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60. Prussia's Declaration Of War

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King Frederick William III. had not yet left his cabinet to-day. He had retired thither early in the morning in order to work. Maps, plans of battles, and open books lay on the tables, and the king sat in their midst with a musing, careworn air.

A gentle rap at the door aroused him from his meditations. The king raised his head and listened. The rap was repeated.

"It is Louisa," he said to himself, and a smile overspread his features as he hastened to the door and opened it.

He had not been mistaken. It was the queen who stood before the door. Smiling, graceful, and merry as ever, she entered the cabinet and gave her hand to her husband.

"Are you angry with me, my dear friend, because I have disturbed you?" she asked, tenderly. "But, it seemed to me, you had worked enough for the state to-day and might devote a quarter of an hour to your Louisa. You know whenever I do not see you in the morning, my day lacks its genuine sunshine, and is gray and gloomy. For this reason, as you have not yet come to me to-day, I come to you. Good- morning, my king and husband!"

"Good-morning, my queen!" said the king, imprinting a kiss on the white, transparent forehead of the queen. "Add to it, good-day, my dear Louisa, for a wish from so beautiful and noble lips I hope will exorcise all evil spirits, and cause this day to become a really good one. I hope much from it."

The king's forehead, which the queen's appearance had smoothed a little, became clouded again, and he assumed a grave and sombre air.

The queen saw it, and gently placed her hand on his shoulder.

"You are downcast, my friend," she said, affectionately. "Will you not let me have my share of your grief? Is not your wife entitled to it? Or will you cruelly deprive me of what is my right? Speak to me, my husband. Let me share your grief. Confide to me what is the meaning of those clouds on your noble brow, and what absorbs your soul to such an extent that you even forgot me and your children, and deprived us of your kind morning greeting."

But even these tender words of the queen were unable to light up the king's forehead; he avoided meeting her beautiful, lustrous eyes, which were fixed on him inquiringly, and averted his head.

"Government affairs," he said, gravely. "Nothing interesting and worthy of being communicated to my queen. Let us not embitter thereby the happy minutes of your presence. Let us sit down."

The queen knew her husband's peculiarities to perfection. She knew that no one was allowed to contradict him whenever he assumed this forbidding tone, and that it was best then not to take any notice of his moroseness, or, if possible, to dispel it.

She, therefore, followed him silently to the sofa and sat down, inviting him, with a charming smile, to take a seat by her side.

The king did so, and Louisa leaned her head tenderly against his shoulder. "How sweet it is to lean one's weak head against the breast of a strong man!" she said. "It seems to me, as long as I am near you, no misfortune can befall me, and I cling to you trustingly and happily, like the ivy covering the strong oak."

"The comparison is not correct," said the king. "Ivy does not bloom, nor is it fragrant. But you are a peerless rose, the queen of flowers!"

"What! my king condescends to flatter me?" said the queen, laughing merrily, while she raised her head from the king's shoulder and looked archly at him. "But, my king, your comparison is not correct either. Roses have thorns, and wound whosoever touches them. But I would not pain and wound you for all the riches of the world! Were I a rose, I should shake off all my fragrant leaves to make of them a pillow on which your noble head should repose from the toils and vexations of the day, and on which you should find dreams of a happy future."

"Only DREAMS of a happy future," said Frederick William, musingly. "You may be right; our hopes for a happy future may be but a dream."

"No," exclaimed the queen, raising her radiant eyes toward heaven, "I firmly believe in the happiness of our future; I believe and know that God has selected you, the most generous and guiltless of princes, to break the arrogance of that daring tyrant, who would like to chain the whole world to his despotic yoke, and who, in his ambitious thirst after conquest, raises his hands against the crowns of all the sovereigns. YOUR crown he shall not touch! It is the rock on which his power will be wrecked, and at the feet of which his proud waves will be broken. Prussia will avenge the disgrace of Germany; I am sure of it, and for this reason I am so happy and confident since you, my king and husband, have cast off the mask of that false friendship for the tyrant, and have shown him your open, angry, and hostile face. A heavy cloud weighed down my heart so long as we still continued mediating, occupying neutral ground, trying to maintain peace, and hoping to derive advantages from that man so devoid of honesty, sincerity, and fidelity."

"Still, who knows whether I was right, after all, in taking such a course!" sighed the king. "Peace is a very precious thing, and the people need it for their prosperity."

"But your people do not want peace!" exclaimed the queen. "They are enthusiastic and clamorous for war, and long for nothing so much as to see an end put to this deplorable incertitude. You have now caused your army to be placed on the war footing, and all faces have already brightened up, and all hearts feel encouraged; announce to your people that you will declare war against the usurper, and all Prussia will rise jubilantly and hasten to the battlefield, as if it were a festival of victory."

 

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Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa Muhlbach

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