The eastern half of the immense quadrangle endeavored to reform itself, so as to present a new front to the foe. But, before this could be done, Frederick hurled his right wing, his centre, and all that remained disposable of his left wing upon it. His cavalry plunged into the disordered mass. His batteries, with almost unprecedented rapidity of fire, tore the tumultuous and panic-stricken ranks to shreds; and his line of infantry, like a supernatural wall of bristling steel, unwaveringly advanced, pouring in upon the foe the most deadly volleys.“There has been a revolution in St. Petersburg. The Czar Peter III., your majesty’s devoted friend, has been deposed, and probably assassinated. The Czarina Catharine, influenced by the enemies of your majesty, and unwilling to become embroiled in a conflict with Austria and France, has ordered me to return instantly homeward with the twenty thousand troops under my command.”“Indeed, how many reasons has one at fifty years of age to despise life! The prospect which remains to me is an old age of infirmity and pain, with disappointments, regrets, ignominies, and outrages to endure. In truth, if you really consider my situation, you ought to blame my intentions less than you do. I have lost all my friends. I am unfortunate in all the ways in which it is possible to be so. I have nothing to hope for. I see my enemies treat me with derision, while their insolence prepares to trample me under foot. Alas!
443 He did not order the exhausted troops to pursue the foe. Still, as he rode along the line after dark, he inquired,THE LITTLE DRUMMER.
General Fermor was now informed, through his roving Cossacks, of the position of Frederick. Immediately he raised the siege of Cüstrin, hurried off his baggage train to Klein Kamin, on the road to Landsberg, and retired with his army to a very strong position near the village of Zorndorf. Here there was a wild, bleak, undulating plain, interspersed with sluggish streams, and forests, and impassable bogs. General Fermor massed the Russian troops in a very irregular hollow square, with his staff baggage in the centre, and awaited an attack. This huge quadrilateral of living lines, four men deep, with bristling bayonets, prancing horses, and iron-lipped cannon, was about two miles long by one mile broad.The year 1739 was spent by the prince mostly at Reinsberg. Many distinguished visitors were received at the chateau. Frederick continued busily engaged in his studies, writing both prose and verse, and keeping up a lively correspondence with Voltaire and other literary friends. He engaged very earnestly in writing a book entitled Anti-Machiavel, which consisted of a refutation of Machiavel’s Prince. This book was published, praised, and read, but has long since been forgotten. The only memorable thing about the book now is that in those dark days of absolutism, when it was the almost universally recognized opinion that power did not ascend from the people to their sovereign, but descended from the monarch to his subjects, Frederick should have spoken of the king as the “born servant of his people.
It was a dreary winter to Frederick in Breslau. Sad, silent, and often despairing, he was ever inflexibly resolved to struggle till the last possible moment, and, if need be, to bury himself beneath the ruins of his kingdom. All his tireless energies he devoted to the Herculean work before him. No longer did he affect gayety or seek recreations. Secluded, solitary, sombre, he took counsel of no one. In the possession of absolute power, he issued his commands as with the authority of a god.Not a soldier appeared to oppose the invaders. The Prussians seized, in an unobstructed march, all the most important Saxon towns and fortresses. The King of Poland and his court, with less than twenty thousand troops, had fled from the capital up the river, which here runs from the south to Pirna, where they concentrated their feeble army, which numbered but eighteen thousand men. Frederick, with his resistless column, entered Dresden on the 9th of September. The queen had remained in the palace. The keys of the archives were demanded of her. She refused to surrender them. The officers proceeded to break open the door. The queen placed herself before the door. The officers, shrinking from using personal violence, sent to Frederick for instructions. He ordered them to force the archives, whatever opposition the queen, in person, might present. The queen,406 to avoid a rude assault, withdrew. The door was forced, and the archives seized.
“I, too, am anxious for peace,” Maria Theresa replied, “and will joyfully withdraw my armies if Silesia, of which I have been robbed, is restored to me.”“I have seen neither my brother48 nor Keyserling.49 I left them at Breslau, not to expose them to the dangers of war. They perhaps will be a little angry, but what can I do? the rather as, on this occasion, one can not share in the glory unless one is a mortar!Frederick was in a towering passion. Voltaire was alarmed at the commotion he had created. He wrote a letter to the king, in which he declared most solemnly that he had not intended to392 have the pamphlet published; that a copy had been obtained by treachery, and had been printed without his consent or knowledge. But the king wrote back:
“Frederick William.”“If I am killed, affairs must go on without alteration. If I should be taken prisoner, I forbid you from paying the least regard to my person, or paying the least heed to what I may write from my place of detention. Should such misfortune happen to me, I wish to sacrifice myself for the state. You must obey my brother. He, as well as all my ministers and generals, shall answer to me with their heads not to offer any province or ransom for me, but to continue the war, pushing their advances as if I had never existed in the world.”
“This, for the present, is her method of looking at the matter; this magnanimous, heroic, and occasionally somewhat female one. Her husband, the grand-duke, an inert but good-tempered, well-conditioned duke, after his sort, goes with her. Now, as always, he follows loyally his wife’s lead, never she his. Wife being intrinsically as well as extrinsically the better man, what other can he do?”
“Old Leopold is hardly at home at Dessau,” writes Carlyle, “when the new Pandour tempests, tides of ravaging war, again come beating against the Giant Mountains, pouring through all passes, huge influx of wild riding hordes, each with some support of Austrian grenadiers, cannoniers, threatening to submerge Silesia. Precursors, Frederick need not doubt, of a strenuous, regular attempt that way. Hungarian majesty’s fixed intention,347 hope, and determination is to expel him straightway from Silesia.”81“The heresy about predestination,” writes Carlyle, “or the election by free grace, as his majesty terms it, according to which a man is preappointed, from all eternity, either to salvation or the opposite, which is Fritz’s notion, and indeed Calvin’s, and that of many benighted creatures, this editor among them, appears to his majesty an altogether shocking one. What! may not deserter Fritz say to himself, even now, or in whatever other deeps of sin he may fall into, ‘I was foredoomed to it? How could I or how can I help it?’ The mind of his majesty shudders as if looking over the edge of an abyss.”
“To which I replied, that this was very hard usage, and the world would see how the King of Prussia would relish it. But having strict orders from his majesty, my most gracious master, to make a declaration to the ministers of Hanover in his name, and finding that Herr von Hartoff would neither receive it nor take a copy of it, I had only to tell him that I was under the necessity of leaving it in writing, and had brought the paper with me; and that now, as the council were pleased to refuse to take it, I was obliged to leave the said declaration on a table in an adjoining room, in the presence of Herr von Hartoff and other secretaries of the council, whom I desired to lay it before the ministry.
“This is the homage you render the rising sun, though you know that the rule in the tobacco parliament is to rise to no one. You think I am dead. But I will teach you that I am yet living.”Thrice Frederick in person led the charge against the advancing foe. He had three horses shot under him. A gold snuffbox in his pocket was flattened by a bullet. His friends entreated him not thus to peril a life upon which every thing depended. He was deaf to all remonstrances. It is manifest that, in his despair, he sought a soldier’s grave.“‘This is a sister I adore, and to whom I am obliged beyond measure. She has the goodness to promise me that she will take care of you and help you with her good counsel. I wish you to respect her beyond even the king and queen, and not to take the least step without her advice. Do you understand?’详情
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