Had it not been for the Imperial Shadow-huntings, and this rickety condition of the celestial Balance! Alas, the outer elements interfered with Queen Sophie in a singular manner. Huge foreign world-movements, springing from Vienna and a spectre-haunted Kaiser, and spreading like an avalanche over all the Earth, snatched up this little Double-Marriage question; tore it along with them, reeling over precipices, one knew not whitherward, at such a rate as was seldom seen before. Scarcely in the Minerva Press is there record of such surprising, infinite and inextricable obstructions to a wedding or a double-wedding. Time and space, which cannot be annihilated to make two lovers happy, were here turned topsy-turvy, as it were, to make four lovers,--four, or at the very least three, for Wilhelmina will not admit she was ever the least in love, not she, poor soul, either with loose Fred or his English outlooks,--four young creatures, and one or more elderly persons, superlatively wretched; and even, literally enough, to do all but kill some of them.
What is noteworthy too, it proved wholly inane, this huge world-ocean of Intrigues and Imperial Necromancy; ran dry at last into absolute nothing even for the Kaiser, and might as well not have been. And Mother and Father, on the Prussian side, were driven to despair and pretty nearly to delirium by it; and our poor young Fritz got tormented, scourged, and throttled in body and in soul by it, till he grew to loathe the light of the sun, and in fact looked soon to have quitted said light at one stage of the business.
We are now approaching Act Second of the Double-Marriage, where Imperial Ordnance-Master Graf von Seckendorf, a Black-Artist of supreme quality, despatched from Vienna on secret errand, "crosses the Palace Esplanade at Berlin on a summer evening of the year 1726;" and evokes all the demons on our little Crown-Prince and those dear to him. We must first say something of an important step, shortly antecedent thereto, which occurred in the Crown-Prince's educational course.
CROWN-PRINCE GOES INTO THE POTSDAM GUARDS.
Amid such commotion of the foreign elements and the domestic, an important change occurs in the Crown-Prince's course of schooling. It is decided that, whatever be his progress in the speculative branches, it is time he should go into the Army, and practically learn soldiering. In his fourteenth year, 3d May, 1725, [Preuss, i. 26; 106; and
However it may have fared with his other school-lessons, here now is a school-form he is advanced to, in which there will be no resource but learning. Bad spelling might be overlooked by those that had charge of it; bad drilling is not permissible on any terms. We need not doubt the Crown-Prince did his soldier-duty faithfully, and learned in every point the conduct of an officer: penalty as of Rhadamanthus waited upon all failure there. That he liked it is by no means said; he much disliked it, and his disgusts were many. An airy young creature:--and it was in this time to give one instance, that that shearing of his locks occurred: which was spoken of above, where the Court-Chirurgus proved so merciful. To clog the winged Psyche in ever-returning parade-routine and military pipe-clay,--it seems very cruel. But it is not to be altered: in spite of one's disgusts, the dull work, to the last item of it, has daily to be done. Which proved infinitely beneficial to the Crown-Prince, after all. Hereby, to his Athenian-French elegancies, and airy promptitudes and brilliancies, there shall lie as basis an adamantine Spartanism and Stoicism; very rare, but very indispensable, for such a superstructure. Well exemplified, through after life, in this Crown-Prince.
OF THE POTSDAM GIANTS, AS A FACT.
His regiment was the Potsdam Grenadier Guard; that unique giant-regiment, of which the world has heard so much in a vague half-mythical way. The giant-regiment was not a Myth, however, but a big-boned expensive Fact, tramping very hard upon the earth at one time, though now gone all to the ghostly state. As it was a CLASS-BOOK, so to speak, of our Friedrich's,--Class-Book (printed in huge type) for a certain branch of his schooling, the details of which are so dim, though the general outcome of it proved so unforgettable,--readers, apart from their curiosity otherwise, may as well take a glimpse of it on this occasion. Vanished now, and grown a Giant Phantom, the like of it hardly again to be in this world; and by accident, the very smallest Figure ever ranked in it makes it memorable there!--