his unwavering steel-blue eyes. The reading was twice punctuated
"The courier! the courier! we will ourselves speak with the courier!"
The demand was so threatening, so continuous, it must be complied with. Herzberg stepped upon the balcony, and informed the crowd that the courier would at once descend to the public square. A breathless silence succeeded; every eye was fixed upon the castle-gate, through which the courier must come. When he appeared, the crowd rushed forward toward him in mad haste. Cries of woe and suffering were heard. The people, with--mad with pain, beside themselves with despair, had no longer any mercy, any pity for each other. They rushed upon the messenger of misfortune, without regarding those who, in the midst of this wild tumult, were cast down, and trodden under foot.
The messenger began his sad story. He repeated all that the minister had said; he told of the deadly strife, of the bloody havoc, of the raging advance of the Austrians, and of the roar for vengeance of the reassured Russians. He told how the cannon-balls of the enemy had stricken down whole ranks of Prussians; that more than twenty thousand dead and wounded Prussians lay upon the battle-field; that all the cannon and all the colors had fallen into the hands of the enemy.
The people received this news with tears, cries, and lamentations. The courier spoke also of the king. He, himself, had belonged to the body-guard of the king--had been ever near him. He had seen the king standing in the midst of the thickest shower of balls, when his two adjutants fell at his side. At last, a ball came and wounded the king's horse--the Vogel--so fearfully, that the brave steed fell. Frederick mounted another horse, but remained upon the same spot; a second ball wounded this horse, and the king quietly mounted that of Captain Gotzen. At this moment, a bullet struck the king in the breast, but the golden etui which the king carried in his pocket, had turned it aside, and thus saved his life. In vain had the generals and adjutants entreated him to leave this place, and think of his personal safety. His answer was--"We must seek, at this point, to win the battle. I must do my duty here with the rest." [Footnote: The king's own words.--See Thiebault, p. 214.]
Many voices cried out--"Where is the king now?"
The courier did not answer; but the question was so fiercely, so stormily repeated, that he was compelled to go on.
"The king, in the midst of the confusion and horror of the flight, had called him, and commanded him to gallop to Berlin, and bear the fatal news to Minister Herzberg. He had then galloped by him, exactly against the enemy, as if he wished their balls to strike him; a little troop of his most faithful soldiers had followed!"
"The king is lost! the king is a prisoner--wounded--perhaps dead!" cried the terrified people.