Kneeling upon the ground, resting on her friend, she raised her eyes heavenward, and commenced singing in an earnest, impassioned tone that glorious hymn, "Thanks unto God!" Fritz Kober, actuated by the same feelings, joined in the hymn, and here and there a comrade lent his voice to swell the anthem; it became stronger, louder, until at last, like a mighty stream, it passed over the battle-field, knocking at every heart, and urging it to prayer, finding everywhere an open ear.
The moon stood smiling above the battle-field, upon which eight thousand dead and wounded men were lying. Even the wounded, who a short time before filled the air with groans of pain and agony, raised themselves to join in the song of praise which was now sung, not by a hundred, not by a thousand, but by thirty thousand soldiers, thirty thousand heroes, who, after that bloody day had earned the right to sing "Thanks unto God."
Faint and exhausted, the king had withdrawn to his room; he was alone. To-day was the twenty-fourth of January, Frederick's birthday, and, although he had forbidden all congratulations, he could not avoid receiving the highest tribunals of Breslau, and also a few deputations of the citizens of this reconquered city. These visits wearied the king; he was grave and out of spirits. Once more alone, he could indulge in the sad memories that came over him involuntarily and forcibly. For here in Breslau he had lately experienced a bitter disappointment; every thing in the castle reminded him of the treacherous friend whom he bad loved so dearly, and who had so shamefully betrayed him.
The king was now thinking of the Bishop von Schaffgotsch. An expression of painful gloom clouded his face, he felt solitary and deserted; the cold, silent room chilled his heart, and the snow blown against the window by the howling winds, oppressed him strangely. He was more dejected and anxious than he had ever felt before a battle.
"The marquis cannot travel in such weather," he said, sighing, "and my musicians will be careful not to trust themselves upon the highway; they will imagine the snow has blocked up the way, and that it is impossible to come through. They will remain in Berlin, caring but little that I am counting the weary hours until they arrive. Yes, yes, this is an example of the almighty power of a king; a few snow-flakes are sufficient to set his commands aside, and the king remains but an impotent child of the dust. Of what avail is it that I have conquered the Austrians and the French? I have sown dragons' teeth from which new enemies will arise, new battles, perhaps new defeats. What have I gained by consecrating my heart to my friends? They are but serpents--I have nourished them in my breast, and they will sting when I least suspect them. Even those whom I still trust, forsake me now when I most need them!"
The wild storm increased, and blew a cloud of snow-flakes against the window, and the wind whistled mournfully in the chimney.
"No," murmured the king, "D'Argens will certainly not come; he will remain quietly in his beloved bed, and from there write me a touching epistle concerning the bonds of friendship. I know that when feeling does not flow from the hearts of men, it flows eloquently from ink as a pitiful compensation. But," he continued after a pause, "this is all folly! Solitude makes a dreamer of me--I am sighing for my friends as a lover sighs for his sweetheart! Am I then so entirely alone? Have I not my books? Come, Lucretius, thou friend in good and evil days; thou sage, thou who hast never left me without counsel and consolation! Come and cheer thy pupil--teach him how to laugh at this pitiful world as it deserves!"
Taking Lucretius from the table, and stretching himself upon the sofa, he commenced reading. Deep stillness surrounded him. Bells were ringing in the distance in honor of the royal birthday. The Breslauers, who had so shortly before joyfully welcomed the conquering Austrians, now desired to convince the King of Prussia that they were his zealous subjects. The evening of the kingly birthday they wished to show the joy of their hearts by a brilliant illumination.