles, and wrote doggerel verses and jocose letters as if he were merely a fashionable man of pleasure. At the same time he rallied all his marvelous energies, and prepared to meet the exigency366 with sagacity and intrepidity rarely surpassed. Orders were immediately dispatched to the Old Dessauer to marshal an army to oppose Grüne and Rutowski, while the king hastened to Silesia to attack Prince Charles. Leopold, though he had nearly numbered his threescore years and ten, according to Frederick, was very glad to fight once again before he died. The veteran general ventured to make some suggestions in reference to the orders he had received. The king sternly replied,
He seems ever to have treated his nominal wife, Queen Elizabeth, politely. For some months after the accession he was quite prominent in his public attentions to her. But these intervals of association grew gradually more rare, until after three or four years they ceased almost entirely.
The winter was long, cold, and dreary. Fierce storms swept the fields, piling up the snow in enormous drifts. But for this cruel war, the Prussian, Russian, and Austrian peasants, who had been dragged into the armies to slaughter each other, might have been in their humble but pleasant homes, by the bright fireside, in the enjoyment of all comforts.
The king, Frederick I., had for some time been in a feeble state of health. The burden of life had proved heavier than he was able to bear. His wife was crazed, his home desolate, his health broken, and many mortifications and disappointments had so crushed his spirits that he had fallen into the deepest state of melancholy. As he was sitting alone and sad in a chill morning of February, 1713, gazing into the fire, absorbed in painful musings, suddenly there was a crash of the glass door of the apartment. His frenzied wife, half-clad, with disheveled hair,23 having escaped from her keepers, came bursting through the shattered panes. Her arms were gashed with glass, and she was in the highest state of maniacal excitement. The shock proved a death-blow to the infirm old king. He was carried to his bed, which he never left, dying in a few days. His grandson Frederick was then fourteen months old.
Frederick was rapidly awaking to the consciousness that Maria Theresa, whom he had despised as a woman, and a young wife and mother, and whose territory he thought he could dismember with impunity, was fully his equal, not only in ability to raise and direct armies, but also in diplomatic intrigue. About the middle of August he perceived from his camp in Chlum that Prince Charles was receiving large re-enforcements from the south. At the same time, he saw that corps after corps, principally of Saxon troops, were defiling away by circuitous roads to the north. It was soon evident that the heroic Maria Theresa was preparing to send an army into the very heart of Prussia to attack its capital. This was, indeed, changing the aspect of the war.“She returned to me an hour after, and said, with a vexed air, ‘Will you end, then? You are so engaged you have eyes for nothing.详情
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