“I am not afraid in contemplating the dread tribunal before which I must now so soon appear. I am certain of my cause. Look at me! A man that is certain of his cause can enter on such a journey with good courage and a composed mind.”
124 The Crown Prince, either deeply touched with penitence or affecting to be so, again threw himself upon his knees before his father, as if imploring pardon. The king continued:“My discourse,” she writes, “produced its effect. He melted into tears, and could not answer me for sobs. He explained his thoughts by his embracings of me. Making an effort at length, he said, ‘I am in despair that I did not know thee. They had told me such horrible tales—I hated thee as much as I now love thee. If I had addressed myself direct to thee I should have escaped much trouble, and thou too. But they hindered me from speaking. They said that thou wert ill-natured as the devil, and wouldst drive to extremities, which I wanted to avoid. Thy mother, by her intriguings, is in part the cause of the misfortunes of the family. I have been deceived and duped on every side. But my hands are tied. Though my heart is torn in pieces, I must leave these iniquities unpunished.’”
Wilhelmina well understood that her brother contemplated running away, escaping, if possible, to England. We have mentioned that the young prince, after his return from Dresden, had become quite dissipated. The companions he chose were wild young army officers of high birth, polished address, and, in godless lives, fashionable men of the world. Lieutenant Katte was a genteel man of pleasure. Another of his bosom companions, Lieutenant Keith, a young man of illustrious lineage, was also a very undesirable associate for any young man whose principles71 of virtue were not established.8 Of Keith and Katte, the two most intimate friends of Fritz, Wilhelmina writes, about this time:His sister Amelia and several other friends visited him at Breslau. Among others was his reader, Henry de Catt.
It is said that one day, as Frederick was contemplating the royal burying-ground, not far from the spot which he had selected for his rural villa, he said to a companion by his side, in reference to his own burial, “Oui, alors je serais sans souci.” Yes, then I shall be free from care. From that remark the villa took its name. Frederick adopted it, and inscribed it in golden letters on the lintel. He appropriated to his private use three apartments—an audience-room, a library, and a small alcove for a bedroom. In this alcove, scarcely larger than a closet, he slept, in soldier style, upon an iron bed, without curtains. An old slouched hat, softened by wear, served him for a night-cap. His library was a beautiful room, very richly furnished. There were377 terrible war-clouds still sweeping over various parts of Europe, but their lightning flashes and their thunder roar disturbed not the repose of Frederick in his elevated retreat.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.”In the following terms Thiebault describes their parting: The final interview between Frederick and Voltaire took place on the parade at Potsdam, where the king was then occupied with393 his soldiers. One of the attendants announced Voltaire to his majesty with these words:
“The death of the emperor,” says Frederick, “was the only event wanting to complete the confusion and embroilment which already existed in the political relations of the European powers.”
The absolutism of Frederick placed all legislative, judicial, and executive powers in his hands. He was law-maker, judge, and executioner. The liberty, property, and lives of his subjects were at his disposal. He could call others to assist him in the government, but they were merely servants to do his bidding.
Frederick, having completed the investment of Glogau, cutting off all its supplies, left a sufficient detachment there to starve the city into submission. There were about seven thousand inhabitants within the walls—“a much-enduring, frugal, pious, and very desirable people.” As it was probable that the feeble garrison, after a brief show of resistance, would surrender, Frederick hastened in person, with all his remaining available troops, toward Breslau, the capital of Silesia. On the 27th he wrote to M. Jordan:
“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.”As we have mentioned, the Russian general had such a dread of Frederick that he did not dare to pursue him. In his report of the victory to the Czarina Charlotte, speaking of his own heavy loss of over eighteen thousand men, he writes, “Your majesty is aware that the King of Prussia sells his victories at a dear rate.” To some who urged him to pursue Frederick, he replied, “Let me gain but another such victory, and I may go to Petersburg with the news of it myself alone, with my staff in my hand.”
“Asking me for peace is indeed a bitter joke. It is to Louis XV. you must address yourself, or to his Amboise in petticoats.129 But these people have their heads filled with ambitious projects. They wish to be the sovereign arbiters of sovereigns. That is what persons of my way of thinking will by no means put up with. I like peace as much as you could wish, but I want it good, solid, and honorable. Socrates or Plato would have thought as I do on this subject had they found themselves in the accursed position which is mine in the world.“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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