In this assembly of gay young men religion was generally a topic of ridicule. Even Jordan, the ex-preacher, was either willingly or unwillingly borne along by the current. Subsequently, when youth and health had fled, and he was on a sick-bed suffering from lingering disease, he felt the need of those consolations which Christianity alone can give. He wrote, under date of April, 1745, to Frederick, who was then king, and whose friendship continued unabated:Frederick speedily concentrated all his strength at Bautzen, and strove to draw the Austrians into a battle; but in vain. The heights upon which they were intrenched, bristling with cannon, he could not venture to assail. After three weeks of impatient man?uvring, Frederick gathered his force of fifty thousand424 men close in hand, and made a sudden rush upon Bernstadt, about fifty miles to the east of Bautzen. Here he surprised an Austrian division, scattered it to the winds, seized all its baggage, and took a number of prisoners. He also captured the field equipage, coach, horses, etc., of General Nadasti, who narrowly escaped.
“Great God! my sister of Baireuth, my noble Wilhelmina, dead; died in the very hours while we were fighting here.”“The queen commands me to give you a thousand regards from her. She appeared much affected at your illness. But I can not warrant you how sincere it was, for she is totally changed, and I no longer comprehend her. She has done me all the hurt with the king she could. As to Sophie, she is no longer the same. She approves all the king says or does, and is charmed with her big clown of a bridegroom.
“I am in the condition of a traveler who sees himself surrounded421 and ready to be assassinated by a troop of cut-throats, who intend to share his spoils. Since the league of Cambrai105 there is no example of such a conspiracy as that infamous triumvirate, Austria, France, Russia, now forms against me. Was it ever before seen that three great princes laid plot in concert to destroy a fourth who had done nothing against them? I have not had the least quarrel either with France or with Russia, still less with Sweden.The Russians were entering Silesia from the northeast by the way of Poland. Frederick, by one of his incredibly rapid marches, for a time prevented the junction of the two hostile armies. After innumerable marchings and man?uvrings, during which Frederick displayed military ability which commanded the admiration even of his foes, the Prussian king found himself, on the 16th of August, at Nicolstadt, in the very heart of Silesia, at the head of fifty-seven thousand men. In front of him, obstructing his advance, there were sixty thousand Russians. In523 his rear, cutting off his retreat, there were seventy-two thousand Austrians. From a commanding eminence Frederick could watch the movements of both of these hostile bands. Both Russians and Austrians stood in such awe of the prowess of their redoubtable antagonist that they moved cautiously, like hounds surrounding the lion at bay.
Just at the break of day of Thursday morning, September 30, as the king was in his tent, busy with his generals, examining maps in preparation for the immediate resumption of the march, an orderly came, in breathless haste, to inform the king that the Austrians were advancing rapidly upon him, and in great force. While he was yet speaking another messenger arrived, confirming the tidings, and stating that, apparently, the whole Austrian army, in battle array, was coming down upon him.
156 Thus Wilhelmina, upon reaching Berneck, according to appointment, did not find her brother there, and could hear nothing from him. The prince, upon his arrival at Hof, wrote as follows to his sister
“My dear Voltaire,—In spite of myself, I have to yield to the quartan fever, which is more tenacious than a Jansenist. And whatever desire I had of going to Antwerp and Brussels, I find myself not in a condition to undertake such a journey without risk. I would ask of you, then, if the road from Brussels to Cleves would not to you seem too long for a meeting? It is the one means of seeing you which remains to me. Confess that I am unlucky; for now, when I could dispose of my person, and nothing hinders me from seeing you, the fever gets its hand into the business, and seems to intend disputing me that satisfaction.
“Yesterday I wrote to you to come; to-day I forbid it. Daun is marching upon Berlin. Fly these unhappy countries. This news obliges me again to attack the Russians between here and Frankfort. You may imagine if this is a desperate resolution. It is the sole hope that remains to me of not being cut off from Berlin on the one side or the other. I will give these discouraged troops brandy, but I promise myself nothing of success. My one consolation is that I shall die sword in hand.”Soon after Frederick wrote to Voltaire upon this subject again, still more severely, but in verse. The following is almost a literal translation of this poetic epistle:详情
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