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There were some gross vulgarities in Voltaire’s letter which we refrain from quoting. Both of these communications were printed and widely circulated, exciting throughout Europe contempt and derision. Voltaire had still the copy of the king’s private poems. Frederick, quite irritated, and not knowing what infamous use Voltaire might make of the volume, which contained some very severe satires against prominent persons, and particularly against his uncle, the King of England, determined, at all hazards, to recover the book. He knew it would be of no avail to write to Voltaire to return it.The king, in utter exhaustion from hunger, sleeplessness, anxiety, and misery, for a moment lost all self-control. As with his little band of fugitives he vanished into the gloom of the night, not knowing where to go, he exclaimed, in the bitterness of his despair, “O my God, my God, this is too much!”

Early in the spring of 1757, France, Russia, Austria, Poland, and Sweden were combined against Frederick. These countries represented a population of one hundred millions. Frederick’s domains contained but five millions. His annual revenue was but about ten million dollars. He had an army in the field of one hundred and fifty thousand of the best troops in the world. His fortresses were garrisoned by about fifty thousand of inferior quality. The armies of the allies numbered four hundred and thirty thousand. Frederick was regarded as an outlaw. The design of the allies was to crush him, and to divide his territory between them. Austria was to retake Silesia. France was to have the Wesel-Cleve country. Russia was to annex to her domains Prussen, K?nigsberg, etc. Poland, having regained Saxony, was to add to her territory Magdeburg and Halle. Sweden was to have Pomerania. Never before had there appeared such a combination against any man. The situation of Frederick seemed desperate.

“‘Oh dear me!’ I exclaimed; ‘do let me have enough of dancing this one new time. It may be long before it comes again.’Frederick spent three days with his sister at Baireuth. Wilhelmina was disappointed in his appearance. The brotherly affection she looked for was not found. He was cold, stately, disposed to banter her, and his conversation seemed “set on stilts.” Leaving Baireuth, the king continued his journey very rapidly toward Strasbourg. When they reached Kehl, on the eastern banks of the Rhine, they were informed that they could not cross the river without passports. One of the gentlemen drew up the necessary document, which the king signed and sealed with his signet-ring. The curiosity of the landlord had been excited, and he watched his guests from a closet. Seeing what was done, he said to Frederstorf, the king’s valet, “Count Dufour is the King of Prussia, sir; I saw him sign his name.” He was bribed to keep the secret.558

558

THE NIGHT BEFORE MOLLWITZ.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:

Frederick, with grim humor characteristic of him, sent back the courier with the following response, as if from the Russian general, signed Fermor, but in the king’s handwriting:“I will not see him. There was a time when I would have listened to a compromise. That time has passed. I have now entered into arrangements with France. Talk to me no more.”“You are now,” said Frederick, “by consent of the allies, King of Moravia. Now is the time, now or never, to become so in fact. Push forward your Saxon troops. The Austrian forces are weak in that country. At Iglau, just over the border from Austria, there is a large magazine of military stores, which can299 easily be seized. Urge forward your troops. The French will contribute strong divisions. I will join you with twenty thousand men. We can at once take possession of Moravia, and perhaps march directly on to Vienna.”

As we have mentioned, the army advanced mainly in two columns.228 While the left was briefly delayed at Glogau, the right, under the command of General Schwerin, was pushed rapidly forward a few leagues, to Liegnitz. They reached the city, unexpectedly to its inhabitants, just at the dawn of a drear, chill winter’s morning, the rain having changed to freezing cold. It was Wednesday, December 28. The Prussian grenadiers stole softly upon the slumbering sentinels, seized them, and locked them in the guard-house. Then the whole column marched into the heart of the city silently, without music, but with a tramp which aroused all the sleepers in the streets through which they passed—many of whom, in their night-caps, peered curiously out of their chamber windows. Having reached the central square, or market-place, the forces were concentrated, and the drums and bugles pealed forth notes of triumph. The Prussian flag rose promptly from rampart and tower. Liegnitz was essentially a Protestant town. The inhabitants, who had received but few favors from the Catholic Austrian government, welcomed their invaders with cautious demonstrations of joy.After a long series of intrigues, a narrative of which would not interest the reader, Frederick William was induced to enter into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the Emperor Charles VI. of Germany. This was renouncing the alliance with England, and threw an additional obstacle in the way of the double marriage. Sophie Dorothee was bitterly disappointed, and yet pertinaciously struggled on to accomplish her end.

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“But she returned the next moment accompanying the cavalier, who was laughing heartily, and whom I recognized for my brother. His dress so altered him he seemed a different person. He was in the best humor possible. ‘I am come to bid you farewell once more, my dear sister,’ said he; ‘and as I know the friendship you have for me, I will not keep you ignorant of my designs. I go, and do not come back. I can not endure the usage I suffer. My patience is driven to an end. It is a favorable79 opportunity for flinging off that odious yoke. I will glide out of Dresden and get across to England, where, I do not doubt, I shall work out your deliverance too, when I am got thither. So I beg you calm yourself. We shall soon meet again in places where joy shall succeed our tears, and where we shall have the happiness to see ourselves in peace, and free from these persecutions.“Many thousands are made miserable, inhabitants as well as strangers. Many from the open country and defenseless towns in Prussia, Pomerania, and the New Marche had fled hither, with their most valuable effects, in hopes of security when the Russians entered the Prussian territories; so that a great many who, a little while ago, were possessed of considerable fortunes, are now reduced to beggary. On the roads nothing was to be seen but misery, and nothing to be heard but such cries and lamentations as were enough to move even the stones. No one knew where to get a morsel of bread, nor what to do for farther subsistence. The fire was so furious that the cannon in the store and artillery houses were all melted. The loaded bombs and cartridges for cannon and muskets, with a large quantity of gunpowder, went off at once with a most horrible explosion. The fury of the enemy fell almost entirely upon the inhabitants. They did not begin to batter the fortifications, except with a few shot, till the 17th, after the rest was all destroyed.”

Frederick immediately and publicly denied that he had ever entered into any such arrangement with Austria, and declared the whole story to be a mere fabrication. Having by the stratagem obtained Neisse, and delivered Silesia from the presence of the Austrian army, he assured the French of his unchanging fidelity to their interests, and with renewed vigor commenced co-operating with them in the furtherance of some new ambitious plans.

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