But the exertion, and the emotion occasioned by the interview with his son, prostrated him again. He was taken back into his palace and to his bed more dead than alive. Reviving a little in the afternoon, he dictated to Frederick all the arrangements he wished to have adopted in reference to his funeral. This curious document is characteristic, in every line, of the strange man. His coffin, which was of massive oak carpentry, had been made for some time, and was in the king’s chamber awaiting its occupant. He not unfrequently, with affected or real complacency, fixed his eyes upon it, saying, “I shall sleep right well there.” In the minute directions to his son as to his burial, he said,“The king,” writes Küster, “fell ill of the gout, saw almost nobody, never came out. It was whispered that his inflexible heart was at last breaking. And for certain there never was in his camp and over his dominions such a gloom as in this October, 1761, till at length he appeared on horseback again, with a cheerful face; and every body thought to himself, ‘Ha! the world will still roll on, then.’”
The exigency demanded the most decisive action. Frederick promptly gathered his army, and dashed across the Moldau, resolved, with the energies of despair, to smite down the troops of Prince Charles; but no foe could be found. For four days he sought for them in vain. He then learned that the Austrian army had crossed the Moldau several miles north of him, thus cutting off his communications with Prague.
“Hardly,” he replied, “in that dress. Besides, your majesty has grown thinner.“But, after this avowal, allow me to entreat you to look back at what was the pitiable state of your enemy when you lay before Prague. It is the sudden whirl of fortune for both parties. The like can occur again when one is the least expecting it. C?sar was the slave of pirates, and yet he became master of the world. A great genius like yours finds resources even when all is lost.
The town of Cüstrin, it will be remembered, was utterly consumed, being set on fire by the shells of the Russians. The commandant of the citadel was censured for not having prevented the calamity. He immediately sought an interview with the king, endeavoring to apologize for his conduct. The king, perhaps justly, perhaps very unjustly, interrupted him, saying,The prince inquired, in quite an indifferent tone, respecting the marriages his father had in contemplation for him. He objected to the marriage with the Princess of Mecklenburg, niece of the Czar Peter, that it would require him to change his religion, which he would not do. He expressed himself as inclined to take the second daughter of the Emperor of Germany, if the emperor would throw in a duchy or two.
“There is the forgiveness of enemies. Your majesty is bound to forgive all men. If you do not do this, how can you ask to be forgiven?”Many bitter words had already passed between Louis XV. and Frederick. But recently a new element of discord had appeared. The Duchess of Pompadour, the guilty favorite of Louis XV., beautiful, fascinating, and wicked, had become a power in Europe, notwithstanding the ignoble position she occupied.399 This artful and enchanting woman, having the weak king completely under her control, was in reality the ruler of France. The proudest nobles and the highest ecclesiastics bowed submissively at her shrine. Even the immaculate Maria Theresa, constrained by state policy, wrote flattering notes to her, addressing her as “my cousin,” “princess and cousin,” “madame, my dearest sister.”On the 5th of October, 1763, Augustus, the unhappy King of Poland, had died at Dresden, after a troubled reign of thirty years. The crown was elective. The turbulent nobles, broken up into antagonistic and envenomed cliques, were to choose a successor. Catharine, as ambitious as she was able and unprincipled, resolved to place one of her creatures upon the throne, that Poland, a realm spreading over a territory of 284,000 square miles, and containing a population of 20,000,000, might be virtually added to her dominions. Carlyle writes:
The position of Frederick became daily more embarrassing. His forces were continually decreasing. Re-enforcements were swelling the ranks of the Austrians. Elated in becoming the Imperial Army, they grew more bold and annoying, assailing the Prussian outposts and cutting off their supplies.
“Munchberg, July 2, 1734.
“The king,” writes Küster, “fell ill of the gout, saw almost nobody, never came out. It was whispered that his inflexible heart was at last breaking. And for certain there never was in his camp and over his dominions such a gloom as in this October, 1761, till at length he appeared on horseback again, with a cheerful face; and every body thought to himself, ‘Ha! the world will still roll on, then.’”
CHAPTER XXXIV. THE PARTITION OF POLAND.On the 11th it was announced that Frederick, with nearly the whole Prussian army, was within five days’ march of Berlin. The allies held him in such dread, when he had any thing like an equality of numbers with them, that they fled from him at the rate of thirty miles a day. But terrible were the ravages which they inflicted on the Prussian people during this retreat.“Thus was Silesia reunited to the dominions of Prussia. Two years of war sufficed for the conquest of this important province. The treasure which the late king had left was nearly exhausted. But it is a cheap purchase, where whole provinces are bought for seven or eight millions of crowns. The union of circumstances at the moment peculiarly favored this enterprise. It was necessary for it that France should allow itself to be drawn into the war; that Russia should be attacked by Sweden; that, from timidity, the Hanoverians and Saxons should remain inactive; that the successes of the Prussians should be uninterrupted; and that the King of England, the enemy of Prussia, should become, in spite of himself, the instrument of its aggrandizement. What, however, contributed the most to this conquest was an army which had been formed for twenty-two years, by means of a discipline admirable in itself, and superior to the troops of the316 rest of Europe. Generals, also, who were true patriots, wise and incorruptible ministers, and, finally, a certain good fortune which often accompanies youth, and often deserts a more advanced age.”70
Frederick, unaware that Oppeln was in the hands of the enemy, arrived, with the few of his suite who had been able to keep up with him, about midnight before the closed gates of the town. “Who are you?” the Austrian sentinels inquired. “We are Prussians,” was the reply, “accompanying a courier from the king.” The Austrians, unconscious of the prize within their grasp, and not knowing how numerous the Prussian party might be, instantly opened a musketry fire upon them through the iron gratings of the gate. Had they but thrown open the gate and thus let the king enter the trap, the whole history of Europe might have been changed. Upon apparently such trivial chances the destinies of empires and of the world depend. Fortunately, in the darkness and the confusion, none were struck by the bullets.It was apparently easy for the Crown Prince to relinquish Amelia. But the English princess, being very unhappy at home, had fixed her affections upon Frederick with the most romantic tenderness. In beauty of person, in chivalric reputation, in exalted rank, he was every thing an imaginative maiden could have desired. She regarded him probably as, in heart, true to her. He had often sent his protestations to the English court that he would never marry any one but Amelia. Though the marriage ceremony had been performed with Elizabeth, he recognized only its legal tie. Poor Amelia was heart-crushed. Earth had no longer any joys for her. She never married, but wore the miniature of the prince upon her breast for the rest of her days. We have no record of the weary years during which grief was consuming her life. Her eyelids became permanently swollen with weeping. And when, at the age of sixty, she died, the miniature of the Crown Prince was still found resting upon her true and faithful heart. Amelia and Elizabeth—how sad their fate! Through no fault of their own, earth was to them both truly a vale of tears. The only relief from the contemplation of the terrible tragedies of earth is found in the hope that the sufferers may find compensation in a heavenly home.详情
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