The king listened attentively to this voice. He had borne with patience the sorrows and deprivations of the past years, but he could not survive the ruin of his country. His country was lost. There was no chance of saving it; his army was gone. The victorious enemy had taken all the neighboring provinces. The Russians could now march undisturbed to Berlin. They would find no resistance, for the garrison there consisted of invalids and cripples.
Berlin was lost! Prussia was lost! The king was resolved to die, for he was a king without a crown, a hero without laurels. He wished to die, for he could not survive the destruction of his country. But first he must arrange his affairs, make his will, and bid adieu to his friends. The king opened the door hastily, and desired that a light should be brought--it was no easy thing to procure in this dismal, deserted village. The adjutant succeeded at last, however, in getting a few small tallow candles, and placing them in old bottles, in the absence of candlesticks of any description, he carried them to the king. Frederick did not observe him; he stood at the open window, gazing earnestly at the starry firmament. The bright light aroused him; he turned, and approached the table.
"My last letters!" murmured he, sinking upon the wooden stool, and opening his portfolio.
How his enemies would have rejoiced, could they have seen him in that wretched hovel! He first wrote to General Fink, to whom he wished to leave the command of his army. He must fulfil the duties of state, before those of friendship. It was not a letter--rather an order to General Fink, and read as follows:
"General Fink will find this a weary and tedious commission. The army I leave is no longer in a condition to defend itself from the Russians. Haddeck will hasten to Berlin. Loudon also, I presume. If you intercept them, the Russians will be in your rear; if you remain by the Oder, Haddeck will surround you. I nevertheless believe, were Loudon to come to Berlin, you could attack and defeat him. This, were it possible, would give you time to arrange matters, and I can assure you, time is every thing, in such desperate circumstances as ours. Koper, my secretary, will give you the dispatches from Torgau and Dresden. You must acquaint my brother, whom I make general-in- chief of the army, with all that passes. In the mean time, his orders must be obeyed. The army must swear by my nephew. This is the only advice I am able to give. Had I any resources, I would stand fast by you. FREDERICK." [Footnote: The king's own words.]
"Yes, I would have stood by them," murmured the king, as he folded and addressed his letter. "I would have borne still longer this life of oppression and privation; but now, honor demands that I should die."
He took another sheet of paper. It was now no order or command, but a tender, loving, farewell letter to his friend, General Finkenstein.
"This morning, at eleven o'clock, I attacked the enemy; we drove them back to Gudenberg. All my men performed deeds of daring and bravery, but, at the storming of Gudenberg, a terrific number of lives were lost. My army became separated. I reassembled them three times, but in vain. At last, they fled in wild disorder. I very nearly became a prisoner, and was obliged to leave the field to the enemy. My uniform was torn by the cannon-balls, two horses were shot underneath me, but death shunned me; I seemed to bear a charmed life; I could not die! From an army of forty-eight thousand men, there now remains three thousand. The consequences of this battle will be more fearful than the battle itself. It is a terrible misfortune, and I will not survive it. There is no one to whom I can look for help. I cannot survive my country's ruin. Farewell!"