“Judge, my dear general, if I have been much charmed with the description you give of the abominable object of my desires. For the love of God disabuse the king in regard to her. Let him remember that fools are commonly the most obstinate of creatures. Let the king remember that it is not for himself that he is marrying me, but for myself. Nay, he too will have a thousand chagrins to see two persons hating one another, and the most miserable marriage in the world; to hear their mutual complaints, which will be to him so many reproaches for having fashioned the instrument of our yoke. As a good Christian, let him consider if it is well done to wish to force people, to cause divorces, and to be the occasion of all the sins that an ill-assorted marriage leads us to commit. I am determined to front every thing in the world sooner. Since things are so, you may, in some good way, apprise the Duke of Bevern that, happen what may, I never will have her.
The Austrian general, flushed with victory, at the head of eighty thousand troops, encamped in strong positions a few miles east of Frederick, on the road to Neisse, in Silesia. Narrowly he watched the movements of his Prussian majesty, but he did not venture to molest him. Neisse was at that time closely besieged by the Austrians. It would inevitably soon fall into their hands unless Frederick could march to its succor. The great strategic object of the Austrian commander was so to block up the road as to prevent the advance of the Prussian troops. Frederick, despising the inactivity of his cautious foe, said to his brother,
“Remember me always, but console yourself for my death. The glory of the Prussian arms and the honor of the house have set me in action, and will guide me to my last moment. You are my sole heir. I recommend to you, in dying, those whom I have the most loved during my life—Keyserling, Jordan, Wartensleben, Hacke, who is a very honest man, Fredersdorf, and Eichel, in whom you may place entire confidence.“And G?rtz senior is off on the instant, careering toward Weimar, where he finds G?rtz junior, and makes known his errand. G?rtz junior stares in the natural astonishment; but, after some intense brief deliberation, becomes affirmative, and in a minimum of time is ready and on the road.
“Whole provinces had been laid waste. Even in those which had not been thus destroyed, internal commerce and industry were almost at an end. A great part of Pomerania and Brandenburg was changed into a desert. There were provinces where hardly any men were to be found, and where the women were therefore obliged to guide the plow. In others women were as much wanting as men. The most fertile plains of Germany, on the banks of the Oder and the Wesel, presented only the arid and sterile appearance of a desert. An officer has stated that he had passed through seven villages without meeting a single person excepting a curate.”174“At Belgard next morning he reviewed the dragoon regiment, and was very ill content with it. And nobody, with the least understanding of that business, but must own that never did Prussian regiment man?uvre worse. Conscious themselves how bad it was, they lost head and got into confusion. The king did every thing that was possible to help them into order again, but it was all in vain. The king, contrary to wont, restrained himself amazingly, and would not show his displeasure in public. He got into his carriage and drove away, not staying to dine with General Von Platen, as was always his custom with commandants whom he had reviewed.
He drank deeply, wandering about by night as if possessed by fiends. “He has not,” writes Captain Dickens, “gone to bed sober for a month past.” Once he rose, about midnight, and, with a candle in his hand, entered the apartment of the queen, apparently in a state of extreme terror, saying that there was something haunting him. His agitation was so great that a bed was made up for him there.Frederick, thus urged, leaving the main body of his army, as258 he supposed, in utter rout, with a small escort, put spurs to his steed in the attempt to escape. The king was well mounted on a very splendid bay horse. A rapid ride of fifteen miles in a southerly direction brought him to the River Neisse, which he crossed by a bridge at the little town of Lowen. Immediately after his departure Prince Leopold dispatched a squadron of dragoons to accompany the king as his body-guard. But Frederick fled so rapidly that they could not overtake him, and in the darkness, for night soon approached, they lost his track. Even several of the few who accompanied him, not so well mounted as the king, dropped off by the way, their horses not being able to keep up with his swift pace.
“Ah! here you are. I am glad to see you.” Then, taking a light, he carefully examined her from head to foot. After a moment’s silence, he added, “How changed you are! I am sorry for you, on my word. You have not bread to eat, and but for me you might go a-begging. I am a poor man myself; not able to give you much; will do what I can. I will give you now and then twenty or thirty shillings, as my affairs permit. It will always be something to assuage your want. And you, madam,” turning to the queen, “will sometimes give her an old dress, for the poor child hasn’t a shift to her back.”
About three weeks after this sad betrothal, Fritz wrote to his sister Wilhelmina, under date of Berlin, March 24, 1732, as follows:On the 30th of August Frederick commenced his march from Dresden. Great caution was requisite, and great military skill, in so bold an adventure. On the 13th of September he reached Erfurt. The Prince of Soubise, aware of the prowess of his antagonist, retired to the hills and intrenched himself, waiting until he could accumulate forces which would render victory certain. Frederick had now with him his second brother, Henry, who seems to have very fully secured his confidence. On the 16th of September the king wrote:On Friday, the 13th of October, the two hostile armies, separated merely by a brook and a ravine, were within half a mile of each other. Daun had manifested great timidity in not venturing from behind his intrenchments to attack the little band of Prussians. Frederick, emboldened by this cowardice on the part of his opponent, made his arrangements to assail the Austrians in a secret attack before the dawn of the morning of Saturday, the 14th. In the mean time, Daun, probably a little ashamed of being held at bay by so small a force, formed his plan to surround and destroy the whole Prussian army. It is generally conceded by military critics that the plan was admirably conceived, and would have been triumphantly executed but for the singular ability displayed by Frederick.
“We have settled our winter quarters. I have yet a little round to take, and afterward I shall seek for tranquillity at Leipsic, if it be to be found there. But, indeed, for me tranquillity is only a metaphysical word which has no reality.”Go, my sister, go; Sweden waits you, Sweden wishes you.
These were terrible tidings for Frederick. The news reached him at Gorlitz when on the rapid march toward Silesia. Prince Charles had between eighty and ninety thousand Austrian troops in the reconquered province. Frederick seemed to be marching to certain and utter destruction, as, with a feeble band of but about twenty thousand men, he pressed forward, declaring, “I will attack them if they stand on the steeples of Breslau.详情
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