Early the next morning, Czernichef, greatly admiring the exploit Frederick had performed, commenced his march home. Just before this there was a change in the British ministry, and the new cabinet clamored for peace. England entered into a treaty with France, and retired from the conflict. Frederick, vehemently upbraiding the English with treachery—the same kind533 of treachery of which he had repeatedly been guilty—marched upon Schweidnitz. After a vigorous siege of two months he captured the place.“That Frederick shall have six hundred and seventy thousand pounds (,350,000), payable in London to his order, in October, this year, which sum Frederick engages to spend wholly in the maintenance and increase of his army for behoof of the common object; neither party to dream of making the least shadow of peace or truce without the other.”
Thus far the enemy had no suspicion of the movement. But now the sun was rising, and, almost simultaneously on both sides, the roar of battle commenced. The positions had been so adroitly taken as to bring three Prussian guns to bear upon each gun of the Austrians. The Prussian gunners, drilled to the utmost possible accuracy and precision of fire, poured into the city a terrific tempest of shot and shells. Every thing had been so carefully arranged that, for six days and nights, with scarcely a moment’s intermission, the doomed city was assailed with such a tornado of cannonading and bombardment as earth had seldom, if ever, witnessed before.“There has been a revolution in St. Petersburg. The Czar Peter III., your majesty’s devoted friend, has been deposed, and probably assassinated. The Czarina Catharine, influenced by the enemies of your majesty, and unwilling to become embroiled in a conflict with Austria and France, has ordered me to return instantly homeward with the twenty thousand troops under my command.”
SACKING THE PALACE.498 “He is as potent and as malignant as the devil. He is also as unhappy, not knowing friendship.”
“I will not see him. I wish to listen to no more of his offers. The sooner he takes himself away the better.
M. Pitsch made no reply. The king, probably feeling at the moment some physical monition of approaching death, cried out, “Lord Jesus, to thee I live. Lord Jesus, to thee I die. In life and in death thou art my gain.”
On another occasion, an Austrian gentleman, M. Von Bentenrieder, who was exceedingly tall, was journeying from Vienna to Berlin as the embassador from the Emperor Charles VI. to the Congress of Cambrai. When near Halberstadt some part of his carriage broke. While the smith was repairing it, M. Bentenrieder walked on. He passed a Prussian guard-house, alone, in plain clothes, on foot, an immensely tall, well-formed man. It was too rich a prize to be lost. The officials seized him, and hurried him into the guard-house. But soon his carriage came along with his suite. He was obsequiously hailed as “Your Excellency.” The recruiting officers of Frederick William, mortified and chagrined, with many apologies released the embassador of the emperor.
In June, 1730, Augustus, King of Poland, had one of the most magnificent military reviews of which history gives any record. The camp of Mühlberg, as it was called, was established upon an undulating field, twelve miles square, on the right bank of the Elbe, a few leagues below Dresden. It is hardly too much to say that all the beauty and chivalry of Europe were gathered upon that field. Fabulous amounts of money and of labor were expended to invest the scene with the utmost sublimity of splendor. A military review had great charms for Frederick William. He attended as one of the most distinguished of the invited guests. The Crown Prince accompanied the king, as his father dared not leave him behind. But Fritz was exposed to every mortification and every species of ignominy which the ingenuity of this monster parent could heap upon him.Voltaire and Madame Du Chatelet.—Letter from Frederick to Voltaire.—The Reply.—Visit to the Prince of Orange.—Correspondence.—The Crown Prince becomes a Mason.—Interesting Letter from the Crown Prince.—Petulance and declining Health of the King.—Scenes in the Death-chamber.—Characteristic Anecdotes.—The Dying Scene.
The fourth day after this dreadful defeat the king received the tidings of the death of Wilhelmina. It was apparently the469 heaviest blow he had ever encountered. The anguish which her death caused him he did not attempt to conceal. In a business letter to Prince Henry we find this burst of feeling:“I have been unhappy all my life, and I think it is my destiny to continue so. One must be patient, and take the time as it comes. Perhaps a sudden tract of good fortune, on the back of all the chagrins I have encountered since I entered this world, would have made me too proud. I have suffered sufficiently, and I will not engage myself to extend my miseries into future times. I have still resources. A pistol-shot can deliver me from my sorrows and my life, and I think a merciful God would not damn me for that, but, taking pity on me, would, in exchange for a life of wretchedness, grant me salvation. This is whitherward despair can lead a young person whose blood is not so quiescent as if he were seventy.“If it had depended upon me, I would willingly have devoted myself to that death which those maladies sooner or later bring upon one, in order to save and prolong the life of her whose eyes are now closed. I beseech you never to forget her. Collect all your powers to raise a monument to her honor. You need only do her justice. Without any way abandoning the truth, she will afford you an ample and beautiful subject. I wish you more repose and happiness than falls to my lot.
“Believe, my charming sister, that never brother in the world loved with such tenderness a sister so charming as mine.”The heroic General Einsiedel struggled along through the snow and over the pathless hills, pursued and pelted every hour by the indomitable foe. He was often compelled to abandon baggage-wagons and ambulances containing the sick, while the wounded and the exhausted sank freezing by the way. At one time he was so crowded by the enemy that he was compelled to continue his march through the long hours of a wintry night, by the light of pitch-pine torches. After this awful retreat of twenty days, an emaciate, ragged, frostbitten band crossed the frontier into Silesia, near Friedland. They were soon united with the other columns of the discomfited and almost ruined army.
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