Now, sir, here is a precis of evidence, nearly complete,
No one doubted that this news would come--must come. Not the slightest fear, the least doubt troubled the proud, pure joy of this hour. The victory was achieved, but it was still charming to hear it confirmed; to receive these heavenly messages. Every open space was filled with men. Each one would see and hear for himself. No man thought himself too distinguished, too sick, too weak, to stand for hours in the burning sun, carried about involuntarily by this fluctuating wave of humanity. Side by side with the laborer stood the elegant lady in her silk robes; near the poor beggar in his ragged jacket were seen the high official and the wealthy banker in their rich dresses.
Move than fifty thousand men were now assembled and waiting--waiting for what they knew not--for news--for a courier who could give the details. It was not enough to know that the king had conquered; they wished to know the extent and the significance of this victory; and lastly, they would know the bloody offering which this victory had cost. The dinner-hour was passed. What cared this happy people for dinner? They hungered for no earthly food; they thirsted for no earthly drink; they were satisfied with the joy of victory. The clock struck three. Yes, there comes a horseman, his bridle is hanging loose--he is covered with dust--but how, what means this? His face is pale as death; his eyes are misty; he looks around shame-faced and confused. No happy news is written upon this dark and clouded brow. What means this messenger of death in the midst of joy, triumph, and proud consciousness of victory? They seek to hold him, to question him, but he gives no answer. He spurs his wearied horse till he springs aloft, and the men in rash terror are crushed against each other; but the horseman makes no sign. Silently he dashes on through the laughing, chatting crowd, but wherever he passes, laughter and smiles disappear, and speech is silenced.
It seemed as if the angel of death had touched his brow, and the happy ones shuddered at his untimely presence. Now he has reached the castle, he descends from his horse. In breathless silence, pallid, trembling they know not why, those who have seen this dumb messenger look up shudderingly to the balcony. At last, after long waiting, the Minister Herzberg appeared once more.
But, O God! what means this? he is pale--his eyes are filled with tears. He opens his mouth to speak, but strength has left him. He holds on to the bars of the balcony, otherwise he would sink. At last he collects himself. It is not necessary to ask for silence; the silence of the grave is upon those torpid men. He speaks! his voice is faint and weak, and trembles--oh, so fearfully! only a few in the first rank can hear his words.
"The battle is lost! The Russians have conquered! The Austrians came to their assistance! The presence of the Austrians was not known, they had their tents in holes in the ground! As our militia rushed upon the last intrenchment at Judenberg and were only a hundred steps distant, Loudon suddenly advanced with his fresh troops, against the worn-out and exhausted victors. He received the Prussians with so murderous a fire, that their ranks faltered, wavered, and, at last, broke loose in wild flight, pursued furiously by the raging enemy. The fortunes of the day had turned; we lost the battle. But all is not lost. The king lives! he is slightly wounded; three horses were shot under him. He lives, and so long as he lives, there is hope. In the far distance, in the midst of the terrible disaster? which have befallen himself and his army, he thinks of his Berliners. He sends you a father's greeting, and exhorts every one of you to save his possessions, as far as possible. Those who do not feel safe in Berlin, and who fear the approaching enemy, the king counsels to withdraw, if possible, with their money, to Magdeburg, where the royal family will take refuge this evening."
The minister was silent, and the people who had listened, dumb with horror, now broke out in wild cries of anguish and despair. Terror was written in every face; tears gushed from every eye. Cries of unspeakable agony burst from those lips, which, a few moments before, were eloquent with hope and gladness.
As if it were impossible to believe in these misfortunes without further confirmation, some men called loudly for the messenger, and the distant crowd, as if inspired with new hope, roared louder and louder:
"The courier! the courier! we will ourselves speak with the courier!"