Riding up the line, all now grown dusky, Friedrich asks, "Any battalion a mind to follow me to Lissa?" Three battalions volunteering, follow him; three are plenty. At Saara, on the Great Road, things are fallen utterly dark. "Landlord, bring a lantern, and escort." Landlord of the poor Tavern at Saara escorts obediently; lantern in his right hand, left hand holding by the King's stirrup-leather,--King (Excellency or General, as the Landlord thinks him) wishing to speak with the man. Will the reader consent to their Dialogue, which is dullish, but singular to have in an authentic form, with Nicolai as voucher? [
KING. "Come near; catch me by the stirrup-leather [Landlord with lantern does so]. We are on the Breslau Great Road, that goes through Lissa, are n't we?" LANDLORD. "Yea, Excellenz." KING. "Who are you?" LANDLORD. "Your Excellenz, I am the KRATSCHMER [Silesian for Landlord] at Saara." KING. "You have had a great deal to suffer, I suppose." LANDLORD. "ACH, your Excellenz, had not I! For the last eight-and- forty hours, since the Austrians came across Schweidnitz Water, my poor house has been crammed to the door with them, so many servants they have; and such a bullying and tumbling:--they have driven me half mad; and I am clean plundered out." KING. "I am sorry indeed to hear that!--Were there Generals too in your house? What said they? Tell me, then." LANDLORD. "With pleasure, your Excellenz. Well; yesterday noon, I had Prince Karl in my parlor, aud his Adjutants and people all crowding about. Such a questioning aud bothering! Hundreds came dashing in, and other hundreds were sent out: in and out they went all night; no sooner was one gone, than ten came. I had to keep a roaring fire in the kitchen all night; so many Officers crowding to it to warm themselves. And they talked and babbled this and that. One would say, That our King was coming on, then, 'with his Potsdam Guard-Parade.' Another answers, 'OACH, he dare n't come! He will run for it; we will let him run.' But now my delight is, our King has paid them their fooleries so prettily this afternoon!" KING. "When got you rid of your high guests?" LANDLORD. "About nine this morning the Prince got to horse; and not long after three, he came past again, with a swarm of Officers; all going full speed for Lissa. So full of bragging when they came; and now they were off, wrong side foremost! I saw how it was. And ever after him, the flood of them ran, Highroad not broad enough,--an hour and more before it ended. Such a pell-mell, such a welter, cavalry and musketeers all jumbled: our King must have given them a dreadful lathering. That is what they have got by their bragging and their lying,--for, your Excellenz, these people said too, 'Our King was forsaken by his own Generals, all his first people had gone and left him:' what I never in this world will believe." KING (not liking even rumor of that kind). "There you are right; never can such a thing be believed of my Army." LANDLORD (whom this "MY" has transfixed). "MEIN GOTT, you are our GNADIGSTER KONIG (most gracious King) yourself! Pardon, pardon, if, in my stupidity, I have--" KING. "No, you are an honest man:--probably a Protestant?" LANDLORD. "JOA, JOA, IHR MAJESTAT, I am of your Majesty's creed!"
Crack-crack! At this point the Dialogue is cut short by sudden musket-shots from the woody fields to right; crackle of about twelve shots in all; which hurt nothing but some horse's feet,--had been aimed at the light, and too low. Instantly the light is blown out, and there is a hunting out of Croats; Lissa or environs not evacuated yet, it seems; and the King's Entrance takes place under volleyings and cannonadings.
King rides directly to the Schloss, which is still a fine handsome house, off the one street of that poor Village,--north side of street; well railed off, and its old ditches aud defences now trimmed into flower-plots. The Schloss is full of Austrian Officers, bustling about, intending to quarter, when the King enters. They, and the force they still had in Lissa, could easily have taken him: but how could they know? Friedrich was surprised; but had to put the best face on it. [In Kutzen (pp. 121, 209 et seq.) explanation of the true circumstances, and source of the mistake.] "BON SOIR, MESSIEURS!" said he, with a gay tone, stepping in: "Is there still room left, think you?" The Austrians, bowing to the dust, make way reverently to the divinity that hedges a King of this sort; mutely escort him to the best room (such the popular account); and for certain make off, they and theirs, towards the Bridge, which lies a little farther east, at the end of the Village.
Weistritz or Schweidnitz Water is a biggish muddy stream in that part; gushing and eddying; not voiceless, vexed by mills and their weirs. Some firing there was from Croats in the lower houses of the Village, and they had a cannon at the farther bridge-end; but they were glad to get away, and vanish in the night; muddy Weistritz singing hoarse adieu to their cannon and them. Prussian grenadiers plunged indignant into the houses; made short work of the musketries there. In few minutes every Croat and Austrian was across, or silenced otherwise too well; Prussian cannon now going in the rear of them, and continuing to go,--such had been the order, "till the powder you have is done." Fire of musketry and occasional cannon lasts all night, from the Lissa or Prussian side of the River,--"lest they burn this Bridge, or attempt some mischief." A thing far from their thoughts, in present circumstances.
The Prussian host at Saara, hearing these noises, took to its arms again; and marched after the King. Thick darkness; silence; tramp, tramp:--a Prussian grenadier broke out, with solemn tenor voice again, into Church-Music; a known Church-Hymn, of the homely TE-DEUM kind; in which five-and-twenty thousand other voices, and all the regimental bands, soon join:--
"Now thank God, one and all, With heart, with voice, with hands-a, Who wonders great hath done To us and to all lands-a."