FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS FAMILY
Part 6 out of 16
the army; for if you became a deserter, it would break your father's
heart, and it would be a disgrace, not only for me, but for the
whole village. Think well over what you have said. Perhaps you are
mistaken in yourself, and only dislike joining the army on your poor
father's account. Question your conscience and your heart, and
remember, Charles Henry, that God will hear your answer. Do you
truly believe that you are wanting in courage--that you would fly
from the battle-field?"
"As truly as there is a God above us, I believe it, Anna Sophia. It
is not belief, it is certainty. It is not in my nature to be brave;
I was not brought up to it, and am therefore without it. I am an apt
farmer, but would be a bad soldier."
Anna Sophia sighed deeply, and covered her face with her hands. Thus
she stood for some time in front of her betrothed, and he saw the
large tears, stealing through her fingers, fall upon the grass, to
be transformed there by the sun into sparkling jewels.
"Why do you weep, Anna Sophia?" asked he, gently. "What has so
suddenly made you sad?"
Her hands fell slowly and wearily from her face. "I am not weeping
now," said she, "it is past--I have shed my last tear. Now we must
settle upon what is to be done, for you cannot be a soldier."
"But they will force me," said he, "for I am tall, strong, and
healthy--just the build for a soldier."
Anna Sophia raised herself proudly and stood beside him. "I am as
tall as you," said she.
"It is true," replied Charles Henry, laughing, "we are of the same
height. We can scarcely fail to have tall, good-looking children
some of these days!"
She shrugged her shoulders slightly, and looked at him in a strange
manner. "I am as strong and as healthy as you," said she, "my sight
is as sharp, my hand as sure. Were I Charles Henry Buschman, I would
be a good soldier, for I have courage--I would lot tremble at the
"But, fortunately, you are not a man," said Charles Henry, laughing.
"You are the beautiful Anna Sophia, who is this day to become my
wife to save me from being a soldier."
"No, Charles Henry; the war must be at an end, and Charles Henry
Buschman must have returned a brave soldier, before I can marry
"You mean," said he, with trembling lips--"you mean I must be a
"As you have said, they will not let you off. You are a strong,
healthy youth--you are unmarried, and have no one to support, for
your father can take care of himself. Why, then, as the king is in
need of soldiers, should they pass you by?"
"It is too true." murmured Charles Henry, despondently. After a
slight pause, he said: "But I will not be a soldier--I cannot! For
it is true I am a coward--I have not a particle of courage! That is
born with one, it cannot be acquired; I have it not, and cannot
therefore be a soldier."
"Nor shall you become one," said Anna, with determination.
"What can you do?"
"I will join the army in your stead!"
Charles Henry stared at her. He was on the point of laughing, but
the sight of her inspired, earnest countenance, in which a world of
determination was expressed, sobered him completely.
"I will do as I said, for I have great courage, and when I think of
a battle my heart beats loudly, not with fear but with rapturous
joy. To me, nothing would be more glorious than to die, banner in
hand, surrounded by the thunder of cannon, and to cry out
exultingly, as the blood flows from my wounds, 'Vive le roi! vive la
patrie!'" Her form was raised majestically, her countenance beamed
with inspiration, a daring fire sparkled in her eyes--she was so
changed in form and expression, that Charles Henry drew back from
her in terror.
"I am afraid of you, Anna Sophia," said he, shuddering. "You are
changed--you are not like yourself."
"No," said she; "nor am I the same. Yesterday I was Anna Sophia
Detzloff--from to-day I am Charles Henry Buschman. Do not interrupt
me--it must be! You shall not break your father's heart--you shall
not bring disgrace upon the village. The king has called you--you
must obey the call. But I will go in your place; you shall remain
quietly at home, thrashing your corn, cutting your hay, and taking
care of your kind old father, while I shall be upon the battle-
field, fighting in your place."
"Do you then love me well enough to give your life for me?" cried
Charles Henry, with streaming eyes.
She shook her head slowly, thoughtfully. "I do not know if it be
love," said she. "I only feel that it must be done--there is no
other outlet but this to help us all. Let us speak no more about it-
-only tell me that you accept it."
"It is impossible, Anna Sophia."
"Only accept it, and all will be right."
"I cannot. It would be an everlasting shame to me."
She pressed her teeth tightly together--her eyes gleamed with anger.
"Hear me out," said she. "Go, or stay--whichever you do--I do not
remain here! I must away and seek my fortune. I have never been
happy, as yet--upon the battle-field I may be. I have nothing to
lose, and can therefore win all. Well, say! Am I to be a soldier in
"If you really wish it, I must yield," said he, sadly. "You say you
have nothing to lose, but I, I have you, and I cannot, will not lose
you. And as you would be angry with and leave me if I said 'No,' I
prefer saying 'Yes.'"
Anna Sophia gave a cry of delight, and, for the first time, gave
Charles Henry a willing kiss. "Many, many thanks, Charles Henry,"
said she. "Now we will all be happy."
Charles Henry sighed. He could not bring himself to trust in Anna's
"And now," said she, eagerly, "how shall we go about it?"
FAREWELL TO THE VILLAGE.
In the course of the day, Charles Henry accompanied the other boys
to the village, where an officer was to call out the names of those
who were drafted. As his name was called out, he did not change
countenance--he remained as gay and cheerful as before, while the
other boys were gazing sadly, thoughtfully before them. Then the
officer handed each of them a ticket upon which their names were
printed, and ordered them to go immediately to the nearest city,
Cleve, and receive their uniforms. Charles Henry requested a day's
leave, as he had various preparations to make for his father, to
whom he wished to will the little property he had inherited from his
mother. The officer granted him one day. Charles Henry left the
house gayly, but instead of turning his steps toward the little hut
inhabited by his father, he took the path leading to the old school-
house, where his bride lived.
She stood at her door waiting for him. "Well," said she, hastily,
"is all right?"
"Yes," said he, sadly, "I am drafted."
She grasped the printed ticket from his hand and hid it in her
bosom. "Now," said she, "you have but to bring me a decent suit of
"My Sunday suit, Anna," said he, smiling. "It is new; I intended to
be married in it."
"I shall not hurt it," said she. "There is a merchant at Cleve, whom
I know to be good and honest--I will leave the clothes with him, and
next Sunday you can walk to the city for them."
"You will not even keep them to remember me by?"
"It is impossible for me ever to forget you, Charles Henry, for I
shall bear your name."
"From now on, throughout your whole life, you shall bear it, Anna.
For when you return, you will remember your promise, and marry me.
You will not forget me when far away?"
"How do I know I shall return?" said she. "A soldier's life is in
constant danger. There can be no talk of marriage until this war is
over. But it is now time we were asleep, Charles Henry. You and I
have many things to do to-morrow; we must arrange our household
affairs--you for the sake of appearances, and I in good earnest.
Good-night, then, Charles Henry."
"Will you not kiss me on this our last night, Anna Sophia?" said he,
"A soldier kisses no man," said she, with a weary smile. "He might
embrace a friend, as his life ebbed out upon the battle-field, but
none other, Charles Henry. Good-night."
She entered and bolted the door after her, then lighting a candle
she hastened to her attic-room. Seating herself at her father's
table, she spread a large sheet of foolscap before her and commenced
writing. She was making her will with a firm, unshaken hand. She
began by taking leave of the villagers, and implored them to forgive
her for causing them sorrow; but that life in the old hut, without
her parents, had become burdensome to her, and as her betrothed was
now going away, she could endure it no longer. She then divided her
few possessions, leaving to every friend some slight remembrance,
such as ribbons, a prayer-book, or a handkerchief. Her clothes she
divided among the village wives. But her house, with all its
contents, she left to Father Buschman, with the request that he
would live in it, at least in summer.
When she had finished, she threw herself upon her bed to rest from
the many fatigues and heart-aches of the day. In her dreams her
parents appeared to her--they beckoned, kissed, and blessed her.
Strengthened by this dream, she sprang joyfully at daybreak from her
couch. She felt now assured that what she was about to do was right,
for otherwise her parents would not have appeared to her. She now
continued the preparations for her journey cheerfully. She packed
all her linen clothes into a small bundle, and then scoured and
dusted her little house carefully. Dressing herself with more than
her usual care, and putting her testament in her pocket, she left
Anna took the road leading to the parsonage; she wished to go to
confession to her old pastor for the last time. He had known her
during the whole of her short life; had baptized her, and with him
she had taken her first communion. She had confessed to him her most
secret thoughts, and with loving smile, he absolved what she deemed
her sins. He would not break the seal of confession, and she
therefore opened her heart to him without fear.
The old pastor was deeply moved, and laying his hand upon her head
he wept. When she had bid him a long and loving adieu, and had wiped
the tears from her eyes, she left the parsonage and hastened to the
woods, where Father Buschman was tending his sheep. As soon as the
old shepherd saw her, he beckoned to her his welcome.
"I did not see you throughout the whole of yesterday, Anna Sophia,"
said he, "and my heart was heavy within me; there was something
wanting to my happiness."
"I will remain with you to-day to make up for yesterday's absence,"
said she, seating herself beside him and kissing him tenderly. "I
could not work to-day, for my heart aches; I will rest myself with
"Your heart aches because Charles Henry must leave us," said the old
shepherd. "You would prefer his remaining at home, and not being a
"No, I would not prefer this, father," said she, earnestly; "would
The old man looked thoughtful for some time, then said:
"It will be a great sorrow to me, Anna Sophia, for he is the last
remaining light of my youth, and when he goes all will be dark and
gloomy for me. It does me good to see his bright, handsome face; to
hear his gay morning and evening song; and when you two are sitting
beside me hand in hand upon the old bench at the front of our little
hut, my youth comes back to me. I see myself sitting on the same
bench with my dear old woman--it was our favorite seat when we were
young. When Charles Henry leaves me, I not only lose him, but my
whole past life seems to vanish away."
"You would, therefore, prefer he should remain at home?" said Anna,
"If it were possible," said he, "but it is not. His king has called
him, he must obey."
"But he may, perhaps, be allowed to stay, father, if you will
declare that you are too old, too weak to support yourself, and wish
the only prop of your old age to remain with you, the authorities at
Cleve may, perhaps, grant your request."
The old shepherd shook his head slowly and thoughtfully, and said:
"No, we will not make the attempt; it would be deception, and could
bring us no honor. I am not too weak to earn my own living, and it
would be a disgrace to Charles Henry if I bought him off from his
duty. The world might then think he was a coward, and had not
courage enough to fight."
"Do you think it a disgrace for a man to be wanting in courage?"
said Anna Sophia, gazing at him as if her life depended upon his
"I think so," said he, calmly; "it is as bad for a man to be without
courage as for a woman to be without virtue."
Anna Sophia raised her dark, glowing eyes to heaven with an
expression of deep thankfulness. Then giving way to her emotion, she
threw her arms around the old shepherd, and, leaning her head upon
his shoulder, she wept bitterly. He did not disturb her, but pressed
her tenderly to his heart, and whispered occasionally a few loving,
consoling words. He believed he understood her sorrow; he thought he
knew the source of these tears. She was weeping because all hope of
preventing her betrothed from being a soldier was now gone.
"Weep no more, my child," said he, at last; "your eyes will be red;
it will sadden Charles Henry, and make it harder for him to say
good-by. See, there he comes to join us--do not weep, my child."
Anna raised her head and dried her eyes hastily. "I am not weeping,
father," said she. "I entreat you do not tell Charles Henry that I
have been crying--do not, if you love me. I will promise not to be
"I will be silent, but you must keep your word and be cheerful, so
as not to sadden the poor boy."
Anna Sophia kept her word. She gave Charles Henry a bright, cheery
welcome. While she was joking and laughing with the old man, evening
came upon them, and as it cast its shadows about, Charles Henry
became more and more silent and sad.
It was now time to drive home the fold, the sun had set, and Phylax
had collected his little army. The old shepherd arose. "And now, my
children," said he, "take leave of one another. It is the last
sunset you will see together for many a long day. Swear to each
other here, in the presence of God and of his beautiful world, that
you will be true to each other, that your love shall never change."
Charles Henry looked timidly, beseechingly at Anna Sophia, but she
would not encounter his gaze.
"We have said all that we had to say," said she, quietly, "we will
therefore not make our parting harder by repeating it."
"It will make parting much easier to me," cried Charles Henry, "if
you will swear to be true, and always to love me. Though many years
may pass, Anna Sophia, before we meet again, I will never cease to
love you, never cease to think of you."
"This will I also do, Charles Henry," said Anna, solemnly. "My
thoughts will be with you daily, hourly; your name will be
constantly upon my lips!"
Charles Henry turned pale. He understood the ambiguous meaning of
this oath, and it cut him to the heart.
"And now, good-night, Anna Sophia," said the old shepherd; "to-
morrow evening, when your work is done, I will await you here. We
will have to love and console each other. Good-night once more!"
"Good-night, dear father," whispered she, in a voice choked with
tears, as she pressed a burning kiss on his brow.
The old man took her in his arms and embraced her tenderly, then
"To-morrow we will weep together, Anna Sophia."
Anna tore herself from his arms.
"Good-night, father!"--and then turning to Charles Henry, she said:
"When do you leave for Cleve?"
"To-night, at ten," said he; "I prefer going at night; it is much
hotter in the day, and I must be at Cleve at eight in the morning. I
will be at your door to night, to take a last look at you."
"It is all right," said she, dryly, turning from him and hastening
Night had come; the village night-watch had announced the tenth
hour; no light gleamed through the windows--the busy noise and
bustle of day had given place to deep quiet. The whole village was
at rest, every eye was closed. No one saw Charles Henry as he
passed, with a bundle under his arm, and took the path leading to
the old school-house--no one but the moon, that was gleaming
brightly above, and was illuminating the solitary wanderer's path.
For the first time he found Anna Sophia's door open--he had no need
to knock. He entered undisturbed with his bundle, which contained
the suit of clothes Anna had desired.
Half an hour later the door was opened, and two tall, slenderly
built young men left the house. The moon saw it all; she saw that
the man with the hat on, and with the bundle on his back, was none
other than Anna Sophia Detzloff, daughter of the old school-teacher.
She saw that the one who was following her, whose countenance was so
ghastly pale--not because the moon was shining upon it, but because
he was so sad, so truly wretched--that this other was Charles Henry
Buschman, who was coward enough to let his bride go to battle in his
stead! The moon saw them shake hands for the last time and bid each
"Let me go a little bit of the way with you, Anna Sophia," said
Charles Henry; "it is so dark, so still, and soon you will go
through the woods. It is best I should be with you, for it is so
fearfully gloomy. Let me accompany you, Anna Sophia."
"I have no fear of the woods," said she, gently: "the stars above
will watch over and guard me, the moon will shed her light upon my
path, it will not be dark. I must go my way through life alone--I
must have no fear of any thing, not even of death. Leave me now, and
be careful that you are seen by no one during the whole of tomorrow
in my house. No one will go there tomorrow, for I have left word in
the village that I am going on a visit to my aunt at Cleve. I have
prepared your meals for you; the table is set, and above, in my
room, you will find books to read. You can stand it for one day,
tomorrow evening you will be released. Farewell, Charles Henry!"
"Do not go, Anna Sophia," said he, weeping and trembling; "I will
go. I will force my heart to be courageous! You must stay here."
"It is too late," said Anna: "nor could you do it, Charles Henry.
You are afraid of the dark woods, and what comes beyond is much more
fearful. We have taken leave of each other, the worst is past. Kiss
your father for me, and when at times you are sitting upon the old
bench, remind him of Anna Sophia."
"I will obey you," whispered he.
But Anna was not listening to him; she had turned from him, and was
hastening down the road.
The moon saw it all! She saw the tears steal slowly from Anna
Sophia's eyes, and fall unknown to herself upon her cheek, as she
turned her back upon her old home and hastened forward to a life of
danger, privation, and want. She saw Charles Henry leaning upon the
door of the old school-house, staring after Anna with a trembling
heart until the last glimpse of her was lost in the distant woods.
He then entered the school-house and fastened the door behind him.
His heart was heavy and sorrowful, he was ashamed of himself; he was
sorry for what he had done, but had not the strength to change it;
and as he went over Anna Sophia's departure, he was inwardly
rejoiced that he himself was to remain at home.
On the morning of the second day after Anna's departure, there was a
great stir in the village, there were two astounding reports to
excite the community. Charles Henry Buschman had returned from
Cleve; they had told him he could be spared for a while. The second
report was that Anna Sophia had not returned from her visit. They
waited for several days, and as she did not come, Charles Henry went
to the distant village where her aunt lived. But he returned with
sad news. Anna Sophia was not there, her aunt had not seen her.
What had become of her? Where was she? No one could clear up the
mystery. Many spoke of suicide; she had drowned herself in the large
lake to the left of the village they said, because her betrothed had
to leave her. The old pastor would not listen to this; but when the
aunt came to take possession of her niece's worldly goods, he had to
bring forward the will Anna had given him, in which she had willed
her all to Father Buschman. And now no one doubted that Anna had
laid hands upon herself. The mystery remained unsolved. Every one
pitied and sympathized with Charles Henry, who had lost all his
former cheerfulness since the death of his bride!
Two years had passed since Frederick von Trenck entered the fortress
of Magdeburg. Two years! What is that to those who live, work,
strive, and fight the battle of life? A short space of time, dashing
on with flying feet, and leaving nothing for remembrance but a few
Two years! What is that to the prisoner? A gray, impenetrable
eternity, in which the bitter waters of the past fall drop by drop
upon all the functions of life, and hollow out a grave for the being
without existence, who no longer has the courage to call himself a
man. Two years of anxious waiting, of vain hopes, of ever-renewing
self-deception, of labor without result.
This was Trenck's existence, since the day the doors of the citadel
of Magdeburg closed upon him as a prisoner. He had had many bitter
disappointments, much secret suffering; he had learned to know human
nature in all its wickedness and insignificance, its love of money
and corruption, but also in its greatness and exaltation, and its
constancy and kindness.
Amongst the commandants and officers of the fortress whose duty it
was to guard Trenck, there were many hard and cruel hearts, which
exulted in his tortures, and who, knowing the king's personal enmity
to him, thought to recommend themselves by practising the most
refined cruelties upon the defenceless prisoner. But he had also
found warm human souls, who pitied his misfortunes, and who sought,
by every possible means, to ameliorate his sad fate. And, after all,
never had the night of his imprisonment been utterly dark and
impenetrable. The star of hope, of love, of constancy, had glimmered
from afar. This star, which had thrown its silver veil over his most
beautiful and sacred remembrances, over his young life of liberty
and love, this star was Amelia. She had never ceased to think of
him, to care for him, to labor for his release; she had always found
means to supply him with help, with gold, with active friends. But,
alas! all this had only served to add to his misfortunes, to narrow
the boundaries of his prison, and increase the weight of his chains.
Treachery and seeming accident had, up to this time, made vain every
attempt at escape, and destroyed in one moment the sad and
exhausting labors of many long months. The first and seemingly most
promising attempt at flight had miscarried, through the treason of
the faithless Baron Weingarten, who had offered to communicate
between Trenck and the princess.
For six long months Trenck had worked with ceaseless and
incomparable energy at a subterranean path which would lead him to
freedom; all was prepared, all complete. The faithful grenadier,
Gefhart, who had been won over by the princess, had given him the
necessary instruments, and through the bars of his prison had
conveyed to him such food as would strengthen him for his giant
Nothing was now wanting but gold, to enable Trenck, when he had
escaped, to hire a little boat, which would place him on the other
side of the Elbe--gold, to enable him to make a rapid flight.
Gefhart had undertaken to deliver Trenck's letter to the princess,
asking for this money. This letter, written with his own blood upon
a piece of linen, had been forwarded through Gefhart's mistress, the
Jewess Rebecca, to Weingarten. He delivered it to the princess, and
received, through Pollnitz, two thousand thalers, which he did not
hand over to Rebecca, but retained for himself, and betrayed to the
king Trenck's intended flight.
This was but a short time before Weingarten's own flight; and while
he was enjoying the fruit of this base fraud in security and
freedom, poor Trenck was forced to descend still lower in the
citadel, and take possession of that frightful prison which, by
special command of the king, had been built and prepared for him, in
the lowest casemates of the fortress.
The king was greatly exasperated at these never-ending attempts of
Trenck to escape; his courage and endurance made him an interesting
and admired martyr to the whole garrison at Magdeburg.
Frederick wished to give to this garrison, and to all his soldiers,
a terrible example of the relentless severity with which
insubordination should be punished, to prove to them that mortal
daring and mortal energy were vain to escape the avenging hand of
Trenck, who, in the beginning, had only been condemned to arrest in
Glatz for six months, had, by his constant attempts at escape, and
the mad and eloquent expression of his rage, brought upon himself
the sentence of eternal imprisonment, in a subterranean cell, which,
by express command of the king, was so prepared, that neither guards
nor soldiers were necessary to his detention. A jailer only was
needed, to lock the four doors of the corridor which led to Trenck's
cell. It was as little dangerous to guard this poor prisoner as to
approach the lion bound by chains and hemmed in by iron bars.
Trenck was indeed manacled like a wild beast. A chain clanked upon
his feet, an iron girdle was around his waist, to which hung a heavy
chain, fastened to a thick iron bar built in the wall; manacles were
made fast to each end of an iron bar, to which his hands were bound.
The most cruel wild beast would not have been so tortured; some one
would have had pity on him, and mercifully ended his life. But this
creature, thus tortured, groaning and clanking his heavy chains--
this creature was a man, therefore there was no pity. It would have
been considered a crime to put an end to his life; but slowly, day
by day, to murder him, was only justice.
The king had made it the personal duty of the commandant,
Bruckhausen, to guard Trenck. He declared that if he allowed Trenck
to escape, he should not only lose his place and rank, but take
Trenck's place in his fearful cell. This was a frightful menace to
the ambitious and harsh commandant, Bruckhausen, and, of course, led
him to take the severest precautions. It was he, therefore, who had
bound Trenck, and, whenever he visited the poor prisoner in his
cell, he rejoiced in the artistic construction of his chains, and
looked proudly upon his work. He saw with delight that Trenck was
scarcely able to drag his heavy chains two feet to the right or
left, or to raise the tin cup to his parched lips, with his hands
thus fastened to an iron bar; and as often as he left the cell, he
exclaimed, with an expression of malicious joy:
"I have tamed him forever! he will not escape me!"
But Trenck was not tamed, his courage was not broken. In this
crushed and wasted form dwelt a strong soul, a bounding heart; he
had been bound in chains thought to be indissoluble. Trenck alone
did not believe this; he trusted still in the magic power of his
will, in his good star, which had not yet been quenched in darkness.
In the wall to which the chain was fastened, his name was built, in
red tiles; a gravestone marked the spot upon which his feet moved,
upon which a death's head and the name of Trenck was engraved. Under
this stone there was a vault, and when one looked at the moist
walls, from which the water constantly trickled, and at the dark
cell, which for six months had not been cheered by one ray of light,
they might well suppose that the gravestone would soon be lifted,
and the vault opened to receive the poor prisoner, upon whose grave
no other tears would flow. These dark walls were, as it appeared,
softer and more pitiful than the hearts of men.
Trenck was not subdued; the death's head and his name upon the
gravestone did not terrify him! It was nothing more to him than a
constant reminder to collect his courage and his strength, and to
oppose to his daily menace of death a strong conviction of life and
If his prison were dark, and warmed by no ray of sunshine, he leaned
his head against the wall, closed his eyes, and his vivid
imagination and glowing fancy was the slave of his will, and painted
his past life in magic pictures.
The prisoner, clad as a convict, with his hands and feet chained,
became at once the child of fortune and love; the exalted favorite
of princes, the admired cavalier, the envied courtier, and the
darling of lovely women.
When hunger drove him to eat the coarse bread which was his only
nourishment, and to satisfy his thirst with the muddy water in the
tin pitcher at his side, he thought of the meals, worthy of
Lucullus, of which he had partaken, at the Russian court, by the
side of the all-powerful Russian minister Bestuchef; he remembered
the fabulous pomp which surrounded him, and the profound reverence
which was shown him, as the acknowledged favorite of the prime
minister of the empress.
When no one whispered one word of consolation or of sympathy, for
all trembled at the ceaseless watchfulness of the commandant--when
the rude silent jailer came daily and placed his bread and water
before him and left him without word or greeting--then Trenck
recalled the sacred, consecrated hours in which love had whispered
sweet names and tender words. This love still lived--it watched over
and shone down upon him--it was a star of hope. Why should Trenck
despair, when love lived and lived only for him? No, he would not
die--he would never be buried under this gravestone. Beyond these
thick, damp walls lay the world--the living, active, blooming world.
It was only necessary to break these chains, to open the five heavy
doors which confined him to his dark prison, and life, liberty, the
world, honor, love, belonged to him!
"Is not my will stronger than chains and bolts?" he said. "Has not
the spirit wings by which she can take flight, mocking at prisons
and at torture?"
His spirit was free, for he believed in freedom: when his chains
clanked around him, it seemed to him as if they whispered of speedy
liberty--as if they exhorted him in soft, harmonious tones, to cast
them off and become a free and happy man.
At last there came a day when he could no longer resist these
alluring voices. If he could break these chains the first step was
taken, and only the doors remained to be opened. By close
observation, he had discovered that the inner door of his prison was
of wood. The faithful Gefhart had managed to inform him that the
other doors were also of wood. He had also conveyed to him a small,
sharp knife, the most precious of all earthly treasures, for with
this he hoped to obtain his freedom.
"But the chains!" First must the chains be broken--first must his
right hand be free! And it was free. Although the blood was bursting
from the nails Trenck forced his hand through the manacle. Freedom
greeted him with her first rapturous smile. Alas, the handcuff upon
the left hand was too narrow to be removed in this way. With a piece
of his chain he broke off a fragment of stone which he used as a
file, and in this way he liberated his left hand. The iron ring
around his waist was fastened only by a hook to the chain attached
to the wall. Trenck placed his feet against the wall, and bending
forward with all his strength, succeeded in straightening the hook
so far as to remove it from the ring. And now there only remained
the heavy wooden chain fastened to his feet, and also made fast to
the wall. By a powerful effort he broke two of the links of this
He was free--free--at least to stand erect and walk around his
miserable prison. With a feeling of inexpressible joy he raised
himself to his full height--it enraptured him to move his arms, so
long and painfully confined--he extended them widely and powerfully,
as if he wished to clasp the whole outside world to his heart.
Could the commandant Bruckhausen have cast one glance into this
horrible, noiseless cell, he would have trembled with rage and
apprehension. The unchained giant stood with glad smiles, and
flaming eyes, and outstretched arms, as if adjuring the spirits of
the under-world to come to his assistance. But the commandant lay in
careless security upon his soft, white couch; his eyes were closed;
they could not pierce the dark cell where a fellow-man, with loudly-
beating heart, but silent lips, called rapturously to the fair
goddess Liberty, and hastened to clasp her in his arms.
Stepping forward, he sought the door of his prison, and kneeling
before it, he took out his knife. He tried to cut out a small piece
and to ascertain the thickness of the wall; this was short work--the
door opened inside, and it was easy to cut around and remove the
lock. It was made of simple oak boards. Once convinced of this,
Trenck prudently sought his mattress in order to obtain rest and
strength. It was impossible to commence his labor then. The night
was far spent, and every morning at eight o'clock the jailer came to
inspect him and bring his bread and water. His visit must be over
before he could begin his work--he must possess his soul in
patience. What were a few hours' waiting to him who had waited long,
dreary years?--a fleeting moment, scarcely sufficient to accustom
him to his new happiness, to enable him to collect his thoughts and
bear quietly the rapturous conviction of approaching freedom.
"Yes, I will be free; this is the last night of my imprisonment."
But while waiting in this dreary prison he could enjoy one pleasure
long denied him--he could stretch his limbs upon his bed without
being martyred and crushed by his bonds--without hearing the clank
of chains. With what gladness he now stretched himself upon his poor
couch!--how grateful he was to God for this great happiness!--how
sweet his sleep!--how glorious his dreams!
Trenck awaked in the early morning, revived and strengthened. It was
time to prepare for the daily visitation--to replace his chains, and
take possession of his gravestone. His eyes accustomed to the
darkness soon discovered the broken link of the chain, which he hid
in his mattress. With a piece of his hair-band he fastened the chain
to his feet, hung the second chain to the ring upon his waist, and
now it only remained to place his hands in the manacles fastened to
the iron bar. He had filed the handcuff from his left hand and that
was easy to resume, but it was impossible to force his right hand
through the ring; he had succeeded in removing it by a mighty effort
the evening before, but it was consequently greatly swollen. He took
again his little piece of stone and tried to file it apart, but
every effort was in vain. Nearer and nearer came the hour of
visitation, and if his right hand were free when the jailer came,
all would be discovered. It seemed to him as if he heard already the
bolt of the first door. With a last, frightful effort, he forced his
hand in the manacle; his fingers cracked as if the bones were
broken; it was scarcely possible for him to suppress a shriek of
anguish. But the danger was even at the door, and the blessing of
freedom was not too dearly bought even by this anguish; he bore it
with heroic fortitude, and though his whole figure trembled with
pain, he conquered himself. He leaned back breathlessly and almost
unconsciously against the wall; and now the bolt really moved, and
the jailer, followed by two officers, entered.
The visitation began. In this small cell, which held nothing but a
mattress, a seat built in the wall, and a small table, there was but
little to examine. A fleeting glance at Trenck's chains, which were
rattling around him, and the search was over, and the jailer and
officers left the prison. Trenck listened in breathless silence till
he heard the bolt of the fifth door rattling, and now life and
movement were in his form and features. It was time to work. But
alas! it was impossible. The swollen, blood-red, throbbing hand
could not possibly be withdrawn from the handcuff. He must control
himself--must wait and be patient. He resolved to do this with a
brave heart, in the full conviction that he would attain his
At last, after three days, the swelling disappeared, and he found he
could withdraw his hand without difficulty. The visit was no sooner
over, than his chains fell off. For the last time! God grant that
for the last time he had heard them clank!
A herculean work was before him, but Freedom was without and
awaiting him, and he panted to embrace her. Seizing his little
pocket-knife, he stepped to the door and commenced his labor. The
first door was not difficult, it opened from within. In half an hour
the work was done, and Trenck advanced and extended his hands before
him till they encountered another obstacle. This was the second
door. But here was indeed a weary task. The door opened on the
outside and a heavy cross-bar besides the lock secured it. It was
necessary to cut entirely through the door above the bar, and spring
over it. Trenck did not dispair--bravely, unwearily, he went to
work--the perspiration fell from his brow and mingled with the blood
which trickled from his lacerated hands. Trenck did not regard it;
he felt no pain, no exhaustion. Freedom stood before the frowning
citadel, and awaited his coming. At last it was achieved; with
trembling hands he lifted the upper part of the door from the hinges
and sprang into the outer room.
Here light and sunshine greeted him. Weary months had gone by since
he had seen the sun--the soft light of heaven on the fresh green of
earth--and now all this was his once more. There was a small window
in this corridor, and not too high for him to look abroad. He turned
his eyes, filled with tears of the purest joy, upon the cloudless
heavens; he followed with longing eyes the flight of the doves, who
moved like a black cloud across the sky and disappeared on the
horizon. He inhaled with long-drawn breath the fresh, glad air,
which appeared to him laden with the fragrance of all the flowers of
the world. He gave himself up for a few moments to this first
rapturous enjoyment, then conquered himself and examined his
surroundings with a thoughtful, searching eye.
He saw that his prison was built against the first wall of the
fortress, and was exactly opposite an entrance, before which stood a
high palisade; this he must climb before he could reach the outer
wall. But the night was long, and he saw that the guard patrolling
upon the wall disappeared from time to time for more than five
minutes; he must therefore have some distance to walk before he
returned to the same spot. While his back was turned, must Trenck
climb the palisade and wall.
Trenck sprang back upon the floor with a glad and happy heart. What
he had seen of the free, outer world had given him new life. With
cheerful resolution he stepped to the third door. This was
constructed like the first, and gave him but little trouble--it was
soon opened, and Trenck passed on the other side.
The sun went down, and the twilight obscured his view, as this was
completed. And now his strength was exhausted, and his swollen and
bleeding hands, from which the flesh hung in shreds, refused their
service. With inexpressible despair he looked at the fourth door,
which opened from the outside, and it was again necessary to cut
through the whole breadth of the door in order to advance.
Worn out and trembling, he seated himself near the door and leaned
his aching head against the cool wood. He sat thus a long time, till
he felt that his blood was flowing more calmly, and the wild, quick
beating of his pulse had subsided--till the pain in his hands and
limbs was quieted, and he had won new strength. He then rose from
the floor, took his knife, and recommenced his work. He moved more
slowly than before, but his work progressed. It could scarcely be
midnight, and half the door was cut through. The moon shed her
peerless rays through the little window and lighted his work, and
showed him what remained to be done. In two hours he would finish,
and then remained only the fifth door which opened on the wall, and
which Gefhart assured him was not difficult. In three hours the work
would be done--in three hours he might stand without, in the fresh,
free air of heaven, himself a free and happy man.
With renewed courage and renewed strength, after a short rest, he
went again to work. He thrust his knife into the opening and pressed
powerfully against the wood. Suddenly his hand seemed paralyzed--on
the other side of the door he heard a light clang, and with a hollow
cry of woe, Trenck sank upon the floor. The blade of the knife was
broken and had fallen on the other side. Now he was lost! There was
no longer hope of escape! He rushed to the window; would it not be
possible to escape in that way? No, no! It was not possible to pass
through this small opening.
Trenck sank upon his knees before the window and stared into the
heavens. His pallid lips murmured low words. Were they prayers?--
were they curses?--or was it the death-rattle of dead hopes and
dying liberty? At last he rose from his knees; his face, which had
been that of a corpse, now assumed an expression of firm resolve.
Staggering and creeping along by the wall, he returned to his
prison, which he had left so short a time before full of happy
hopes. He reached his bed and laid down upon it, holding the broken
knife in his hand. Not to sleep, not to rest, but to die! He could
think of no other hope--no other way than this. "Yes, I will die!"
His life's courage, his life's energy, was exhausted. He had closed
his account with the world. Slowly he raised his hand aloft with the
broken knife, and collecting all his strength for one last, decisive
blow, he bowed and cut the vein of his left foot, then raised his
head with a smile of triumph, and stretching out his left arm he
forced the stump of his knife deep into the large vein of his elbow.
The deed was done! He felt the warm blood flowing from his veins--he
felt that with it also was sweeping by the miserable remnant of his
buried existence. His thoughts wandered, and a happy insensibility
overpowered him, and now his blessed spirit floated chainless and
free beyond this drear prison. The necessities of this poor life and
its tortures were overcome.
But what was that? Who called his name lightly from without, and
made the air of this living grave tremble with unwonted tones?
When this call was repeated the second time, Trenck felt a light
trembling in his whole frame. The whisper of his name had called
back his fleeting spirit. The godlike dream of release was at an
end; Trenck lived again, a suffering, defenceless man. For the third
time he heard his name called--for the third time a voice, as if
from heaven, rang, "Trenck! Trenck!"
Trenck gathered all his little strength, and replied:
"Who calls me?"
"It is I," said the faithful Gefhart; "have I not sworn to bring you
help? I have crept over the wall only to say to you that I think of
you--that you must not despair--that help is nigh, even at the door.
An unknown friend has sent you a greeting by me; he has given me a
roll of gold to be useful in your flight. Come near, I will throw it
to you through the window."
"It is too late, Gefhart, all is too late! I lie bathed in my blood;
to-morrow they will find me dead!"
"But why die?" cried the fresh, strong voice of Gefhart; "why wish
for death, now when escape is possible? Here there are no guards,
and I will soon find a way to furnish you with tools. Try only to
break your prison--for the rest I will remain responsible."
"Alas, I tried to-night and I failed!" said Trenck. A few tears
stole from his eyes and rolled slowly over his hollow cheeks.
"You will succeed better another time, Baron Trenck; whenever I am
on guard here I will seek an opportunity to speak with you, and we
will arrange all. Do not despair. I must go, the sun is rising, and
I may be seen. Do not despair! God will help you--trust fully in
me." [Footnote: "Frederick von Trenck' Important Memoire."]
The voice had long since died away, but Trenck listened still for
those tones, which seemed like the greeting of one of God's angels;
they illuminated his prison and gave strength to his soul. No, no,
now he would not die! He felt his courage revive. He would defy
fate, and oppose its stern decrees by the mighty power of his will.
THE PRISON BARRICADE.
No, he would not die! With trembling hands he tore his coarse shirt
into strips, and bound with it his bleeding veins. When he had thus
closed the portals upon death, he seated himself to meditate upon
the means of avoiding still severer punishment. He soon arose from
his bed, much strengthened by the short rest he had had. With an
iron bar that he had forced from his bed he hammered into the wall
until the stones, around which the mortar had become loosened owing
to the dampness of the cell, fell at his feet. He piled them
together in the centre of his ceil, and then hastened to barricade
the second door he had attempted to force. The lower part of it was
still held on by the lock; over the opening at the top he passed the
chains several times that he had forced from his limbs, forming a
sort of trellis-work, which rendered entrance from without
When all his preparations were made, when he was ready for the
contest, he seated himself upon his strange barricade, and there,
wearied out by suffering and anxiety, he fell into a sweet sleep. He
was awakened by the sound of many loud voices. Through the iron
lattice of the second door he saw the wondering, terrified
countenances of the city guard, who were endeavoring to unloose the
chains. With one bound Trenck was beside his door, balancing in his
right hand a large stone, and in the left his broken knife. He cried
out, in a furious voice:
"Back! back!--let no one dare to enter here. My stones shall have
good aim; I will kill any one who ventures to enter this room.
Major, tell his excellency, the commandant, that I will remain no
longer in chains. I wish him to have me shot down at once! I will
thank him for my death, but I will curse him if he forces me to
become a murderer. For I swear, before God, I will stone any one who
seeks to overpower me. I will die--yes, die!"
It was a fearful sight--this man, thin, wan, naked, and bleeding,
who seemed to have risen from the grave to revenge the sufferings of
his life. His countenance was ghastly pale, his hair lying in matted
locks on his neck; and the long beard, covering the lower part of
his face, and falling almost to his waist, gave him a wild, insane
look, which was heightened by the fearful brightness of his eyes.
With terror and pity they gazed at the poor unfortunate one whom
despair had driven to this extremity; who remained deaf to all their
representations, all their entreaties, still swearing that he would
kill any one who approached him. It was in vain that the officers
besought him in the most tender manner to submit--that the prison
chaplain came and implored him, in the name of God, to give up this
useless resistance. God's name had no effect whatever upon him. What
was God to him--to him on whom no one had pity, neither God nor man;
he whom they treated like a wild beast, and fastened in a cage? It
was in vain that the commandant ordered the guard to storm the
fortified door. Trenck received them with stones, and sent the two
foremost ones reeling to the floor, causing the others to fall back
Trenck raised his hand with a shout of exultation, armed with
another stone, and fixing his wild, triumphant glance upon the
commandant, he cried:
"You see it is useless to endeavor to take me while living. Order
the guards to fire! Let me die!"
The commandant lacked the power to do as Trenck requested, however
willing he may have been to grant his request. Instead of continuing
his threats, he withdrew into another chamber, signing to the major
to follow him.
Trench still stood with uplifted arm when the major returned. And
now, as the stern, much-feared commandant had left, no one withheld
the tender sympathy that was almost breaking the hearts of the
lookers-on. Trenck saw it written upon every countenance, and he to
whom a look and word of pity had been so long unknown, felt deeply
touched. His expression became milder, and as the major, whom he had
known in the other prison, commenced to speak to him in gentle,
loving tones, and implored him not to cause his ruin, for all the
punishment would fall upon his head, as, through his negligence,
Trenck had been allowed to retain his knife--as he finished,
Trenck's arm fell to his side, and tears streamed from his eyes.
"No one," said he, gently--"no one shall become unhappy through me,
for misery is a fearful thing. I will make no further resistance, if
you will swear to me that no heavy chains shall be put upon me--that
I shall suffer no unworthy punishment."
The major promised him, in the commandant's name, that if he ceased
to resist, no further notice would be taken of the affair.
"Then," whispered Trenck, with a bitter smile, "I must suffer anew--
He approached the door and drew off the chains. "Now, guards," said
he, "the door can be opened. The wild beast has become tame."
Then, with a low moan, he sank fainting upon the floor. He was
lifted up and laid upon his bed. Tears were in every eye, but Trenck
did not see them; he did not hear their low, whispered words of
sympathy and friendship. Death, from whom Trenck had once more been
torn, had sent her twin sister, insensibility, to cause him to
forget his sufferings for a while.
THE BATTLE OF COLLIN.
Lost!--the battle was lost! This was the cry of woe throughout the
Prussian camp--this was the fearful cry that palsied the hands of
those who could not endure defeat.
The Prussians who had defeated the enemy at Losovitz and Prague,
were condemned to yield the palm of victory at Collin to their
enemy's commander, Marshal Daun. They had fought bravely,
desperately for this victory; and when all was over, death would
have been preferable to defeat.
The Prussians were beaten, though their king, Ziethen, and Moritz
von Dessau--all of them heroes--were in the field. At the first
thought of the possibility of losing the battle, there was a fearful
panic throughout the army.
"We are lost! lost!"--and this cry caused them to throw down their
arms and fly, as if followed by a thousand furies; as victory--was
impossible, they wished at least to save their lives.
It was in vain that the officers implored them to rally again and
fall upon the enemy. They did not heed. In vain that the king
himself rode among them, pointing with his sword to the enemy, and
"Forward' forward, boys! Would you live forever? Death comes to
They looked at him stubbornly; they feared not now his piercing,
eagle glance, his royal countenance. They looked and said:
"We have worked hard enough to-day for eightpence," and then
continued their flight.
But the king could not yet be brought to believe the truth. He still
trusted in the possibility of victory. He clung with desperation to
this hope; he let his voice be heard--that voice that generally had
such power over his soldiers; he called them to him, and pointed out
to them the enemy's battery; he ordered the band to play a martial
air to inspire the men. This call brought a few faithful soldiers
around him--only forty warriors were ready to follow their king.
"Forward! we will take the battery!" cried he, as he pressed on,
regardless of the shower of the enemy's balls.
What was this to him? what had he to do with death--he whose only
thought was for the honor and glory of his army? If he succeeded in
taking this battery, it would encourage his desponding soldiers.
They would once more believe in the star of their king, and assemble
bravely around him. This it was that gave hope to the king.
Without once looking back, he pressed onward to the battery--when
suddenly, amid the clatter of trumpets and the roar of cannon, this
fearful question reached him:
"Sire, would you take the battery alone?"
The king reined in his horse and looked behind him. Yes, he was
alone; no one was with him but his adjutant, Major von Grant, who
had asked this question.
A deep groan escaped the king; his head fell upon his breast, and he
gave himself up to the bitterness of despair.
A cannon-ball fell beside him--he did not heed it; he was too
utterly wretched. Another ball struck his horse, causing it to
prance with pain and terror.
Major Grant grasped the king's bridle.
"Sire," said he, "are you determined to be shot? If so, let me know
it, and with your majesty's permission I will withdraw." The king
raised his head, and looked at the daring adjutant with a bitter
"We will both withdraw," said he, gently, advancing toward the
generals who had been seeking him throughout the battle-field. He
greeted them with a silent bow, and passed without a word. Whither
he was now going, none of the generals knew, but they followed him
The king rode up the slight eminence from which, on that morning,
his army had fallen like a glittering avalanche upon the enemy. This
avalanche was now transformed into a stream of blood, and corpse
upon corpse covered the ground. He reined in his horse and gazed at
the Austrian army, who were now withdrawing to their camp, midst
shoutings and rejoicings, to rest after their glorious victory.
Then, turning his horse, he looked at the remains of his little army
flying hither and thither in the disorder of defeat. A deep sigh
escaped him. Throwing his head back proudly, he called Prince Moritz
von Dessau and the Duke of Bevern to his side.
"Sirs," said he, firmly; "the fate of to-day is decided. All that
now remains for us to do, is to deprive the enemy of the advantages
of this victory. Collect our scattered regiments, and lead the army
through the defile of Plainan, back to Nimburg. There we will decide
what is best to do. I go on before you, and wish no one to accompany
He turned his horse, rode slowly down the hill, then took the road
leading to Nimburg. Lost in deep thought, he continued his way. He
was followed by his faithful body-guard, who, at a sign from Prince
von Dessau, had hastened after him. A few flying officers and
sergeants joined him. These were the followers of Prussia's hero-
king; but they were suddenly scattered. A soldier galloped up to
them, and stated that he had just encountered a regiment of the
enemy's hussars, who were pursuing them. There was a cry of terror
throughout the guards, and then, as if with one accord, putting
spurs to their horses, they fled in wild disorder.
The king continued his way, slowly and quietly--slowly and quietly a
few of his guard followed him. In funereal silence they passed
through the defile of Plainan, and reached at last Nimburg, the
king's appointed place of meeting.
The king now reined in his horse, and, looking back, he became aware
of his followers. Beckoning to his adjutant, he ordered him to get
quarters for the soldiers, and then to inform the generals that he
"Where?" asked the astonished adjutant.
"Here!" said the king, pointing to a fallen pump, a few steps from
where he stood. He dismounted, and, when the adjutant had
disappeared, he threw himself upon the old pump, and rested his head
upon his cane. Thus he remained a long while, thinking painfully of
the occurrences of the past day. He remembered that he had appointed
the site of to-day's battle, without listening to the warnings of
his experienced generals, and that Moritz von Dessau had implored
him to put his army in another position, before attacking the enemy.
He remembered the prince saying to him--"It would be impossible for
an attack from this point to succeed," and his entreating him to
draw back and change his position. He remembered, also, his riding
up to the prince, with his naked sword, and inquiring, in a
threatening tone, "whether he meant to obey or not?" And Prince
Moritz von Dessau had obeyed; his prophecy had been fulfilled--the
battle was lost.
"Ah," whispered the king, "how poor, how weak is man! The happiness
of an hour intoxicates him, and he defies his coming fate; he should
know that happiness is a fleeting guest, but that misfortune is the
constant companion of man. I have allowed myself to be deceived by
fortune, and she has turned against me. Fortune is a woman, and I am
not gallant. The fickle goddess watches carefully, and makes good
use of my faults. It was a great fault to dare, with twenty-three
battalions of infantry, to attack an army of sixty thousand men,
half of whom are cavalry. Ah! my great ancestor, Frederick William,
what have you to say of your poor nephew, who, with his little host,
is fighting against Russia, Austria, a large part of Germany, and a
hundred thousand French troops? Will you assist me? Will you be my
guardian angel, praying for me above? Yes, yes! you will assist me
if I assist myself, and do not give way to my faults. Had I been
killed in to-day's battle, I would now be in a safe haven, beyond
the reach uf storms. But now I must swim still farther into the
stormy sea, until at last I find in the grave that rest and peace
which I shall never attain in this world. This is a consoling
thought; it shall rouse me again to life. I am glad I did not die
to-day. I can still repair my fault. All the responsibility will be
thrown on me; it will be said, the battle would have been won, but
for Frederick's obstinacy. But let this be! It is a necessary
consequence that a warrior should suffer for the faults of his
followers. Through me this battle was lost, and in history it will
go down thus to future generations. But many a victory shall still
be recorded, and as the defeat was owing to me, so shall the victory
also come through me alone. I alone will bear upon my shoulders
Prussia's honor, Prussia's glory. It lies now, with me, bleeding on
the ground. It shall be lifted and sustained by me alone!" And
raising his burning eyes heavenward, he seemed to see these future
victories branded upon the skies. Gradually the inspiration left his
countenance, giving place to deep thought. He had delivered his
funeral oration to the lost battle, and now gave his thought to his
future victories. He drew lines and figures upon the sand with his
cane. It may have been a drawing of the last or a sketch of the next
The king was so absorbed in this occupation, that he did not
perceive his generals, who, having reached Nimburg with the wreck of
the army, hastened to the place of appointment, and were now
assembled at a respectful distance from him.
Frederick continued to sketch. The generals gazed at him in silence,
anxiously awaiting the moment when he would arouse himself. He
suddenly looked up, and did not seem surprised to see them; lifting
his hat slightly, he greeted them, and rose from his lowly seat.
"It is well, sirs, that you are here," said he. "We must now make
our preparations for the future; for our enemies, having beaten us
once, will think us no longer capable of resisting them, and will
fall upon us with renewed courage. We will convince them, gentlemen,
that though we are stricken to the ground for a moment, we are not
crushed, not dead. We will convince them that we still live to tear
from them the laurels they have taken from us this day. Prince von
Dessau, hasten immediately to our army at Prague. I command the
Prince of Prussia to raise the siege there at once. He shall call
all his generals together, and hold council with them as to the most
suitable mode of retreat. He shall determine with them how the siege
can best be raised; to avoid, as far as possible, the appearance of
flying from their enemy. With gay music they should leave their
posts; they should not all leave together, but in groups, so as to
mislead the enemy. In small companies should also the retreat
through Bohemia to Lausitz be made, for it would be difficult for a
large army to pass this mountainous district; but they should remain
as near together as possible, choosing the widest, most convenient
roads. These are the orders you are to deliver my brother, the
Prince of Prussia, and his generals. I give to the prince the
command of this portion of my army, and require of him to hasten to
Lausitz. I will join him in Bautzen. And then, gentlemen, we will
seek an occasion to repay our enemies for their civilities of to-
The generals had listened to him with breathless attention; and as
he now dismissed them, with a glorious smile upon his lips, they
repeated unanimously his last words, "We will repay our enemies for
As if inspired by this shout, the soldiers, lying about the market
place, at a slight distance from the king, broke into a loud hurrah,
and shouted, "Long live our king!"
The king turned slowly toward them, hut when he saw all that
remained of his noble army, he became pale, and pressed his lips
tightly together, as if to suppress a cry of horror. Then advancing,
followed by his generals, to where his weary, wounded soldiers were
lying, he said:
"Children, is this all that is left of you?"
"Yes, father, we are the last," said an old gray-headed officer,
standing before the king. "There were many thousands of us, now
there are two hundred and fifty."
"Two hundred and fifty!" repeated the king, with a bitter smile.
"And it was not our fault," continued the old officer, "that we did
not fall with the rest. We fought as bravely as they; but Death did
not want us. Perhaps he thought it best to leave a few of us, to
guard our king. We all think so! Some were left to repay those
abominable Saxons for their to-day's work."
"And why alone the Saxons?" asked the king.
"Because it was those infamous Saxon troops that hewed down our
regiment. They fell upon us like devils, and striking their cursed
swords into us, cried out, 'This is for Striegau!'"
"Ah! you see," cried the king, "that while beating you, they could
but think of the many times you had conquered them."
"They shall think of this again, father," said another soldier,
raising himself with great pain from the ground. "Wait until our
wounds have healed, and we will repay them with interest."
"You are wounded, Henry?" said the king.
"Yes, your majesty, in the arm."
"And old Klaus?"
"And Fritz Verder?"
"Dead! He lies with the others upon the battle-field. There are
seven hundred and fifty of us in heaven, and only two hundred and
fifty on earth. But those above, as well as below, still cry--'Long
live our king!'"
"Long live our king," cried they all, rising.
The king made no reply; his eye passed from one to the other pale,
exhausted countenance, and an inexpressible sorrow overcame him.
"Dead!" murmured he, "my faithful guards dead! seven hundred and
fifty of my choice men have fallen." And overpowered by his emotion,
the king did not force back the tears welling to his eyes. They
stole softly down his cheek, and Frederick was not ashamed. He did
not blush, because his warriors had seen him weep.
"Children," cried the old officer, after a pause, and wiping the
tears from his weary eyes, "from now on it will be glorious to die,
for when we are dead, our king weeps for us."
THE INIMICAL BROTHERS.
"The king comes! The king is entering Bautzen!"
This announcement brought pale terror to the hearts of the Prince of
Prussia and his generals. They who had heretofore sprang joyfully to
meet the call of their king, now trembled at his glance. They must
now present to him the sad and despoiled remnant of that great army
which, under the command of the Prince Augustus William of Prussia,
had made the retreat from Lausitz.
It had, indeed, been the most fearful retreat ever attempted by the
Prussian troops. It had cost them more than the bloodiest battle,
and they had suffered more from hardships during the last few days
than ever before during a whole campaign. They had marched over
narrow, stony, rugged mountain-paths, between hills and horrible
abysses, sometimes climbing upward, sometimes descending. Thousands
died from exhaustion; thousands pressed backward, crushed by those
in the front; thousands, forced onward by those in the rear, had
stumbled and fallen into fathomless caverns, which lay at the foot
of these mountain passes, yawning like open graves. If a wheel
broke, the wagon was burned; there was no time for repairs, and if
left in the path, it interrupted the passage of the flying army. At
last, in order to facilitate the flight, the provision-wagons were
burned, and the bread divided amongst the soldiers; the equipages
and pontoon-wagons were also burned. Exhausted by their unusual
exertions, beside themselves from pain and unheard-of suffering the
whole army was seized with a death-panic.
The soldiers had lost not only all faith in their good fortune, but
all faith in their leaders. Thousands deserted; thousands fled to
escape death, which seemed to mock at and beckon to them from every
pointed rock and every dark cavern. [Footnote: Warner's "Campaigns
of Frederick the Great"]
While one part of the army deserted or died of hunger or exhaustion,
another part fought with an intrenched enemy, for three long days,
in the narrow pass of Gabel, under the command of General von
Puttkammer. They fought like heroes, but were at last obliged to
surrender, with two thousand men and seven cannon. Utterly broken by
these losses, dead and dying from starvation and weariness, the army
drew off toward Zittau.
There was but one thought which sustained the wearied, and lent
strength to the starving. In Zittau were immense magazines of grain.
In Zittau, the rich Saxon city, which throughout all Saxony was
called the gold-mine, they dared hope for rest and opportunity to
Before this unhappy army reached Zittau, Duke Charles of Lothringen
was in advance of them. With wanton cruelty he reduced the
industrious, open city to ashes, destroyed the Prussian magazines,
and, with his army, trampled upon the ruins and the corpses of this
unfortified town. The Prussians had now lost their last hope. They
encamped by Lodau, and after a short rest, advanced to Bautzen,
which city the king had appointed for the reunion of the two army
corps. And now, one day after the arrival of this miserable remnant
of an army, the king entered the camp of Bautzen.
The unhappy moment was at hand; they must now meet the stern eye of
the king. These were bold, heroic generals--the Prince of Prussia,
Von Bevern, Von Wurtemberg, Von Dessau, Winterfeldt, Goltz, Ziethen,
Krokow, and Schmettau. Bravely, triumphantly had they fought in all
previous battles, but now, amidst defeat and disaster, they must
meet the eye of the king. This was more dangerous to them than the
most deadly battle, and they shrank appalled before this fearful
Silently, and frowning darkly, the generals mounted their horses,
and rode down the highway--the Prince of Prussia in advance, and by
his side the Duke of Wurtemberg. And now, in front of them, in an
open space, they saw the king. He was on his horse, and looked
sternly toward them. The Prince of Prussia trembled, and,
involuntarily checking his horse, he stooped with a weary smile
toward the duke.
"I have a feeling," said he, in low tones, "as if my fate was
advancing threateningly, in the form of my brother. It glowers upon
me with a glance which announces that I am condemned to death. Look,
duke! my sentence is written in the raging eye of the king."
"The king's wrath will not fall upon you alone," whispered the
duke," but upon us all. This is a wild tempest, which threatens us
all in the same moment with destruction."
"A tempest? yes! the thunder rolls over all, but the stroke of
lightning falls only upon me; and I--I am the one," said the prince,
solemnly; "I am the sacrificial offering chosen by the king, with
which he will seek to propitiate the frowning gods of destiny."
"God forbid!" said the duke, sadly. "The king will be just! He will
see that these frightful misfortunes were unavoidable; that we are
innocent. He will listen to our explanations; he--"
"I tell you," said Augustus William, "he will demand a subject for
his scorn. I shall be this sacrifice! Well, so let it be; I am
willing to be offered up for my fatherland! Let us go onward, duke."
He drew his bridle and they rode forward.
The king remained immovable in the same spot, his proud head erect,
and his icy glance fixed steadily upon them.
As they drew nearer, and could no longer doubt that he recognized
them, the king moved slowly round, and turned his back upon them.
They were greatly embarrassed--undecided what to do; they looked to
the prince, in the hope that he would advance and announce himself
to the king, and compel him to notice them. Prince Augustus William
did not advance; he stood firm and immovable, as if moulded in
brass. No muscle of his face moved, but his pale and tightly-
compressed lips slightly trembled. The generals followed his
example. Silently, immovably they stood behind him, their eyes fixed
upon the king, who remained still with his back turned to them.
There was a long and painful pause; not a word was spoken. Those who
were arranging the tents for the king's troops were moving actively
about, and now they drew near with their measuring-line, exactly to
the spot upon which the king stood. He was forced to take another
position; he turned his horse, and stood exactly in front of his
generals. His countenance was not calm and cold, it flashed with
rage. The Prince of Prussia had the courage to brave his anger, and,
drawing near, he bowed profoundly.
The king did not answer his greeting, and, indeed, appeared not to
see him. A black cloud was on his brow, and it became still blacker
as the other generals dared to approach and salute him. Suddenly, in
that tone of voice he was accustomed to use only upon the field ff
battle the king called out:
"Goltz, come here!"
The general advanced from the circle, with a firm military bearing,
and approached the king.
"Goltz," said he, loudly, and looking as if he wished to crush the
unhappy general--"Goltz, tell my brother and the other generals that
if I did justice, I would take off their heads--Winterfeldt only
excepted." [Footnote: The king's own words--"Characteristics of the
Seven Years' War."]
A murmur of discontent was heard amongst the generals, and every eye
was fixed angrily upon Winterfeldt. He turned deadly pale, and
looked down, as if ashamed of the exception the king had made, and
dared not gaze upon those whose guilt he shared, and whose
punishment he escaped.
The king fixed his eye so piercingly upon the murmurers, that they
felt his glance upon them, without daring to meet it. Only the
Prince of Prussia drew still nearer to the king.
"Sire," said he, in a calm voice, "my duty demands that I should
give your majesty a list of the army. Will you be graciously pleased
to accept it from me?" He took the paper from his pocket, and handed
it to the king, who snatched it from him hastily, and turned his
back again upon them.
"Withdraw, messieurs," said he, "your presence oppresses me; you
remind me of the disgraceful defeat my army has suffered, through
the guilt of its leaders."
"Sire," said the Duke of Severn, "will your majesty listen to our
"Justification!" cried the king, with flashing eyes--"if this
unparalleled disgrace which you have all brought upon my army could
be justified, I might pity; but I must curse you. Go, sir duke, I
will not look upon you." And springing with youthful activity from
his horse, he entered his tent.
The generals were alone. They looked upon each other's death-like
faces with suppressed scorn upon their trembling lips, and tears of
rage in their eyes.
"Shall we bear this shame silently?" said one.
"Shall we allow ourselves to be scolded like schoolboys?" said
another. "Shall we suffer foul accusations to be brought against us,
and no opportunity granted for justification?"
As the murmur of the generals became louder, the Prince of Prussia,
who had been standing aside in deep thought, came forward. An
expression of calm resolve was written upon his noble features.
"No, gentlemen, you shall not suffer this. I undertake to justify
you to the king."
"Do not attempt it, prince," said the Duke of Wurteinberg; "at
least, not in this hour. The king will crush you in his rage!"
Prince Augustus William cast his eyes to heaven, saying, "I am in
the hands of God. I would rather die by the king's rage than to
endure his contempt. The king made me commander-in-chief of this
army corps, and accuses me of failure in duty! He shall hear my
defence. As a Hohenzollern, as a general, as his brother, I demand
the right to make my report." He advanced hastily toward the king's
tent, but the Duke of Severn held him back.
"Will your royal highness allow me to accompany you?" said he. "The
king's scorn fell upon me personally, and I also demand a hearing."
"No one shall accompany me," said the prince, solemnly. "None but
God shall be witness to what we have to say. Wait for me, therefore,
gentlemen. I shall soon return." He bowed and entered the king's
"Announce me to his majesty," he said to the guard, who returned
immediately and opened the inner door of the tent.
The prince entered with a firm step and head erect--the door closed
behind him--the two brothers were alone.
The king sat upon a camp-stool by a little table covered with
papers. He held in his hand the paper which the prince had given
him, and appeared to be reading it eagerly. The prince stood for
some time silently at the door; at last, weary of waiting, he
entered the tent and stepped directly before the king.
King Frederick arose and fixed his great eyes scornfully upon his
brother. "I gave you an army corps of thirty-six thousand men, and
you bring me back sixteen thousand! Where have you left my
"They lie in the narrow pass of Gabel--in the chasms of the Erz
mountains--they have died of hunger and thirst, and they have
deserted," said Prince Augustus, solemnly.
"And you dare to tell me this?" said the king.
"I dare to tell you what fate has brought upon us."
"Fate?" cried the king, shrugging his shoulders. "Fate is ever the
excuse for the crimes, and follies of man. Your obstinacy and your
disobedience are what you call fate. Prince Augustus William of
Prussia, how did you dare to act contrary to my instructions, and to
conduct this retreat through the mountains, and not by the
"Your majesty gave me no instructions," said the prince, eagerly.
"Your majesty commanded me to take counsel of my generals in every
movement, and I did so. I should not have retreated through the
mountains had they not advised it in consideration of the real
approach of the enemy. But I do not say this to excuse myself, or to
accuse them, but to prove to my brother the king that it was unjust
to place me under the guardianship and direction of his generals--
unjust to place a mentor by my side who is my enemy--who hates me
and seeks my destruction!"
"Do you dare to reproach me?" said the king, in a thundering voice.
"In this hour I dare all," said the prince, steadily. "This is a
decisive hour between you and me, my brother. It is a strife of
intellect, of spirit; and although I know I am too weak to conquer,
I will at least fall with honor--with my sword in my hand! I shall
fall, but you shall not consider me a cowardly mute who does not
dare to defend himself. I know that I have been slandered to you; I
know that those whom you honor with your friendship are spies upon
my every word and look, and report to your majesty what they hear
and what they do not hear--what is true and what is not true. I know
I have been robbed of my brother's love, but I will not consent to
the loss of his respect and consideration. Sire, Winterfeldt wrote
to you; I know that he did so. If he wrote that I was obstinate and
self-willed, and alone answerable for the disasters of the army,
[Footnote: Warner's "Campaigns of Frederick the Great."] I call God
to witness that he slandered me. Your majesty speaks of
instructions. I received none. I would remind you that I entreated
you in vain to give me partial instructions--that I wrote down your
majesty's verbally expressed opinions, and implored you to add to
them your approval, or written remarks and explanations. [Footnote:
"Recueil des Lettres du Roi de Prusse et du Prince de Prusse."] Your
majesty returned the paper without signature or remark. I alone
should bear the responsibility, and if this sad retreat should end
disastrously, the whole world might say, 'This was the work of the
Prince of Prussia!' Look you, my brother, I know, I feel this. The
lost battle of Collin demanded an offering, and I was predestined
for the sacrifice."
The king uttered a cry of rage, and advanced against the prince
without outstretched arm, but suddenly recovered his self-control,
folded his arms, and stared coldly at the prince.
"I have listened quietly to you, hoping always I might possibly find
in your words a glimmer of excuse for your blasphemous deeds. I find
none. Have you finished, or have you still something to say?"
"I have this to say, sire: I demand that my conduct be
"Woe to you if I do this--woe to you if I listen to your bold,
insane demand!" Stepping before the prince, and fixing his eye upon
him, he said: "You have acted not like a Prussian, not like a
general of Prussian troops, but like an enemy--like an ally of
Austria and of France, who sought only for means to destroy the
Prussian army and put an end to this war. I know that it never had
your approval, because directed against your beloved France."
"Ah, my brother, you distrust me!" cried the prince, fiercely.
"Yes, I distrust you," said the king, eagerly--"I distrust you, and
you merit it! You have just said that this was an important hour
between us. Well, then, it shall be so. I accept this strife of
words which you have the audacity to offer me. This was not
cautiously, not wisely done, on your part. You yourself have armed
me--my weapons are sharp. I have suffered much during my whole life
because of you, my brother. This began even in the days of our
childhood, and will, as it appears, follow me to the grave. You were
the favorite of my father, and I remember well that he one day
proposed to me to relinquish the throne in your favor. I withstood
him. I did not pay for this opposition with my life, but with my
life's happiness. I will not account this against you; perhaps you
were innocent; but it appears to me you have not forgotten our
father's wish--that you look upon me as a usurper, who has robbed
you of your throne. You act as if you had the right to measure and
criticise all my undertakings, and to make yourself a judge over me.
I undertook this war with the conviction of my right and my royal
duty. You dared to protest against it. You dared, in the presence of
my generals, to speak of your claims and the claims of your
children! Oh, sir, you were already thinking of the time when you
would lay my head in the vault and walk over my dead body to a
throne! In that hour you stood no longer by my side as my subject,
as my brother, as my friend, but as an ambitious prince royal, who
hates his king who keeps him from his crown, and who is hated of the
king because he reminds him of his death! And during no moment since
then could you have denied this hatred."
"Oh, my brother!" said the prince, painfully, "your own hatred has
blinded you and made you unjust. I have always loved and admired
you, even when I did not approve of your undertakings."
"And yet it was you, you alone," said the king, hastily, "who dared,
after the fatal disaster of Collin, to utter loud cries of grief and
despair. When my courier brought to you and the generals and the
army the mournful news of the lost battle of Collin, in place of
strengthening and encouraging my warriors--consoling and inspiring
them with confidence in their royal leader--you dared, in the
presence of all my generals, to cry and whimper, not over destiny,
not over the inconstancy of fortune, but over the conduct of your
brother and your king. In place of justifying me to my silent and
cast-down generals, you accused me boldly, and made my misfortune my
crime." [Footnote: Betzow's "Characteristics of Frederick."]
"It is true," murmured the prince, "distress and grief overcame me
and robbed me of my reason."
"Even because you were so wise and bold a warrior," said the king,
with a cold smile, "I wished to give you an opportunity to prove
your genius to my whole people, whose sovereign you will one day be.
Because you wept and clamored before say generals over my faults as
a leader, I wished you to prove to them that you were capable of
commanding and bringing good out of evil. I trusted you with my
third army corps--I expected it to retreat safely and surely under
your command, after I had almost led it to destruction in a bloody,
disastrous battle. I gave you the opportunity to make yourself a god
in the eyes of my soldiers, a glorious model to my generals. What
use have you made of these advantages? You bring me crippled,
hungry, desperate soldiers! You bring me generals covered with
shame, and blushing over their guilt. If I should deal with them as
they deserved, I would give them over to a courtmartial and they
would be condemned."
"And still I am not conscious of any fault," said the prince. "I
dare to say fate was against me, and that I am wholly innocent."
"And I repeat to you your conduct has been that of an ally of
France, who wished destruction to the Prussians, and to close this
"If that were so, I would be a traitor!" said the prince.
"And who will dare say that you are not?" cried the king. "Who will
say that he who, while I was engaged in war with France, exchanged
the most tender letters with the former French ambassador Valori,
and complained to this Frenchman of the obstinacy of his brother,
who is also his king? Who will say that this man is not a traitor?
Was it not known to you, my brother, when you wrote to Valori, that
the French had already invaded my Westphalian provinces? It was
known to you--and yet you dared to write to a Frenchman that you
were convinced of the decline of my kingdom. And yet you dared to
bring charges against me, and to say: 'Ce seront mes enfants qui
seront les victimes des fautes passees.' Did you not know that it
was the Marquise de Pompadour who gave occasion for this war? You
knew it, and yet you commissioned Valori to entreat the marquise to
have her portrait painted for you! Now, sir, I ask you, in all
candor, if these are not the acts of a traitor?"
The prince made a passionate exclamation, and laid his hand upon his
"You dare to dishonor me, sire!"
"I dare it! I dare to tell you the truth," said the king, solemnly.
"Take your hand from your sword--the truth is an enemy that you
cannot contend against with weapons, but with deeds, and your
conduct testifies against you."
The prince breathed heavily, and turned deadly pale.
"The contest is over. Your majesty fights against me with weapons
which I do not possess, and would not dare use, and against which I
cannot defend myself. You open my private letters, and from the
harmless confidences of friendship you make a traitor of me. To call
me a traitor, is to degrade me. I am dishonored; and with a
dishonored culprit your majesty cannot contend. I will therefore
withdraw. No one will see the wounds you have inflicted--which have
pierced my heart; but, I tell you, my brother, I will die of these
"And in heaven, I suppose, you will accuse me as your murderer?"
said the king, ironically.
"No! in heaven I will pray for my fatherland," said Prince Augustus
William, mildly. He bowed respectfully, turned, and left the room.
Without stood the generals, maintaining a solemn silence. When they
saw the prince appear at the door of the king's tent, so pale, so
suffering, a prophetic warning filled every breast. It seemed to
them that a dying man approached them, and with inexpressible sorrow
held out his hand for a last farewell.
"It is passed! The battle is ended!"
At this moment the adjutant of the king left the tent, and
approached the generals, who stood near the prince.
"His majesty commands you to see that the soldiers of the third army
corps are kept, as far as it is possible, entirely separated from
the rest of the army. You will immediately convey the order to the
king's army, that all intercourse between them and the third army
corps is forbidden, as this corps seems to have lost all courage and
all honorable feeling."
[Footnote: Kustrin, "Characteristics from the Life of Frederick the
"The king's commands shall be obeyed," said the generals, coldly.
The prince was completely overcome by this last blow, and leaned for
a moment upon the arm of the Duke of Wurtemberg; he soon recovered
himself, and turning to General Schultz, he said:
"Go and bring me, from the king, the watchword of the third army
General Schultz withdrew, but returned quickly from the king's tent,
with a dark frown upon his face.
"Well," said the prince, "have you the watchword?"
"No, your royal highness! The king says, that for cowards and
fugitives he has no watchword, and he commanded me to go to the
A murmur of rage was heard amongst the generals. The prince let his
glance wander from one to the other of these dark faces.
"Gentlemen," said he, "the tempest will soon be over, and the sun
will shine again for you; I am the only cloud now round about you,
and I will withdraw."
"What! will you desert us?" said the generals, sadly.
"Do I not belong to the third army corps?" said the prince, with a
painful smile. "It may be that the king will command his soldiers to
have no intercourse with the commander of the third army corps, and
you can understand that I prefer to anticipate him."
"Will your highness allow me to accompany you?" said the Duke of
Bevern. "I also will not allow myself to be despised and railed at
without any opportunity accorded me of explanation."
The prince shook his head.
"You must remain, general; the army cannot spare its brave leaders.
I, however--I must go. I will be the peace-offering for you all. I
am sure this will content my brother the king."
"Allow me, at least, to accompany your royal highness," said General
Schmettau. "The king commanded me, through his adjutant, to
withdraw, and never dare to present myself before his eyes again. I
also must leave the army."
The prince gave him his hand.
"You are, then, a welcome companion. Let us ride on to Bautzen,
where we can refresh ourselves, and then go on to Dresden."
"Will you really leave us?" said the Duke of Wurtemberg, sadly.
"Would you have me wait for still further degradation?" said the
prince. "No, it is enough--more than I can bear.--My horse! General,
let us mount."
The two horses were brought forward. The generals placed themselves
in front, to take leave of their former commander-in-chief, with all
Prince Augustus rode slowly on. Everywhere he met sad faces and eyes
filled with tears. Tears indeed were in his own eyes, but he would
not weep--not now; there was time enough for tears. He could weep
during the sad remainder of his life. He forced his voice to be
firm, and, waving his sword to the generals, as a last greeting, he
"I hope no one of you will hold me for a coward. I am forced by the
king to leave the army." He turned his horse, and, followed by
Schmettau, with head erect, he moved slowly off.
"Now, by Heaven," cried Ziethen, "he shall not leave the camp in
this contemptible way! I will give him a suitable guard. Let the
king rage; I can stand it!" He nodded to an officer. "Listen, Von
Wendt, take half a company for a guard, and follow immediately
behind the prince, to Bautzen."
A few moments later, an officer sprang along the highway to Bautzen,
accompanied by his hussars; they soon overtook the prince, who
greeted them kindly.
"Schmettau," said he, "Death avoided me so long as I was on the
battle-field, now I bear him along with me; and thus must it be,
till the pale king of terrors carries me to another world." He
turned his eyes away from the Prussian camp, and rode slowly to
A few hours later a courier rode into the camp. He came from
Bautzen, and had a letter from the Prince of Prussia to his royal
brother. The king was still in his tent, busily engaged in looking
over the army list. He took his brother's letter, and, opening it
with evident anger, read:
"Your majesty's commands, and the incidents of our last meeting,
have taught me that I have lost my honor and my reputation. As I
have nothing to reproach myself with, this causes me much sorrow,
but no humiliation. I am convinced that I was not actuated by
obstinacy, and that I did not follow the advice of incompetent men.
All the generals in the third army corps commanded by me, will
testify to this. I consider it necessary to request your majesty to
have my conduct investigated. Your majesty would thereby do me a
kindness. I have, therefore, no right to count upon it. My health is
much impaired since the war. I have withdrawn to Bautzen for its
restoration, and have requested the Duke of Bevern to give you all
the information relative to the army. In spite of my unhappiness, my
daily prayer is, and shall be, that every undertaking of your
majesty shall be crowned with glory."
"Your unhappy brother, AUGUSTUS WILLIAM."
The king read this letter several times; then taking up his pen, he
wrote hastily: "MY DEAR BROTHER: Your improper conduct has greatly
disturbed my equanimity. Not my enemies, but your want of principle,
has caused all these disasters. My generals are not to be excused.
They have either given you bad advice, or have agreed too readily to
your foolish plans. The one is as bad as the other. Your ears are
accustomed to flattery, my brother. Daun did not flatter you, and
you now see the consequences. But little hope remains. I shall
commence the attack--if we do not conquer, we shall die together. I
do not bewail the loss of your heart, but rather your utter
incapacity and want of judgment. I tell you this plainly, for with
one who has perhaps but a few days to live, there is no use of
deception. I wish you more happiness than has fallen to my lot, and
hope that your misfortunes and disappointments may teach you to act
with more wisdom and judgment where matters of importance are
concerned. Many of the painful events I now look forward to, I
ascribe to you. You and your children will suffer from their results
much more than myself. Be assured that I have always loved you, and
will continue to do so until my death. Your brother, FREDERICK."
When the king had finished his letter, he read it over. "I cannot
take back one word I have said," murmured he, softly. "Were he not
my brother, he should be court-martialled. But history shall not
have to relate more than one such occurrence of a Hohenzollern.
Enough family dramas and tragedies have occurred in my reign to
furnish scandalous material for future generations; I will not add
to them. My brother can withdraw quietly from these scenes--he can
pray while we fight--he can cultivate the peaceful arts while we are
upon the battle-field, offering up bloody sacrifices to Mars.
Perhaps we will succeed in gaining an honorable peace for Prussia,
and then Augustus William may be a better king than I have been.
Prussia still clings to me--she needs me."
He sealed the letter, then calling his valet, ordered him to send it
off immediately. As he disappeared, the king's countenance became
once more clouded and disturbed. "Life makes a man very poor," said
he, softly; "the longer he lives, the more solitary he becomes. How
rich I was when I began life--how rich when I mounted the throne!
Possessing many friends, sisters, brothers, and many charming
illusions. The world belonged to me then, with all its joy, all its
glory. And now? Where are these friends? Lost to me, either by death
or inconstancy! Where are my brothers, sisters? Their hearts have
turned from me--their love has grown cold! Where are my joyous
illusions? Scattered to the winds! Alas, I am now undeceived, and if
the whole world seemed at one time to belong to me, that little spot
of earth, paid for with blood and anguish, is no longer mine. Every
illusion but one has been torn from my heart--the thirst for glory
still remains. I have bid adieu to love, to happiness, but I still
believe in fame, and must at least have one laurel-wreath upon my
coffin. May death then strike me at his will--the sooner the better,
before my heart has become perfectly hardened! And I feel that time
is not far distant."
The curtain of his tent was at this moment drawn back, and his
secretary, Le Catt, whose acquaintance he had made during his visit
to Amsterdam, entered with several letters in his hand. The king
advanced eagerly to meet him.
"Well, Le Catt," said he, "has the courier come from Berlin?"
"Yes, sire, he has come," said Le Catt, sighing, "but I fear he
brings no good news."
"No good news? Has the enemy forced his way so far?"
"An enemy has, sire; but not the one your majesty is thinking of!"
"How know you what enemy I mean?" said the king, impatiently. "Is it
the Russians, or the French?"
"None of your mortal enemies, sire; and the mourning which now
reigns in Berlin and will soon reign throughout Prussia, is caused
by no enemy of your majesty but by Providence."
The king looked at him earnestly for a moment. "I understand," said
he. "Some one of my family has died; is it not so?"
"Yes, sire; your--"
"Be still!" said the king, sternly. "I do not yet wish to know--I
have not the strength to bear it--wait a while."
Folding his hands upon his breast, he paced up and down his tent
several times, laboring hard for breath. He stood still, and leaning
against the window, said: "Now, Le Catt, I can endure any thing;
speak--who is it?"
"Sire, it is her majesty."
"My wife?" interrupted the king.
" No, sire; her majesty--"
"My mother!" cried the king, in a heart-broken voice. "My mother!"
He stood thus for a while, with his hands before his face, his form
bowed down and trembling like an oak swayed by a storm. Tears
escaped through his hands and fell slowly to the ground--groans of
agony were wrung from him.
Le Catt could stand it no longer; he approached the king and
ventured to say a few consoling words.
"Do not seek to comfort me," said the king; "you do not know what
inexpressible pain this loss has caused me."
" Yes, sire, I well know," said Le Catt, "for the queen-mother was
the noblest, most gracious princess that ever lived. I can therefore
understand your sorrow."
"No, you cannot," said the king, raising his pale, tearful
countenance. "You carry your sorrow upon your lips--I upon my heart.
The queen was the best of women, and my whole land may well mourn
for her. It will not be forced grief, for every one who had the
happiness to approach loved and admired her for her many virtues--
for her great kindness. And I feel, I know, that sorrow for the ruin
of Prussia has caused her death. She was too noble a princess, too
tender a mother, to outlive Prussia's destruction and her son's
"But your majesty knows that the queen was suffering from an
"It is true I know it," said the king, sinking slowly upon his camp-
stool. "I feared that I might never see her again, and still this
news comes totally unexpected."
"Your majesty will overcome this great grief as a philosopher, a
"Ah, my friend," said the king, sadly, "philosophy is a solace in
past and future sufferings, but is utterly powerless for present
grief; I feel my heart and strength fail. For the last two years I
have resembled a tottering wall. Family misfortune, secret pain,
public sorrow, continual disappointment, these have been my
nourishment. What is there wanting to make of me another Job? If I
wish to survive these distressing circumstances, I must become a
stoic. For I cannot bring the philosophy of Epicurus to bear upon my
great sorrows. And still," added the king, the dejected look
disappearing from his countenance, and giving place to one of energy
and determination, "still, I will not be overcome. Were all the
elements to combine against me, I will not fall beneath them."
"Ah!" cried Le Catt, "once more is my king the hero, who will not
only overcome his grief, but also his enemies."
"God grant that you are a true prophet!" cried the king, earnestly.
"This is a great era; the next few months will be decisive for
Prussia: I will restore her or die beneath her ruins!"
"You will restore!" cried Le Catt, with enthusiasm.
"And when I have made Prussia great," said the king, relapsing into
his former gloom, "my mother will not be here to rejoice with me.
Each one of my home--returning soldiers will have some one--a
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