Besides the garrison of fifty thousand there were eighty thousand inhabitants in the city, men, women, and children. Large numbers perished. Some died of starvation; some were burned to death in their blazing dwellings; some were torn to pieces by shot and shell; some were buried beneath the ruins of their houses. In the stillness of the night the wails and groans of the sufferers were borne on the breeze to the ears of the Prussians in their intrenched camp. Starvation brought pestilence, which caused the death of thousands. The inhabitants, reduced to this state of awful misery, entreated the Austrian general to surrender. He refused, but forced out of the gates twelve thousand skeleton, starving people, who consumed the provisions, but could not contribute to the defense. Frederick drove the poor creatures back again at the point of the bayonet, threatening to shoot them all. The cruel act was deemed a necessity of war.

Lean indeed I am, the king replied. And what wonder, with three women163 hanging on the throat of me all this while! My very dear Sister,It would be impossible to leave this place without signifying, dearest sister, my lively gratitude for all the marks of favor you showed me in the House on the Lake. The highest of all that it was possible to do was that of procuring me the satisfaction of paying my court to you. I beg millions of pardons for so incommoding you, dearest sister, but I could not help it, for you know my sad circumstances well enough. I entreat you write me often about your health. Adieu, my incomparable and dear sister. I am always the same to you, and will remain so till my death.

In the autumn of 1750 Frederick held a famous Berlin carousal, the celebrity of which filled all Europe. Distinguished guests flocked to the city from all the adjoining realms. Wilhelmina came to share in the festivities. Voltaire was also present, the observed of all observers. An English gentleman, Sir Jonas Hanway, in the following terms describes the appearance of Frederick at this time:

Here the king interrupted him, and with scornful gesture, laying his finger on his nose, and in loud tones, exclaimed, When the king, after the Seven Years War, now and then in carnival season dined with the queen in her apartments, he usually said not a word to her. He merely, on entering, on sitting down at table, and leaving it, made the customary bows, and sat opposite to her. Once the queen was ill of gout. The table was in her apartments, but she was not there. She sat in an easy-chair in the drawing-room. On this occasion the king stepped up to the queen and inquired about her health. The circumstance occasioned among the company present, and all over the town, as the news spread, great wonder and sympathy. This is probably the last time he ever spoke to her.193

Frederick regarded the Academy as his pet institution, and was very jealous of the illustrious philosopher, whom he had invited to Berlin to preside over its deliberations. Voltaire, knowing this very well, and fully aware that to strike the Academy391 in the person of its president was to strike Frederick, wrote an anonymous communication to a review published in Paris, in which he accused M. Maupertuisfirst, of plagiarism, in appropriating to himself a discovery made by another; secondly, of a ridiculous blunder in assuming that said discovery was a philosophical principle, and not an absurdity; and thirdly, that he had abused his position as president of the Academy in suppressing free discussion, by expelling from the institution a member merely for not agreeing with him in opinion. These statements were probably true, and on that account the more damaging.

I have arrested the rascal Fritz. I shall treat him as his crime and his cowardice merit. He has dishonored me and all my family. So great a wretch is no longer worthy to live.

Much to Fredericks chagrin, he soon learned that a body of three hundred foot and three hundred horse, cautiously approaching through by-paths in the mountains, had thrown itself into Neisse, to strengthen the garrison there. This was on the 5th of March. But six days before a still more alarming event had occurred. On the 27th of February, Frederick, with a small escort, not dreaming of danger, set out to visit two small posts in the vicinity of Neisse. He stopped to dine with a few of his officers in the little village of Wartha, while the principal part of the detachment which accompanied him continued its movement to Baumgarten.

No man of kindly sympathies could have thus wantonly wounded the feelings of a poor old man who had, according to his capacity, served himself, his father, and his grandfather, and who was just dropping into the grave. A generous heart would have forgotten the foibles, and, remembering only the virtues, would have spoken words of cheer to the world-weary heart, seeking a sad refuge in the glooms of the cloister. It must be confessed that Frederick often manifested one of the worst traits in human nature. He took pleasure in inflicting pain upon others.