Frederick was endowed with brilliant powers of conversation. He was fond of society, where he could exercise and display these gifts and accomplishments. Frequent suppers were given at Sans Souci, which lasted from half past eight till midnight. Gentlemen only—learned men—were invited to these entertainments. Frederick was not an amiable man. He took pleasure in inflicting the keenest pain possible with his satirical tongue. No friend was spared. The more deeply he could strike the lash into the quivering nerves of sensibility, the better he seemed pleased with himself.Charles, feeling keenly the bereavement, and alarmed for the health of his wife, whom he loved most tenderly, hastened to his home in Brussels. The prince and princess were vice-regents, or “joint governors” of the Netherlands. The decline of the princess was very rapid. On the 16th of December, the young prince, with flooded eyes, a broken-hearted man, followed the remains of his beloved companion to their burial. Charles never recovered from the blow. He had been the happiest of husbands. He sank into a state of deep despondency, and could never be induced to wed again. Though in April he resumed, for a time, the command of the army, his energies were wilted, his spirit saddened, and he soon passed into oblivion. This is but one among the countless millions of the unwritten tragedies of human life.
“Of this ex-tutor Frederick bethinks him; and in the course of that same day—for there is no delay—Frederick, who is at Berlin, beckons General G?rtz to come over to him from Potsdam instantly.
“Great God! my sister of Baireuth, my noble Wilhelmina, dead; died in the very hours while we were fighting here.”
“My situation forces me,” he said, “to give them this trouble, which they will not have to suffer long. My life is on the decline. The time which I still have belongs not to me, but to the state.
Early in October the allies planned an expedition for the capture of Berlin. The city had no defenses but weak palisades, which were garrisoned by but twelve hundred men. General Czernichef led a column of twenty thousand Russians, General509 Lacy another of fifteen thousand Austrians, and General Soltikof a third column of twenty thousand more.“Done, that Sterbohol work; those foot-chargings, horse-chargings; that battery of Homoly Hill; and, hanging upon that, all manner of redoubts and batteries to the rightward and rearward; but how it was done no pen can describe, nor any intellect in clear sequence understand. An enormous mêlée there: new Prussian battalions charging, and ever new, irrepressible by case-shot, as they successively get up; Marshal Browne, too, sending for new battalions at double-quick from his left, disputing stiffly every inch of his ground, till at length (hour not given), a cannon shot tore away his foot, and he had to be carried into Prague, mortally wounded. Which probably was a most important circumstance, or the most important of all.”In the king’s will, the only reference to any future which might be before him was the following:
FREDERICK CONCENTRATING HIS ARMY AT CHRUDIM.
It was Saturday, the 8th of April. A blinding, smothering storm of snow swept over the bleak plains. Breasting the gale, and wading through the drifts, the Prussian troops tramped along, unable to see scarcely a rod before them. At a little hamlet called Leipe the vanguard encountered a band of Austrian251 hussars. They took several captives. From them they learned, much to their chagrin and not a little to their alarm, that the Austrian army was already in possession of Grottkau.
“P.S.—I most humbly beg your majesty not to speak of this323 to the queen-mother, as perhaps she would not approve of the step we are now taking.“I assure you he is a prince who has talent, but who will be the slave of his passions, and will like nobody but such as encourage him therein. For me, I think all princes are cast in the same mould. There is only a more and a less.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed the king, with an air of real or affected surprise. Then, turning to his secretary, M. Podewils, he inquired, “How much of Guelderland is theirs, and not ours already?”详情
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