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I will write to Madame Du Chatelet in compliance with your wish. To speak to you frankly concerning her journey, it is Voltaire, it is you, it is my friend that I desire to see. I can not say whether I shall travel or not travel. Adieu, dear friend, sublime spirit, first-born of thinking beings. Love me always sincerely, and be persuaded that none can love and esteem you more than I.In reference to this campaign the king subsequently wrote: At the death of the emperor there were but two Austrian regiments in Silesia. Being determined to assert my right to that duchy, I was obliged to make war during the winter, that I might make the banks of the Neisse the scene of action. Had I waited till the spring, what we gained by one single march would certainly have cost us three or four difficult campaigns.44

221 By the 10th of December, within a fortnight of the time that the king received the tidings of the death of the emperor, he had collected such a force on the frontiers of Silesia that there could be no question that the invasion of that province was intended. As not the slightest preparation had been made on the part of Austria to meet such an event, the king could with perfect ease overrun the province and seize all its fortresses. But Austria was, in territory, resources, and military power, vastly stronger than Prussia. It was therefore scarcely possible that Frederick could hold the province, after he had seized it, unless he could encourage others to dispute the succession of Maria Theresa, and thus involve Europe in a general war. Frederick, having made all his arrangements for prompt and vigorous action, sent to Maria Theresa a message which could be regarded only as an insult:Who can imagine the conflicting emotions of joy and wretchedness, of triumph and shame, of relief and chagrin, with which the heart of Frederick must have been rent! The army of Prussia had triumphed, under the leadership of his generals, while he, its young and ambitious sovereign, who had unjustly provoked260 war that he might obtain military glory, a fugitive from the field, was scampering like a coward over the plains at midnight, seeking his own safety. Never, perhaps, was there a more signal instance of a retributive providence. Frederick knew full well that the derision of Europe would be excited by caricatures and lampoons of the chivalric fugitive. Nor was he deceived in his anticipations. There was no end to the ridicule which was heaped upon Frederick, galloping, for dear life, from the battle-field in one direction, while his solid columns were advancing to victory in the other. His sarcastic foes were ungenerous and unjust. But when do foes, wielding the weapons of ridicule, ever pretend even to be just and generous?

But it is time to end this long, dreary letter. I have had some leisure, and have used it to open to you a heart filled with admiration and gratitude toward you. Yes, my adorable sister, if Providence troubled itself about human affairs, you ought to be the happiest person in the universe. Your not being such confirms me in the sentiments expressed in my epistle.

About the middle of October Wilhelmina came to Berlin to see her brothers again. Nine years had passed since her marriage, and seven since her last sad visit to the home of her childhood, in which inauspicious visit the wretchedness of her early years had been renewed by the cruelty of her reception. In211 Wilhelminas journal we find the following allusion to this her second return to Berlin:Thus Frederick found himself in a barren, hostile country, with a starving army, incessantly assailed by a determined foe, groping his way in absolute darkness, and with the greatest difficulty communicating even with his own divisions, at the distance of but a few leagues. He knew not from what direction to anticipate attack, or how formidable might be his assailants. He knew not whether the French, on the other side of the Rhine, had abandoned him to his own resources, or were marching to his rescue. He knew that they were as supremely devoted to their own interests as he was to his, and that they would do nothing to aid him, unless by so doing they could efficiently benefit themselves.

An ordinary eye would not have seen in the position any peculiar military strength. It was an undulating plain about eight miles long and broad, without any abrupt eminences. A small river bordered it on the west, beyond which rose green hills. On the east was the almost impregnable fortress of Schweidnitz, with its abundant stores. Farm-houses were scattered about, with occasional groves and morasses. There were also sundry villages in the distance.After the battle of Mollwitz, General Neipperg withdrew the defeated Austrian army to the vicinity of Neisse, where he strongly intrenched himself. Frederick encamped his troops around Brieg, and made vigorous preparations to carry the place by storm. With great energy he pushed forward his works, and in less than three weeks was ready for the assault. On the night of April 26 there was a tempest of extraordinary violence, which was followed, the next night, by a dead calm, a cloudless sky, and a brilliant moon. On both sides of the River Oder, upon which Brieg was situated, there was an open champaign country. Several bridges crossed the river. At a fixed moment two thousand diggers were collected, at appointed stations, divided into twelve equal parties. With the utmost exactness they were equipped with all the necessary implements. These diggers, with spade and pickaxe, and yet thoroughly armed, were preceded a few yards by covering battalions, who, having stealthily and silently obtained the position assigned to them, were to lie flat upon the ground. Not a gun was to be fired; not a word was to be spoken save in a whisper; not even a pipe was to be lighted. Some engineers were to mark out with a straw266 rope, just in the rear of the covering party, the line of the first parallel. Every imaginable contingency was provided for, and each man was to attend to his individual duty with the precision of clock-work.

Daily for five hours the universality of his conversation completed my enchantment at his powers. The arts, war, medicine, literature, religion, philosophy, morality, history, and legislation passed in review by turns. The great times of Augustus and Louis XIV.; the good society among the Romans, the Greeks, and the French; the chivalry of Francis I.; the valor of Henry IV.; the revival of letters, and their changes since Leo X.; anecdotes of men of talent of former days, and their errors; the eccentricities of Voltaire; the sensitive vanity of Maupertuis; the agreeableness of Algarotti; the wit of Jordan; the hypochondriacism of the Marquis DArgens, whom the king used to induce to keep his bed for four-and-twenty hours by merely telling him he looked illand what not besides? All that could be said of the most varied and agreeable kind was what came from him, in a gentle tone of voice, rather low, and very agreeable from his manner of moving his lips, which possessed an inexpressible grace.198

The king was accustomed to pass his leisure moments in playing with them, and the room where he sat was strewed with leather balls with which they amused themselves. As they were all much indulged, though there was always one especial favorite, they used to tear the damask covers of the chairs in the kings apartment, and gnaw and otherwise injure the furniture. This he permitted without rebuke, and used only to say,On the 5th of October, 1763, Augustus, the unhappy King of Poland, had died at Dresden, after a troubled reign of thirty years. The crown was elective. The turbulent nobles, broken up into antagonistic and envenomed cliques, were to choose a successor. Catharine, as ambitious as she was able and unprincipled, resolved to place one of her creatures upon the throne, that Poland, a realm spreading over a territory of 284,000 square miles, and containing a population of 20,000,000, might be virtually added to her dominions. Carlyle writes:

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Charles, feeling keenly the bereavement, and alarmed for the health of his wife, whom he loved most tenderly, hastened to his home in Brussels. The prince and princess were vice-regents, or joint governors of the Netherlands. The decline of the princess was very rapid. On the 16th of December, the young prince, with flooded eyes, a broken-hearted man, followed the remains of his beloved companion to their burial. Charles never recovered from the blow. He had been the happiest of husbands. He sank into a state of deep despondency, and could never be induced to wed again. Though in April he resumed, for a time, the command of the army, his energies were wilted, his spirit saddened, and he soon passed into oblivion. This is but one among the countless millions of the unwritten tragedies of human life.

321 First he asked me if it were true that the French nation were so angered against him, if the king was, and if you were. I answered that there was nothing permanent. He then condescended to speak fully upon the reasons which induced him to make peace. These reasons were so remarkable that I dare not trust them to this paper. All that I dare say is, that it seems to me easy to lead back the mind of this sovereign, whom the situation of his territories, his interest, and his taste would appear to mark as the natural ally of France. He said, moreover, that he earnestly desired to see Bohemia in the emperors hands, that he renounced all claim on Berg and Jülick, and that he thought only of keeping Silesia. He said that he knew well enough that the house of Austria would one day wish to recover that fine province, but that he trusted he could keep his conquest. That he had at that time a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers perfectly prepared for war; that he would make of Neisse, Glogau, and Brieg fortresses as strong as Wesel; that he was well informed that the Queen of Hungary owed eighty million German crowns (,000,000); that her provinces, exhausted and wide apart, would not be able to make long efforts; and that the Austrians for a long time to come could not of themselves be formidable.71A ROYAL EXECUTIONER.



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