"Ah," cried Frederick, "Dante did not know all the horrors of hell, or he forgot to paint those I now suffer." He hastened on--on--on, in the obscure twilight of the summer night, pursued by the sighs and groans of his dying and wounded soldiers; a deep, immeasurable sadness lay upon his brow; his lips were trembling; cold perspiration stood upon his forehead; his eyes wandered over the battle-field, then were raised to heaven with a questioning and reproachful expression. Already the village lay far behind him; but he hurried on, he had no aim, no object; he wished only to escape this hell, this cry of despair and woe from the condemned. An adjutant dared at last to step forward and awake him from his sad mood.
"Sire," said he, "the Cossacks are swarming in every direction, and if your majesty goes on, the most fearful results may be anticipated. The Cossacks shoot at every man who wears a good coat."
The king shook his head sadly. "There is no ball for me," said he in a low tone; "I have in vain called upon death. I have prayed in mercy for a ball; it came, but it only grazed my breast. No, no-- there is no ball for me!" He advanced, and the adjutant dared once more to interrupt him.
"Sire," said he, "will not your majesty seek night-quarters?"
Frederick raised his head, and was in the act of answering hastily, then said: "Yes, I need night-quarters." He looked around and saw an empty peasant's house by the wayside, drew near and entered silently.
"I will pass the night here," said he, "the place appears deserted; we will disturb no one."
The king was right. The miserable old hut was empty. No one advanced to meet him as he entered. In one corner of the room there was some dirty straw; in the other a wooden table and stool--this was all.
"It suffices for me," said the king, smiling. "I will pass the night here. Have you my writing materials with you?"