"You speak of my victories," said the king, shaking his head; "but believe me, my heart has suffered defeats from which it will never recover. I am not speaking of the death of my mother--although that is a wound that will never heal; that came from the hand of Providence; against its decrees no man dare murmur. I speak of more bitter, more cruel defeats, occasioned by the ingratitude and baseness of men."
"Your majesty still thinks of the unworthy Abbot of Prades," said D'Argens, sadly.
"No, marquis; that hurt, I confess. I liked him, but I never loved him--he was not my friend, his treachery grieved but did not surprise me. I knew he was weak. He sold me! Finding himself in my camp, he made use of his opportunity and betrayed to the enemy all that came to his knowledge. He had a small soul, and upon such men you cannot count. But from another source I received a great wrong-- this lies like iron upon my heart, and hardens it. I loved Bishop Schaffgotsch, marquis; I called him friend; I gave him proof of my friendship. I had a right to depend on his faithfulness, and believe in a friendship he had so often confirmed by oaths. My love, at least was unselfish, and deserved not to be betrayed. But he was false in the hour of danger, like Peter who betrayed his Master. The Austrians had scarcely entered Breslau, when he not only denied me, but went further--he trampled upon the orders of my house, and held a Te Deum in the dome in honor of the Austrian victory at Collin." The king ceased and turned away, that the marquis might not see the tears that clouded his eyes.
"Sire," cried the marquis, deeply moved, "forget the ingratitude of these weak souls, who were unworthy of a hero's friendship."
"I will; but enough of this. You are here, and I still believe in you, marquis. You and the good Lord Marshal are the only friends left me to lean upon when the baseness of men makes my heart fail."
"These friends will never fail you, sire," said the marquis, deeply moved; "your virtues and your love made them strong."
The king took his hand affectionately. "Let us forget the past," said he, gayly; "and as we both, in our weak hours, consider ourselves poets, let us dream that we are in my library in our beloved Sans-Souci. We will devote this holy time of peace to our studies, for that is, without doubt, the best use we can make of it. You shall see a flood of verses with which I amused myself in camp, and some epigrams written against my enemies."
"But if we were even now in Sans-Souci, sire, I do not think you would give this hour to books. I dare assert you would be practising with Quantz, and preparing for the evening concerts."