Truly there were many aching hearts in this gay and merry city, but they hid their grief and tears in their quiet, lonely chambers, and their clouded brows cast no shadow upon the laughing, rosy faces of the beautiful women whose brothers, husbands, and lovers, were far away on the bloody battle-field If not exactly willing to accept these strangers as substitutes, they were at least glad to seek distraction in their society. After all, it is impossible to be always mourning, always complaining, always leading a cloistered life. In the beginning, the oath of constancy and remembrance, which all had sworn at parting, had been religiously preserved, and Berlin had the physiognomy of a lovely, interesting, but dejected widow, who knew and wished to know nothing of the joys of life. But suddenly Nature had asserted her own inexorable laws, which teach forgetfulness and inspire hope. The bitterest ears were dried--the heaviest sighs suppressed; people had learned to reconcile themselves to life, and to snatch eagerly at every ray of sunshine which could illumine the cold, hopeless desert, which surrounded them.
They had seen that it was quite possible to live comfortably, even while wild war was blustering and raging without--that weak, frail human nature, refused to be ever strained, ever excited, in the expectation of great events. In the course of these three fearful years, even the saddest had learned again to laugh, jest, and be gay, in spite of death and defeat. They loved their fatherland--they shouted loudly and joyfully over the great victories of their king-- they grieved sincerely over his defeats; but they could not carry their animosities so far as to be cold and strange to the captive officers who were compelled by the chances of war to remain in Berlin.
They had so long striven not to seek to revenge themselves upon these powerless captives, that they had at last truly forgotten they were enemies; and these handsome, entertaining, captivating, gallant gentlemen were no longer looked upon even as prisoners, but as strangers and travellers, and therefore they should receive the honors of the city. [Footnote: Sulzer writes: "The prisoners of war are treated here as if they were distinguished travellers and visitors."]
The king commanded that these officers should receive all attention. It was also the imperative will of the king that court balls should be given; he wished to prove to the world that his family were neither sad nor dispirited, but gay, bold, and hopeful.
It was the spring of 1759. Winter quarters were broken up, and it was said the king had left Breslau and advanced boldly to meet the enemy. The Berlin journals contained accounts of combats and skirmishes which had taken place here and there between the Prussians and the allies, and in which, it appeared, the Prussians had always been unfortunate.
Three captive officers sat in an elegant room of a house near the castle, and conversed upon the news of the day, and stared at the morning journals which lay before them on the table.
"I beg you," said one of them in French--"I beg you will have the goodness to translate this sentence for me. I think it has relation to Prince Henry, but I find it impossible to decipher this barbarous dialect." He handed the journal to his neighbor, and pointed with his finger to the paragraph.
"Yes, there is something about Prince Henry," said the other, with a peculiar accent which betrayed the Russian; "and something, Monsieur Belleville, which will greatly interest you."