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The king was a very busy man. In addition to carrying on quite an extensive literary correspondence, he was vigorously engaged in writing his memoirs. He was also with great energy developing the wealth of his realms. In the exercise of absolute power, his government was entirely personal. He had no constitution to restrain him. Under his single control were concentrated all legislative, judicial, and executive powers. There was no senate or legislative corps to co-operate in framing laws. His ministers were merely servants to do his bidding. The courts had no powers whatever but such as he intrusted to them. He could at any time reverse their decrees, and flog the judges with his cane, or hang them.
My complaint increases so much that I no longer even hope to recover from it. I feel strongly, in the situation in which I at present find myself, the necessity of an enlightened religion arising from conviction. Without that, we are the beings on earth most to be pitied. Your majesty will, after my death, do me the justice to testify that if I have combated superstition with vehemence, I have always supported the interests of the Christian religion, though differing from the ideas of some theologians. As it is only possible when in danger to discover the169 necessity of bravery, so no one can really have the consoling advantage of religion except through sufferings.
On the southern coasts of the Baltic Sea, between the latitudes of 52° and 54°, there lies a country which was first revealed to civilized eyes about three hundred years before the birth of Christ. The trading adventurers from Marseilles, who landed at various points upon the coast, found it a cold, savage region of lakes, forests, marshy jungles, and sandy wastes. A shaggy tribe peopled it, of semi-barbarians, almost as wild as the bears, wolves, and swine which roamed their forests. As the centuries rolled on, centuries of which, in these remote regions, history takes no note, but in which the gloomy generations came and went, shouting, fighting, weeping, dying, gradually the aspect of a rude civilization spread over those dreary solitudes. The savage inhabitants, somewhat tamed, increased in numbers, and there appeared a tall and manly race of fair complexion, light hair, stern aspect, great physical strength, and very formidable in battle.Astra turned away her head. As she had unconsciously wrought her own wretched, despondent moods of the past week into the sensitive clay, so Carice's comments upon the result had their sidelong application to herself.
All Frankfort was excited by these events. The renown of Voltaire as a philosopher, a poet, and as the friend of Frederick, filled Europe. His eccentricities were the subject of general remark. The most distinguished men, by birth and culture, had paid him marked attention during his brief compulsory sojourn in Frankfort. Having arrived at The Billy-Goat, his conduct, according to the report of M. Freytag, was that of a madman, in which attempted flight, feigned vomitings, and a cocked pistol took part. The account which Voltaire gave of these events is now universally pronounced to be grossly inaccurate.
Doctor Remy stood for a moment irresolute, with an unwonted flush of shame rising to his brow. The climax had not only come sooner than he anticipated, but in an unexpectedly embarrassing shape,a shape that gave him a sudden, startling perception of the vileness of the task which he had set himself to do. Naturally, he was inclined to be angry with Astra for the action to which he owed this moment of self-recognition; yet, on the whole, it was the most bewitching thing that he had ever seen her do. Never had she attracted him so strongly as while she thus stood pointing him to the door. Her free and noble attitude, the wonderful vividness of her expression, the maidenly dignity of her tacit refusal to descend for one moment to his level, and discuss with him the points that he had raised, thrilled him with involuntary admiration. It irked him to think that he must needs give her up. Was there really no way to keep her, and at the same time win Bergan Hall? He sent his thoughts back over the road which they had trodden so often, during the past fortnight, and decided once more that the risk was too great. He must persevere in the course upon which he had entered. Nor did a little present mortification matter, in comparison with hopeful progress. Astra was only helping him forward in the way that he wished to go. How easily the affections and passions of others became the puppets of his will!