Smiling his mirthless, eternal smile, Sin Sin Wa placed
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.
The king still read, and became so absorbed that he did not hear the door gently opened. The tall, slender form of the Marquis d'Argens appeared at the threshold. Overcome with joyful emotions, he remained standing, and gazing with clouded eyes at the king. Composing himself, he closed the door softly behind him and advanced.
"Sire, will you forgive me for entering unannounced?"
The king sprang from his seat and held out both his hands. "Welcome, welcome! I thank you for coming."