CHAPTER XXV. COMMENCEMENT OF THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR.
Frederick had seen many dark days before, but never one so dark as this. In the frenzy of his exertions to retrieve the lost battle, he cried out to his soldiers, his eyes being flooded with tears, “Children, do not forsake me, your king, your father, in this pinch!” The retreat became a flight. In endeavoring to cross the little stream called the Hen-Floss, there was such crowding and jamming at the bridges that the Prussians were compelled to leave one hundred and sixty-five guns of various calibre behind them. Had the Russians pursued with any vigor, scarcely a man of the Prussian army could have escaped. But General Soltikof stood in such fear of his opponent, who had often wrested victory out of defeat, that he attempted no pursuit.“The selfish rapacity of the King of Prussia gave the signal to his neighbors. His example quieted their sense of shame. The whole world sprang to arms. On the head of Frederick is all the blood which was shed in a war which raged during many years, and in every quarter of the globe—the blood of the column of Fontenoy, the blood of the brave mountaineers who were slaughtered at Culloden. The evils produced by this wickedness were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown. In order that he might rob a neighbor whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped each other by the great lakes of North America.”
Frederick had now France only for an ally. But France was seeking her own private interests on the Rhine, as Frederick was aiming at the aggrandizement of Prussia on his Austrian frontiers. Neither party was disposed to make any sacrifice for the benefit of the other. Frederick, thus thrown mainly upon his345 own resources, with an impoverished treasury, and a weakened and baffled army, made indirect application to both England and Austria for peace. But both of these courts, flushed with success, were indisposed to listen to any terms which Frederick would propose.FREDERICK AND THE BRITISH MINISTERS.
Torrents of water spread over the earthThrough the efforts of Maria Theresa there was another brief conference, but it amounted to nothing. Neither party wished for war. But Austria craved the annexation of Bavaria, and Frederick was determined that Austria should not thus be enlarged.557 Thus the summer passed away in unavailing diplomacy and in equally unavailing military man?uvrings. While engaged in these adventures, Frederick received the tidings of the death of Voltaire, who breathed his last on the 20th of May, 1778. The soul of Frederick was too much seared by life’s stern conflicts to allow him to manifest, or probably to feel, any emotion on the occasion. He, however, wrote a eulogy upon the renowned littérateur, which, though written by a royal pen, attracted but little attention.
“Is there any battalion which has a mind to follow me to Lissa?”“It is impossible for you to imagine the horrible fatigues which we undergo. This campaign is worse than any of the others. I sometimes know not which way to turn. But why weary you with these details of my toils and miseries? My spirits have forsaken me. All my gayety is buried with those dear and noble ones to whom my heart was bound. The end of my life is melancholy and sad; but do not, therefore, my dear marquis, forget your old friend.”155
“General Loudon, take a seat by my side. I had much rather have you with me than opposite me.” Mettez vous auprès de moi. J’aime mieux vous avoir à c?té de moi que vis-à-vis.181Voltaire, in his Memoirs, says that he drew up the manifesto for Frederick upon this occasion. “The pretext,” he writes, “for this fine expedition was certain rights which his majesty pretended to have over a part of the suburbs. It was to me he committed the task of drawing up the manifesto, which I performed as well as the nature of the case would let me, never suspecting that a king, with whom I supped, and who called me his friend, could possibly be in the wrong. The affair was soon brought to a conclusion by the payment of a million of livres, which he exacted in good hard ducats, and which served to defray the expenses of his tour to Strasbourg, concerning which he complained so loudly in his poetic prose epistle.
The companions of the king were well-bred men, of engaging manners, commanding intelligence, and accustomed to authority. The entertainment was superb, with an abundance of the richest wines. The conversation took a wide range, and was interesting and exciting to a high degree. The French officers were quite bewildered by the scene. The count was perfect master of the French language, was very brilliant in his sallies, and seemed perfectly familiar with all military affairs. He was treated with remarkable deference by his companions, some of whom were far his superiors in years.Soon after this an event occurred very characteristic of the king—an event which conspicuously displayed both his good and bad qualities. A miller was engaged in a lawsuit against a nobleman. The decree of the court, after a very careful examination, was unanimously in favor of the nobleman; the king, who had impulsively formed a different opinion of the case, was greatly exasperated. He summoned the four judges before him, denounced them in the severest terms of vituperation, would listen to no defense, and dismissed them angrily from office.
“His obstinate perverse disposition which does not love his father; for when one does every thing, and really loves one’s father, one does what the father requires, not while he is there to see it, but when his back is turned too. For the rest he knows very well that I can endure no effeminate fellow who has no human inclination in him; who puts himself to shame, can not ride or shoot; and, withal, is dirty in his person, frizzles his hair like a fool, and does not cut it off. And all this I have a thousand times reprimanded, but all in vain, and no improvement in nothing. For the rest, haughty; proud as a churl; speaks to nobody but some few, and is not popular and affable; and cuts grimaces with his face as if he were a fool; and does my will in nothing but following his own whims; no use to him in any thing else. This is the answer.
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Dickens at length ventured to ask the king directly, “What shall I write to England?”详情
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