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."
"Oh, I beseech you to read it to us," said the Frenchman, somewhat impatiently; then, turning graciously to the third gentleman who sat silent and indifferent near him, he added: "We must first ascertain, however, if our kind host, Monsieur le Comte di Ranuzi, consents to the reading."
"I gladly take part," said the Italian count, "in any thing that is interesting; above all, in every thing which has no relation to this wearisome and stupid Berlin."
"Vraiment! you are right." sighed the Frenchman. "It is a dreary and ceremonious region. They are so inexpressibly prudish and virtuous-- so ruled with old-fashioned scruples--led captive by such little prejudicesthat I should be greatly amused at it, if I did not suffer daily from the dead monotony it brings. What would the enchanting mistress of France--what would the Marquise de Pompadour say, if she could see me, the gay, witty, merry Belleville, conversing with such an aspect of pious gravity with this poor Queen of Prussia, who makes a face if one alludes to La Pucelle d'Orleans, and wishes to make it appear that she has not read Crebillon!"
"Tell me, now, Giurgenow, how is it with your court of Petersburg? Is it formal, as ceremonious as here in Prussia?"