"Not so, marquis; but you know what the renowned King of the Hebrews said--that wise king who rejoiced in a thousand wives: 'He who conquers himself is greater than he who taketh a city.' You, marquis, are this rare self-conqueror, and you shall be rewarded right royally. I have had rooms prepared as warm and comfortable as the marquise herself could have arranged for you. The windows are stuffed with cotton, furs are lying before the stove, cap and foot- muff, so your faithful La Pierre may wrap and bundle you up to your heart's content. Not a breath of air shall annoy you, and all your necessities shall be provided for with as much reverence as if you were the holy fire in the temple of Vesta, and I the priestess that guards it."
The marquis laughed heartily. "Should the fire ever burn low and the flame pale, I beg my exalted priestess to cast her burning glance upon me, and thus renew my heat. Sire, allow me, before all other things, to offer my congratulations. May Heaven bless this day which rose like a star of hope upon all who love the great, the beautiful, the exalted, and the--"
"Enough, enough," cried Frederick; "if you begin in this way, I shall fly from you; I shall believe you are one of those stupid deputations with which etiquette greets the king. In this room, friend, there is no king, and when we are here alone we are two simple friends, taking each other warmly by the hand and congratulating ourselves upon having lived through another weary year, and having the courage bravely to meet the years that remain. Should you still desire to add a wish to this, marquis, pray that the war fever which has seized ail Europe, may disappear--that the triumvirate of France, Russia, and Austria, may be vanquished--that the tyrants of this universe may not succeed in binding the whole world in the chains they have prepared for it."
"Your majesty will know how to obtain this result--to break this chain--and if they will not yield willingly, the hero of Rossbach and Leuthen will know how to crush them in his just rage."
"God grant it!" sighed the king; "I long for peace, although my enemies say I am the evil genius that brings discord and strife into the world. They say that if Frederick of Prussia did not exist, the entire world would be a paradise of peace and love. I could say to them, as Demosthenes said to the Athenians: 'If Philip were dead, what would it signify? You would soon make another Philip.' I say to the Austrians: 'Your ambition, your desire for universal reign, would soon rouse other enemies. The liberties of Germany, and indeed of all Europe, will always find defenders.' We will speak no more of these sad themes; they belong to the past and the future. Let us try to forget, friend, that we are in winter quarters at Breslau, and imagine ourselves to be at our dear Sans-Souci."
"In our beautiful convent," said the marquis, "whose abbot has so long been absent, and whose monks are scattered to the four winds."
"It is true," sighed the king, gloomily, "widely scattered; and when the abbot returns to Sans-Souci, every thing will be changed and lonely. Oh, marquis, how much I have lost since we parted!"
"How much you have gained, sire! how many new laurels crown your heroic brow!"